دانلود مقاله ISI انگلیسی شماره 322
عنوان فارسی مقاله

کارت امتیازی متوازن آمریکایی در مقابل تابلو د برد فرانسوی : ابعاد ایدئولوژیکی

کد مقاله سال انتشار مقاله انگلیسی ترجمه فارسی تعداد کلمات
322 2004 28 صفحه PDF سفارش دهید محاسبه نشده
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عنوان انگلیسی
The American balanced scorecard versus the French tableau de bord: the ideological dimension
منبع

Publisher : Elsevier - Science Direct (الزویر - ساینس دایرکت)

Journal : Management Accounting Research, Volume 15, Issue 2, June 2004, Pages 107–134

کلمات کلیدی
ایدئولوژی - کارت امتیازی متوازن - ارزیابی عملکرد - قرارداد منصفانه - تابلو د برد - افتخار - کارت امتیازی متوازن - سیستم ارزیابی عملکرد
پیش نمایش مقاله
پیش نمایش مقاله کارت امتیازی متوازن آمریکایی در مقابل تابلو د برد فرانسوی : ابعاد ایدئولوژیکی

چکیده انگلیسی

Much attention is currently given to strategic measurement systems, the balanced scorecard being by far the most highly profiled among them. The balanced scorecard has not, however, received a particularly warm welcome in France, where the tableau de bord has been used for at least 50 years. This paper investigates the ideological assumptions of the two methods, the aim being to explain the differences between them and investigate the extent to which the ideological assumptions are coherent with the local ideologies of American and French society, respectively. The paper concludes that the main differences between the balanced scorecard and the tableau de bord may be explained in terms of ideological assumptions, which means that, to a large extent, these management tools are coherent with the local ideologies in the countries of origin. In addition, this analysis provides some insight into the more general question of the transferability of management methods and the appropriateness of globalising management theories.

مقدمه انگلیسی

1.1. Problem The balanced scorecard has attracted a great deal of attention, especially in the United States (Ittner and Larcker, 1998), but also in many other countries (Malmi, 2001 and Ax and Bjørnenak, 2000). In France, however, enthusiasm has been limited. Thus, a recent comparative European survey (Gehrke and Horváth, 2002) shows that firms in Germany, the United Kingdom and Italy are familiar with the balanced scorecard 98, 83 and 72% of the responding companies, respectively—but in France it was known to only 41% of the responding firms. In Germany, the United Kingdom and Italy, approximately 20% of the companies in each of the three countries aimed to implement the balanced scorecard, whereas in France this was true of only 3%, or one company. One of the explanations for the French reluctance to adopt the balanced scorecard may be that, for the past 50 years at least, French firms have used the tableau de bord (literally, the “dashboard”), which 100% of the French companies in the survey (Gehrke and Horváth, 2002) reported that they used. The tableau de bord is in many ways similar to the balanced scorecard, and some authors have even suggested that, being a precursor of the balanced scorecard, it may have inspired its development (Chiapello and Lebas, 1996). The reaction to the balanced scorecard has not been very warm among academics either and the following excerpt, which concludes a comparative article, seems to be quite illustrative: “In France, we have developed the practice of the tableau de bord over more than 50 years compared to six in the States [spent on developing the balanced scorecard]. Instead of importing a new North-American tool [the balanced scorecard] without any changes, let us try to understand the reasons for and the conditions of its creation. And let us follow the words of the poet Valéry, ‘We shall only be enriched by our differences’ ” (Mendoza and Zrihen, 1999a). This paper aims to understand some of the French reluctance to the balanced scorecard. Admittedly, one of the reasons for French companies’ not knowing about the balanced scorecard may be explained by translation problems. Thus, the title of Kaplan and Norton’s (1996) book The balanced scorecard has been translated into Tableau de bord prospectif, which may create confusion between the two approaches. Another reason for the French reluctance is that the traditional tableau de bord, is a presumably fairly well functioning system with some similarities with the scorecard. However, this reluctant attitude to American management practices is not untypical in France. The implementation in France of Activity Based Costing (ABC) (Lebas and Mévellec, 1999) and management by objectives (Franck, 1973) also seems to have been problematic. Sometimes, the scepticism towards American management approaches is vigorously voiced: “The French tradition has never accepted the ‘myth’ developed by large North American businesses such as, first, Dupont and, then, ITT, that financial numbers can serve as a surrogate for process information and that businesses can be run on the basis of such numbers”(Chiapello and Lebas, 1996). This suggests that the explanation for the resistance is not to be found in technical issues alone. Indeed, French authors point out that the balanced scorecard does not fit the French way of managing firms. Their claim is, inter alia, that the “mechanical” top-down deployment of the balanced scorecard disregards the “incremental and collective construction” of strategy in France, which is consistent with the existence of local “margins of freedom” in