Accounting for the Sacred: Towards an Inclusion of Ethics in Social Accounting

David Crowther, Dian Marie Hosking


Much of the current debate surrounding social accounting focuses upon the diversity of views among interested stakeholders but is concerned with the synthesis of these views into a single truth that can be accounted for. Given this, the issue becomes one of deciding how to come closest to the truth, what should be accounted for, and what should not. This approach is grounded in Cartesian (and related) dualisms.  A central feature of this dualism is the separation of an entity (e.g., organization) from its environment – also viewable as a divorce of Self from Other. In this “entitative” construction (Hosking and Morley, 1991) organisations are implicitly assumed to act as selfish entities concerned only with the effects of their actions upon their own Self. Relatedly, accounting methods are assumed to produce a repository of knowledge concerning the organisation, its actions and the results of those actions. Accounting practices only need to record actions and effects that are internal to the organisation (Self).  Other – other organisations, communities, or ‘environment’ – is constructed as external, as an exclusive, binary opposite; Other becomes largely irrelevant to accounting discourses. By constructing Other as a separate and passive Object, accounting practices eliminate the sacred (or moral) dimensions of relations. It is our purpose here to shift the emphasis from social accounting as a matter of knowledge and methodology to a view that centres accounting as a more or less multi-logical, more or less moral practice of constructing Self-Other relations.


Keywords: social accounting, environmental accounting, self-other relations, classical-liberal views, constructionism

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