Consultancy outputs and the purification of accounting technologies

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Publication details

Christensen, M & Skærbæk, P 2010, 'Consultancy outputs and the purification of accounting technologies”, Accounting, Organizations and Society, vol. 35, no. 5, pp. 524-545.

Publisher version of article available at http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.aos.2009.12.001

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Consultancy is a phenomenon frequently referred to in the accounting literature. However, few studies have more intensively dealt with what consultancy activities and reports may mean in terms of stabilising accounting systems. In this article we provide detailed processual descriptions and characterizations of how consultancy outputs participate in the co-production of larger accounting systems in the public sector. From two case studies we demonstrate how consultancy companies become hired by change proponents to purify, i.e. how consultants can work to provide ‘faith’ to accounting systems and to settle controversies with sceptical and resisting groups that threaten to destabilize the innovations. By using Actor-Network Theory we demonstrate how consultancy outputs like consultancy project reports, seminars, briefings and the like are part of practices to cultivate social conflict. The article explains the forms of purification, their conditions and consequences and how they can be successful to stabilize accounting technologies.

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