that country (Mendoza and Zrihen, 1999a and Mendoza and Zrihen, 1999b). Besides, France, unlike the United States, has no long tradition of performance-based remuneration. Thus, Malo (1995) associates the differences between the two performance measurement systems with radically different ways of cooperating in the two cultures. Looking at the influence the other way around, the American reaction to the tableau de bord has been almost absent. There is no translation into English of the original tableau de bord and the American interest in the tableau de bord or in any comparison with the balanced scorecard appears to be limited to a few exceptions (Gray and Pesqueux, 1993 and Epstein and Manzoni, 1997). We suggest that the balanced scorecard and the tableau de bord, which originated in the United States and France, respectively, bear the marks of the respective ideologies of these two countries. As will be explained below, by ideology we understand beliefs, knowledge and ideas serving to maintain social order, i.e., to construct hierarchies, to make people obey as well as to cope with uncertainty. Our claim is that any society has its own distinctive ideology, i.e., ideologies differ among capitalist societies, and that the distinctive ideology of a society is embedded in the rules and methods used for the purposes of that society’s collective action. Furthermore, we argue that management methods are tools that can contribute to constructing hierarchies, making people obey and coping with uncertainty, and that they rely on implicit ideas about how to create social order, which we refer to as the ideological assumptions of management methods. We assume that, to a certain degree, the unique ideology of a given society is embedded in the management methods created and developed in local organisations; i.e., to a certain extent, locally developed management methods are aligned with the specific beliefs of the local society regarding social order. This implies that the ideological assumptions of a management method transferred from one place to another may be more or less coherent with the ideology of the new place: thus, the transferred method may subvert the existing social order, which may explain local resistance to the technique. The paper investigates the degree of coherence of the tableau de bord and the balanced scorecard with the general beliefs underlying the ways of creating and maintaining social order in French and American society; we shall label these beliefs French and American ideology, respectively. Specifically, the research questions are the following: (i) Is the ideology embedded in the balanced scorecard and the tableau de bord, respectively, coherent with American ideology? (ii) Is the ideology embedded in the balanced scorecard and the tableau de bord, respectively, coherent with French ideology? The paper concludes that the main differences between the balanced scorecard and the tableau de bord may be explained in terms of ideological assumptions, which means that, to a large extent, these management tools are coherent with the local ideologies in the countries of origin. We do not claim that the lack of coherence between the ideological assumptions of management methods and local ideologies is the only explanation for the limited use, in France, of the balanced scorecard and, in the U.S., of the tableau the bord; our only claim is that it is part of the explanation. Another part of the explanation may be the different institutional environments in the two countries (Abrahamson, 1991, Alvarez, 1998 and Gehrke and Horvath, 2002); but as will be seen below the institutional environment in a country also bears the marks of its ideology. We suggest, however, that understanding the ideological issues may be crucial for the effectiveness of control systems, i.e., for their ability to make people act in the best interest of the organisation. This means that, when management approaches are transferred and insufficient consideration given to their ideological assumptions, they are likely to miss their objectives and to prove very disappointing. More generally, our results have implications for the construction and implementation of management systems: the importance of local ideology should be recognised, especially in the case of systems created and developed in ideologically different environments. Finally, the results give rise to a comment on the implications for French ideology of the globalisation of mainly American management methods (Alvarez, 1998). 1.2. The conception of ideology—an uncritical perspective The concept of ideology may be traced back to Antoine Destutt de Tracy, a Frenchman who used it to describe the scientific study of ideas. Napoleon argued against the ideas of de Tracy and his supporters, accusing them of being Idéologues (Billig, 1982, p. 12) and thus giving ideology connotations of not relating to the real processes of life. These negative connotations were reinforced by critical Marxism in that, according to Marx, ideology concerns the creation of illusions. Thus, ideology is seen as a false consciousness created by the ruling class to legitimise and reproduce the social system ( Tinker et al., 1982, Giddens, 1979, Giddens, 1989, Arnold and Hammond, 1994 and Alvarez, 1998, pp. 28–29); it is only “reflexes” and “echoes” of the real processes of life, serving the interests of the dominant class (Ricoeur, 1986). Ideology as a more neutral