"اطلاع رسانی" فن آوری ها و بانک جهانی
|کد مقاله||سال انتشار||مقاله انگلیسی||ترجمه فارسی||تعداد کلمات|
|22971||2006||28 صفحه PDF||سفارش دهید||محاسبه نشده|
Publisher : Elsevier - Science Direct (الزویر - ساینس دایرکت)
Journal : Accounting, Organizations and Society, Volume 31, Issue 7, October 2006, Pages 635–662
The current study examines how the World Bank uses an assemblage of information generation and reporting practices, bounded by accounting/financial expertises, to attempt to influence the practices associated with administering education in Latin America. Starting from the premise that these “informing” technologies make the objects of governance knowable in terms of accounting and financial expertises, we consider how accounting practices embedded within lending agreements enable, translate and regulate behaviour. Focusing on the institutional field(s) of basic education, the study offers an in-depth analysis of 15 World Bank loan agreements from across the region, plus 25 interviews with field participants from a single Latin American country. We examine how the World Bank lending agreements install a variety of informing technologies across a network of agents in Latin America. We propose that such agreements can be viewed as technologies of governance in that they diffuse financial technologies to distant fields, re-structure the habitus of these fields, and serve to reaffirm the expertise of the Bank within these fields. In this way, the World Bank increases its legitimacy with other potential borrower countries and ensures its continuing influence.
Since the early 1800s, information and information-related technologies have been central to the processes of linking together disparate geographical locales and to the compression of time and space (cf. Harvey, 1989, Headrick, 2000 and Said, 1979). Notions of information and the role of technologies required to produce, transmit, and apply it have been incorporated into a variety of divergent theoretical perspectives. These notions have been used to explain observed changes in the spheres of economy, politics and culture, to name but a few (Amin, 2001, Giddens, 1990 and Waters, 1995). However, the functioning of supranational organizations, and the roles that accounting and financial expertise play within these processes, has been neglected. Like nation states, organizations such as the IMF, OECD, World Bank and WTO attempt to govern and regulate action at distance. However, these organizations transcend national boundaries. Prior accounting research that has looked at supranational institutions has shown how they often have substantial influence over the activities of nation states. Through structural adjustment policies of the IMF, the voluntary compilation and publication of performance indicators by the OECD, the provision of loans with specific accounting conditionalities as well as technical assistance and report-writing activities by the World Bank (Neu, Ocampo Gomez, Ponce de León, & Zepeda, 2002), and trade agreements defining acceptable trade and accounting practices by the WTO (Aggestam and Loft, 2003 and Arnold, 2005), these institutions not only influence practices within distant geographic and social spaces, but also come to be constitutive of these spaces. Central to prior work on governmentality (Foucault, 1991 and Miller and Rose, 1990) has been recognition of the importance of a particular subset of governmental technologies, which we are calling “informing” technologies. These are the assemblage of information generation and reporting practices bounded and informed by accounting/financial expertises. We use the label “informing” technologies in two senses. First, in the more straightforward sense, the role of these technologies is to inform one party in a (typically asymmetrical) accountability relationship, about the status and actions of the second party, the one being held accountable. Second, these technologies inform the practice of governance, in the sense that they give character to governance, and both enable and restrict it. These informing technologies are distinctive in how they make the objects of governance knowable in terms of accounting/financial expertises. In conjunction with these particular expertises, informing technologies influence not only what information is gathered, manipulated and reported, but also how this information is acted upon. The current study focuses on a specific geographical space—the field(s) of education in Latin America—and seeks to understand how informing technologies predicated upon financial and accounting expertises facilitate governance at a distance by one particular supranational institution, the World Bank. Since the late 1980s, the education sector has become an increasingly important site for World Bank activities, comprising approximately 10% of the Bank’s annual lending (Jones, 1992). Within Latin America, education lending over this period has averaged about $200M per year (see Fig. 1) and has been an important source of education funding for cash-strapped governments.