concept was advocated by Mannheim (1952), who does not claim that ideology is an illusion created with cynical intent by the ruling class. In Mannheim’s view (1952), ideology, not unlike the Marxist conception, is knowledge intended to integrate and conserve social order; yet no social group can avoid selfish interest, with the possible exception of intellectuals, who may at least avoid it in their arguments. As a matter of fact, “real processes” are integrated with selfish interest because, as we grow up, we learn about the world and how to interact with it, which is intimately intertwined with our goals and wishes (Arbib and Hesse, 1986). From such a more neutral perspective, ideology is generally viewed as a necessary expression of society and not as something imposed or bad, which should not be taken to mean that it disallows criticism of the social structure underlying the ideology of a given society (Arbib and Hesse, 1986). In other words, a neutral conception of ideology does not exclude its being linked with power and domination (Neimark, 1992, p. 97). The present study draws on such a rather neutral conception of ideology and not on a critical one. By ideology, we understand the different types of ideas, knowledge and beliefs employed in order to integrate a social order into a society or an organisation and to keep or change that order (Thompson, 1984, pp. 4, 76). Ideology encompasses different areas of knowledge organised to a coherent whole; it includes both “factual” descriptions and analyses of the world and the ways in which people interact in it as well as normative action-oriented dimensions, e.g., moral prescriptions and life goal standards (Mannheim, 1952, Seliger, 1976, Thompson, 1984 and Arbib and Hesse, 1986). Such a mixture of related “factual” and normative elements gives ideology its action-encouraging appeal and effectiveness (Thompson, 1984, p. 78); it becomes highly practical and not illusionary. Furthermore, ideology is perceived as concerning the integration (Ricoeur, 1986) of the life and acts of the individual. Thus, it contributes to making “sense of the world ‘out there’ and helps individuals to deal meaningfully and realistically with it (…)” (Geertz, 1973 and Alvarez, 1998, p. 28); in modern life ideology provides a “symbolic outlet” for emotional disturbance generated by our uncertain and stressful world (Geertz, 1973 and Alvarez, 1998, p. 30). Uncertainty may be coped with by creating reliability in the context of daily social interactions either by having trust in authorities such as traditional modes of practice, local communities and kinship systems creating a protective cocoon around a person or by abstract systems such as expert systems and symbolic tokens (Giddens, 1991).1 In conditions of high modernity, social relations tend to be disembedded outside personal connections and traditions and instead restructured across time and space (Giddens, 1991). Consequently, there are only few determinant authorities to trust, but there exist many abstract systems establishing routine forms which contribute to making people cope with uncertainty although there is constantly doubt with respect to the reliability of these systems (Giddens, 1991, p. 194). Uncertainty may also be managed through the provision of income, status and personal belongings (Boltanski and Chiapello, 1999, p. 53), which may be determined by authorities such as tradition and social belongings or by abstract systems such as management systems. In sum, ideology may be related to three dimensions which all serve the purpose of our analysis, ideology being concerned with ways in which to make hierarchies and in which to make people obey as well as with how to cope with uncertainty. An ideology is expressed within the whole structure of interactions among the individuals of a society, their institutions, and their artefacts. Implicitly it relies on individual, more or less conscious, cognitive models which are socially learned. Similarly to language, however, the ideology of a society can only be imperfectly represented within the mind of any given individual and will be represented in different ways in different individuals. We do not assume ideology to have any external objective reality like the physical world; growing up in a society, however, people accommodate their cognitive schemas in accordance with the social knowledge, beliefs and ideas of that society: the local ideology shapes their individual cognitive models in a powerful way (Arbib and Hesse, 1986). Consequently, we may assume that the ideology underlying a social order differs from place to place and, hence, that societies, organisations and social groups may have different ideologies. Thus, beliefs regarding social order, i.e., ideology, are locally anchored (d’Iribarne et al., 1998, p. 8). We therefore think it reasonable for the purposes of this analysis to assume that there is a French ideology and an American ideology ruling social order in France and the United States, respectively. Furthermore, we think it is reasonable to assume that ideology is embedded in the institutional networks of a society, which constitute a sort of organised whole in which all forces are so tightly connected and integrated that nobody can really escape them (Latour, 1987). Consequently, this view does not subscribe to the critical Marxist perspective, which involves the cynical intention of the ruling class in the construction of the ideology of a society. In organizations, ideologies are embedded not only in the employees’ and the managers’ minds, but also in management devices; thus management methods implicitly rely on ideological assumptions, i.e., some specific beliefs, knowledge and ideas regarding the creation or maintenance of social order (Mannheim, 1952, Burchell et al., 1980, Tinker et al., 1982, Arnold and Hammond, 1994 and Boltanski and Chiapello, 1999, p. 94). Specifically in organizations, ideologies include “all those ideas which are espoused by or for those who exercise authority in economic enterprises, and which seek to explain and justify that authority” (Bendix, 1956). Management techniques may create and validate the normative order of a society and justify individuals as well as social constructions, making their actions plausible and acceptable (Richardson, 1987). Despite the neutrality of our approach, we do not exclude the possibility that management techniques may be used to legitimate the body in power, but our position is that this is not their only purpose. More specifically, we suggest that management techniques may be necessary for the implementation of some rational order in organizations and for promoting among employees the willingness to and acceptance of the necessity for cooperation and obedience (Selznick, 1957 and Alvarez, 1998, p. 30). Furthermore, management techniques may legitimate the manager and reduce feelings of uncertainty. Thus, managers have to legitimate their position to their organizations and, hence, their exercise of authority. In addition, they have to legitimate their position to the environment (Meyer and Rowan, 1977), and they have to convince themselves that they are able to cope with uncertainty and able to establish sufficient security to act—they need a symbolic outlet to deal with the emotional disturbance generated by the environment. There is a need for creating some kind of normative order and for legitimising and coping with uncertainty everywhere (Giddens, 1991); however, the means and ways of doing so differ according to societies. As local ideology may furthermore be reflected in management practices as well as in local institutions (Latour, 1987 and Burchell et al., 1980), we suggest that the importance of management instruments and other means of ideological embeddedness differ across societies. Specifically, the role of management accounting with respect to creating social order may differ from one place to another. Furthermore, we assume that ideologies surreptitiously imposed through the management techniques in which they are embedded will, in a given local group, succeed to the extent that they exclude conflicting schemas from consideration which would make their reality appear untenable (Arbib and Hesse, 1986). Thus, when a management technique is transferred to a new place, there has to be a certain level of coherence between the ideology embedded in the management technique transferred and the ideology of the locality to which it is transferred. In sum, management methods as instruments of ideology inscription concern not only the issues of authority, hierarchy and obedience but also those of legitimacy and uncertainty. These issues are also potentially dealt with by institutions, which are alternative instruments of ideology embedding. As ideology is locally anchored, however, each social group has a unique way of inscribing its own ideology, i.e., of forming and combining various means of ideology embedding. We suggest that the importance of management instruments and other means of ideological embeddedness differ across societies and organisations, but in any organisation, the ideology embedded in the management methods has to be at least minimally coherent with the ideology of the organisation in order to meet with acceptance. An ideological perspective on management and accounting systems is not an entirely new phenomenon although it may not always be labelled ideology (Weber, 1947, Tinker et al., 1982, Richardson, 1987 and Arnold and Hammond, 1994). Most research focuses on the ideological nature of accounting, i.e., on how accounting is used to legitimise dominant positions. For instance, Tinker et al. (1982) have unveiled how positive theories of accounting are actually value-laden and support social order; Neimark (1992, p. 100) has explained how annual reports are used “to create, sustain and reflect ideological structures”; and Arnold and Hammond (1994) have widened the frame of “dominant positions” in showing how accounting disclosure could be used in debates by both parties to legitimate their claims. This paper adopts a radically different perspective. It does not look at how the management techniques interact in a specific power struggle process but at the extent to which the ideological assumptions embedded in management devices are coherent with the ideology in France and the U.S., respectively. Furthermore, although it has been demonstrated that feudal societies are seen to require feudal accounting systems and capitalist societies capitalist modes of accounting (Rose, 1977 and Burchell et al., 1980), we think that our focus on ideology across different capitalist societies is rather new. With respect to the focus on different societies, it should be noted that ideology differs from culture as, e.g., defined by Hofstede (1984); though culture also includes values and beliefs that rule social groups, it differs from ideology in being a behavioural concept whereas ideology is a cognitive concept. In addition, culture has a wider scope than ideology as it includes beliefs which are not related to social order. Finally, as management control is to a large extent concerned with constructing social order, an ideological perspective may contribute to deepening our understanding of some of the resistance against some management techniques in a specific society; we therefore use the same underlying concepts for understanding the collective actions of a certain society and the management technique in question, which should reveal coherence problems more directly. 