نتیجه گیری انگلیسی
The current study has examined how the World Bank has used an assemblage of information generation and reporting practices bounded by accounting/financial expertises to attempt to influence the practices associated with administering education in Latin America. Starting from the premise that these informing technologies make the objects of governance knowable in terms of accounting and financial expertises, we have considered how accounting practices embedded within lending agreements enable, translate and regulate behaviour. Our suggestion has been that these techniques are enabling, in that they allow knowledge of distant locales to be mobilized and brought home to centres of calculation, albeit in a particular format and within a particular framing (Miller and Rose, 1990 and Said, 1979). We have argued that through the implantation of accounting techniques and accounting agents, it is possible to translate abstract objectives into concrete practices, thereby shaping, constraining and mediating action. We have suggested that it is also possible with these technologies and agents to regulate distant locales through the construction of self-governing individuals. These techniques change the day-to-day practices and vocabularies and priorities of distant fields (Oakes et al., 1998) and encourage self-disciplining activities on the part of the field’s participants (Hoskin and Macve, 1986 and Hoskin and Macve, 1988). As the analysis illustrated, this was accomplished via the use of new vocabularies and calculations to re-present the field, through the implantation of accounting technologies at the local level, through attempts to create new visibilities with performance indicators, and through use of networks of mutually monitoring agents. While our analysis of the lending agreements and the interviews has helped us to better understand how informing technologies work within a specific institutional field, it has also pushed our understanding of technologies of governance. The study complements prior studies (cf. Gordon, 1991, Miller and Rose, 1990, Neu, 2000 and Preston et al., 1997) by examining how supranational institutions such as the World Bank govern from a distance, and how this governance is primarily financial governance. Thus the provided analysis has taken up the suggestions of Miller and Rose (1995) that governmentality be viewed as a “field of investigation” (p. 591) and that attention be directed to the “heterogeneous intellectual and technical conditions for the historically specific assemblages that link aspirations of rulers with the conduct of the ruled” (p. 594). As the analysis has shown, not only are the intellectual and technical conditions field-specific, but also, in certain fields, the notion of “rulers” needs to be broadened to include supranational institutions. The analysis also encourages us to reconsider key aspects of processes of governance. Our examination of a specific institutional setting has made visible to us how such technologies “work” (Burchell et al., 1980). At the same time, the analysis encourages us to re-think the interrelated notions of information, fabrication and translation. For example, the analysis has demonstrated that within this particular institutional field, the information that was gathered, interpreted and reported was not necessarily “quality” information in the information economics sense of being hard, objective and timely (Thornton, 1984 and Thornton, 1985). In part, the geographic and cultural distances that existed between the different sites—i.e. World Bank officials located in Washington, ministry of education officials located in the country’s capital and the various geographic regions/departments within the country—shaped and constrained the nature of information. Thus the analysis has revealed how, within this particular setting, the notion of distance affected the understanding of information. Stated differently, informing technologies were central to the act of governing from a distance, yet it was this distance that mediated the nature and “quality” of the information. Throughout our analysis of the lending agreements and especially in the interviews, we were reminded that information can be fabricated in a variety of ways (Latour, 1987, p. 258). Fabrication occurred via the intersection of the newly implanted financial technologies, the pre-existing information systems, and the taken-for-granted habitus of the field. In some cases the fabrication of information might have been deliberate, in the sense that ministry of education bureaucrats wanted to portray events in the best possible light for the Bank. In other cases, the fabrication was simply the result of bureaucrats having a not quite understood form to fill in (in fact, dozens of forms to fill in) and a shortage of time with which to determine what it was the Bank was “actually looking for” on the particular form. Thus, the analysis both reiterates the conclusions of Preston et al. (1992) regarding the fabrication of accounting information and emphasizes how field-specific differences (i.e., a different language and cultural practices) influence the type of fabrication that occurs. Finally, the analysis makes visible the ways in which the gathered, interpreted and reported information was often a translation of previous translations both within and across institutional fields—much like the game of “telephone” that we may have played as children. World