1.3. Method The article is organised as follows. Section 2 reviews the common points and differences between the balanced scorecard and the tableau de bord. 3 and 4 present the radically different local ideologies of the United States and France, respectively, which shape the American and the French way of creating social order. In addition to the description of the ideologies of these societies, we present an analysis of the role of management techniques in each society and of how the respective ideologies are consistent with the ideological assumptions of the two techniques considered here. The conclusion in Section 5 offers a synthesis of this work and discusses its implications. The analysis of the technical differences between the balanced scorecard and the tableau de bord is based on literature studies. Literature is considered a relevant source for any attempt to study the ideological differences between the tableau de bord and the balanced scorecard because they reveal the spirit of these management control methods. The management literature tells managers how to act and the way this is told reveals aspects of the ideology embedded in the models (Boltanski and Chiapello, 1999, p. 94). Alternatively, one might use case studies. Such studies, however, reveal aspects of both the ideology of a specific company and the ideological assumptions of the measurement systems, which may make it difficult to disentangle the two. In addition, local studies may create a rather fragmented picture (Arbib and Hesse, 1986), whereas a literature-based analysis, such as the one suggested, offers a more general framework. A literature-based study, however, is only a first step on the road, calling for further conceptualisation and empirical examination for the investigation to gain more validity. With a view to understanding the ideologies of the two societies considered, we examine the basic foundations of social relations in France and the United States. We use d’Iribarne (1989), who proposed the images of “a fair contract” and “honour” to characterise the social relationships in French and American society. The two concepts illustrate the underlying philosophy of the social order. As the concepts are rooted in the philosophical thoughts of Locke, 1689a and Locke, 1689b and Rousseau (1762), who each influenced the American and the French constitution, respectively, we elaborate the description by including some of their thoughts in order to enhance understanding. We also draw on the work of Weber (1947) to explain the work ethic of the American society and the work of Bourdieu (1989, 1996) to describe the social forces of modern France. We have chosen d’Iribarne’s (1989) approach to describe the ideologies of the two countries because his ethnographic investigations show that “honour” and “the fair contract” are still active concepts in today’s French and American companies, respectively. Further, d’Iribarne’s approach makes it possible to study ideology from the point of view of each country. Thus, we look at how to create or maintain social order in a society, using that society’s own concepts, which differs from, e.g., Hofstede’s (1984) approach for cultural analysis, which uses concepts that are uniform across societies. Describing the concepts which are constitutive of the ideologies of the two societies allows us to uncover their different ways of creating social order and thus to increase our understanding of this issue (Dumont, 1977 and Boltanski and Chiapello, 1999, p. 98). However, as a result of the use of non-uniform descriptions the sections describing French and U.S. ideologies are not of the same length. As ideology is a very comprehensive concept (Eagleton, 1991), this paper does not offer an exhaustive review of French and American ideologies; their primary characteristics have been selected, however, because of their relevance to explaining, at a rather general level, the differences between the ways in which the relation between the individual and the other is governed in these two countries; i.e., our focus is on the political thoughts related to the constitution of each of these societies. A major risk involved in describing an ideology is always that of simplification. First, the very attempt at describing “social reality” is a source of simplification. Second, societies consist of not entirely homogeneous groups and thus of unequally convergent subideologies: there are many differences among the Americans and as many among the French. Finding a counter-example to a general statement is very often possible; and disregarding subideologies leads to exaggerated simplification or, in other words, stereotyping. Third, it may be argued that ideology changes over time and that, due to what has become known as “globalisation”, the ideological