Bank officials depended on Ministry of Education bureaucrats who in turn depended on officials in distant sites to gather the required information. As the interviews have revealed, this often resulted in a complex game of “telephone” that introduced a series of idiosyncrasies with respect to the nature of the information being gathered, interpreted and reported. The preceding comments are not intended to suggest that the informing technologies did not “work,” nor suggest that the basic/rural education projects supported by the Bank are less than worthwhile projects. Rather, as Miller and Rose suggest, the comments encourage us to ask how these technologies work and what are the “unexpected consequences associated with putting a technique to work” (1990, p. 11). As the analysis demonstrated, while the accounting “outputs” may not have met the criteria of relevance, reliability and objectivity (Kieso et al., 1991), the informing technologies themselves did change the habitus of the field, particularly the vocabularies that were used to make sense of day-to-activities and the day-to-day practices within the field. Therefore we might speculate that perhaps the information fulfils panoptic and symbolic rather than technical–rational purposes (Ansari & Euske, 1987). From this vantage point, the quality of the information is less than paramount, since it is the “act of accounting” that not only inscribes borrower countries in a hierarchical social relation with the Bank but also makes possible new modalities of power (cf. Robson, 1992, p. 701). As with all research endeavours, in conceptualizing and undertaking this research we were confronted with choices regarding research strategy, choices that influenced both what we considered and what was “bracketed” for future research. Three of these choices deserve mention and future research attention. First, our starting point in this study was a sample of 15 World Bank lending agreements with a subsequent in-depth analysis of one agreement, along with 25 interviews in an anonymous borrower country. While we read 15 of the Bank’s lending agreements to develop our initial thematic categories, the provided analysis concentrates on a single lending agreement. Our rationale was that this approach would allow us to acknowledge the similarities across institutional fields, while at the same time focusing on the information technologies contained within a specific lending agreement. Clearly, additional work is needed that moves in the opposite direction and considers the differences across the agreements and agents involved. Such an analysis will help us to better understand how and why certain information technologies are deployed, and the associated field-specific effects. Second, the analysis concentrated on the ways that the Bank attempted to influence the practices associated with administering education within Latin America, rather than on the institutions and governments that shape, direct and influence Bank policies. Aside from the insider account of Stiglitz (2002), little is known about how this web of external institutions influences the lending activities and policy direction of the Bank. Despite the obvious difficulties associated with gaining access and studying such influence processes, such research is clearly needed. Third, our analysis has hinted at the differences that exist across institutional fields within education in Latin America (both within and across countries), as well as the ambiguity associated with informing technologies. Future research that examines the effects of these technologies within specific geographic districts and within schools themselves will increase our understanding of how informing technologies “trickle down” from the World Bank to the Ministry of Education, and then to specific educational sites. Such micro-level work will help us to better understand the dynamics of such programs and techniques—for example how it is that such lending programs and the embedded financial technologies may “improve” the educational levels of rural peoples and introduce new technologies that field participants view as being beneficial, while simultaneously reproducing historical dependency relations between North and South nations. Such benefits and (un)intended side effects of World Bank educational lending practices seem to occur despite, or perhaps because of, the imperfections and ambiguities noted here. Taken together, the effects of cultural and geographic distance, uneven data quality, and (re)translation would appear to confirm the comment of Miller and Rose that: Technologies produce unexpected problems, are utilized for their own ends by those who are supposed to merely operate them, are hampered by under-funding, professional rivalries, and the impossibility of producing the technical conditions that would make them work—reliable statistics, efficient communication systems, clear lines of command… (1990, p. 11) Yet, as our case analysis illustrates, perfection of execution is unnecessary. Despite impediments, informing technologies do, indeed, “work.” Through the implantation of financial reporting requirements, accounting measurements, and accounting and financial expertises, the World Bank’s loans are monitored and the practices of administering education are changed. Heaton, in our lead quotation, put it well: the genius of administration is indeed found in scraps of paper borne over the seas, and two or three slender wires.