beliefs of today’s managers and other dominant employees are becoming almost homogenous. Indeed, describing the essence of the ideology of a society or a company is difficult. The position of this paper is that, to some extent, the inertia of the ideology of any given society seems to persist over time, but the internationalisation of companies activates more than one ideology in the same company, making the real life situation quite complex. Neglecting the comparative ideological perspective would, however, imply the reification of management approaches—which may be more problematic. The analysis of coherence adopted here is basically analytical. An analytical approach aims at increasing the level of clarity and precision in the concepts used for analysing and understanding social reality. This is a necessity if we are to understand and discuss the constitutive use of management methods in the social world in which we live (Nørreklit, 1986). Furthermore, being a rational matter, an analytical approach is appropriate as coherence implies that the ideological assumptions of the management model and the local ideology of the society have to be logically consistent, compatible and non-contradictory (Edwards, 1972, pp. 2–130). On the other hand, an analytical approach may be criticised for being speculative and not being based on empirical observation, but the problem raised in this paper is empirically founded as are the theories used to describe ideologies. As any explanation of empirical results involves logic, however, and therefore cannot be found ‘objectively in the world’, any explanation of an empirical phenomenon will, to a certain extent, be speculation (Wittgenstein, 1921). We aim to justify our explanations with a fairly detailed analysis, but not one that completely avoids apparent paradoxes and inconsistencies. To a certain extent, this will probably always be the case in social science as the social world is complex and imperfect. Our model is indeed reductive and we do not claim that it is a complete description of the ideologies and issues considered. Nevertheless, it may contribute to increased understanding of the forces involved in the actual application of management control.

نتیجه گیری انگلیسی

The local ideologies in the U.S. and France are very different from each other. In the United States, everybody is expected to act freely under contracts which s/he chooses to be committed to and under a general moral claim to fairness. The French counterpart to the Americanfair contract is the principle of honour, which rules in France: everyone belongs to a social group with specific obligations and privileges distinct from those of other groups. In the United States, where people are assumed to be equal, management devices play a major role in creating hierarchies, making people obey, bringing legitimacy and reducing the feeling of uncertainty. In France, social hierarchy, obedience, legitimacy and security are mainly questions of education and honour, not of management devices. Consequently, the demand for management methods to create hierarchies, to make people obey and to legitimate managers is far from being the same in the two countries. Thus, in the United States, management instruments are a significant means of creating hierarchies, making people obey and legitimating, whereas in France social order is mostly embodied in the rituals of the social groups. We have found that the American ideology is embedded in the balanced scorecard and the French ideology in the tableau de bord and that the coherence between the American ideology and the tableau de bord appears to be low as does the coherence between the French ideology and the balanced scorecard. The method of this analysis may be transferred to other questions. It may, for instance, be useful to apply it to other management control devices. In general, any device associated with hierarchy, planning, control and performance measurements may be expected to “resonate” differently in France and the United States. The method may also be fruitful for analyses involving other societies. Although French resistance is not unusual—cf. France’s leaving the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) and more recent examples such as public demonstrations to defend chocolate, cheese or other French culinary traditions against European or world regulations—the coherence problems caused by importing management systems developed in the United States are probably not specific to the French environment. The problems created by any lack of coherence between the ideology of a given society and the ideological assumptions of the management technique applied may, however, be more loudly voiced in the case of France because of the tendency to rise in rebellion. Nevertheless, the lack of coherence between the ideology of the society and the ideological assumptions of globalised management methods developed in the United States may create coherence problems in many other places. We suggest that similar analyses should be made in some other European countries as well as in some Asian, African, Latin American and Middle East countries. As it may be very useful for multinational organisations to know the ideology of a specific society in which they establish themselves, such analyses should probably be undertaken in any society. Our results may also have implications for the development of models for controlling multinational companies. Traditional control theories assume that business procedures may easily be transferred to other countries, i.e., they apply an ethnocentric (Perlmutter, 1969) approach which assumes that the ideological assumptions embedded in the control models developed in the society in which the headquarters is located are universally applicable. Alternative models advocate a high degree of autonomy for the subsidiaries, i.e., they suggest the application of a polycentric (Perlmutter, 1969) approach which assumes that aligning the local modes of control and ideology is conducive to optimal performance. This obviously creates the potential problem of having incoherent ideological beliefs in the overall organization. Finally, other theories apply the principle of geocentricism (Perlmutter, 1969) which involves the belief that the synergies among ideas from different countries of operation should prevail. This, in turn, requires a common framework with enough freedom for individual locations so that operations meet employees’ needs everywhere. It also implies, however, that eventually ideological beliefs may be reconciled and converge. All these approaches optimistically assume applicable solutions, but they do not fully deal with the potential inherent conflicts involved. Consequently, there is a need for more research into the most feasible ways of bridging management control systems across ideologies. Management methods which do not fit with the ruling ideology of a society are not necessarily rejected, however; they may also shape (Nørreklit, 1986) this ideology. Thus Bourdieu (2000) claims that the bombardment with American ideology and management rhetoric has resulted in the erosion of French values. It is true that the process of Americanisation, which in France began after WWII with the Marshall Plan, has introduced American management methods into French firms and modified their governance structures (Djelic, 1998). As regards management education, it is also true that the “cohort of management apostles” (Chessel and Pavis, 2001, p. 147), who went to the United States in the late sixties and early seventies and back to French educational institutions diffused new management concepts and innovative teaching methods (Chessel and Pavis, 2001, p. 159). More recently, the globalisation of finance, the decreasing influence of the trade unions and the French government’s withdrawal from business have led to some revision of the traditional image of French capitalism as involving an omnipresent State, permanent labour disputes, etc. (Hanckè, 2001). As mentioned above, we have not seen any signs, however, that the increasing Americanisation of the management market and the post-1983 “ideological shift” in France away from the State as a value creator to the firm as one (Bauer and Bertin-Mourot, 1987, p. 6) have contributed to eroding the status of the Grandes Ecoles. In particular, the dominant position of the Grandes Ecoles, which are not devoted to management, has not changed from 1985 to 1993. On the contrary, the influence of Ecole Polytechnique and ENA is increasing This shows that French firms are apparently unable to call into question social hierarchies and to produce new ones; they accept the ‘tyranny’ of the initial degree (Bauer and Bertin-Mourot, 1996, p. 70). Moreover, whatever the recent change in the French capitalist model, the ‘presidentialism’ of French management persists, which is broadly the result of the strongly traditional social distance between the management elites and the rest of the firm (Hanckè, 2001). This may not be surprising as the rationale of honour and the hierarchies of nobility have survived more than two centuries with a republican political system and are strongly embedded in the French identity. A few decades of even strong American influence cannot radically change this. However, Bourdieu (2000) is probably right that, although the process is a rather slow one, the French identity is changing and the new forms are not yet wholly visible. They will necessarily bear the marks of the old elements of ideology, however, which implies that there will still be reason to be concerned with whether the ideological assumptions of management tools are consistent with the ideology of the society. However, our analysis also points to the need for further research into how human beings and organisations are influenced by management technologies which involve ideological assumptions inconsistent with the local ideology of the society. It may plausibly be assumed that the dominance of U.S.-constructed accounting standards and control systems may conceal a deeply-rooted ideological commitment to U.S. values and beliefs that may be inappropriate in the pluralistic cultural and economic field of multinational commerce. Nonetheless, this ideology prevails due to the structural force of the unquestioned power of multinational capital in a largely depoliticized global market. The relevant issue, then, is whether the globalisation of mainly U.S. developed management and accounting systems erodes ideological differences or whether local ideology is still contained within those differences? The key question concerns the issue of whether the form and rationality of various accounting and control regimes may help us determine whether ideological differences are approaching or, alternatively, resisting singularity.

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