عقلانیت کاریزما و حرفه حسابداری : دیدگاه تعارض درون حرفه ای در یونان 1993-2001
|کد مقاله||سال انتشار||مقاله انگلیسی||ترجمه فارسی||تعداد کلمات|
|3339||2005||7 صفحه PDF||سفارش دهید||0 کلمه|
Publisher : Elsevier - Science Direct (الزویر - ساینس دایرکت)
Journal : Accounting, Organizations and Society, Volume 30, Issue 3, April 2005, Pages 195–221
During the 1990s Greek auditors and branches of international accounting firms in Greece fought a veritable professional war over the jurisdiction of statutory auditing. This intra-professional conflict developed against a backdrop of profound changes in the socio-economic and political fabric of the country, along pro-liberal, free market lines. This paper looks at a particular episode of that conflict––an attempt by the indigenous auditors to regain the monopoly of practice they lost, following the `liberalisation' of the Greek auditing profession in 1992. The paper argues that Max Weber's theoretical work on history and social development can be applied in helping to understand complex processes of contemporary change in the accounting profession. The analysis of this case study posits that rationalisation and charisma play a major role in helping to effect historical change through their influence on class–status–party, the tripartite stratificatory structure of modern society. In these encounters, multifarious social, economic and political actors with overlapping or differing interests interact with one another. The end result is that historical development is read as a fluid process whose outcome appears uncertain, although certain trends may be discernible in the particular historical juncture examined in this case study.
Changes that occur in the accounting profession take place within a broader socio-economic context, which can help or hinder competing occupational groups as they attempt to define, defend or extend their jurisdiction of practice1 (Abbott, 1988). Given the importance of accounting in the functioning of the capitalist system, the amount of research on the accounting profession is considerable and covers multiple locales and historical periods. Although the literature exhibits a variety of theoretical approaches, in the last few decades––following developments in the literature on professions in general––two broad perspectives have come to dominate the field. The first is the neo-Weberian view,2 which sees the accounting profession as a status group within the division of labour (Macdonald, 1984 and Macdonald, 1985; Richardson, 1987; Walker, 1991 and Walker, 1995; Chua and Poullaos, 1993 and Chua and Poullaos, 1998). The second is the Marxist view, which examines accountancy in terms of class structure and the relations of production (Johnson, 1972 and Johnson, 1980; Armstrong, 1985; Puxty, Willmott, Cooper, & Lowe, 1987; Robson, Willmott, Cooper, & Puxty, 1994; Cooper, Greenwood, Hinings, & Brown, 1998; Annisette, 2000). These two approaches––which have been developed and used primarily in studies that attempt to analyse the accounting profession within the broader Anglo-American context of advanced capitalism––have yielded significant insights into the professionalisation process and the position of the profession in society and in the economy. However, both approaches have been criticised for certain methodological shortcomings and for failing to properly address a number of significant issues (e.g., Chua and Poullaos, 1993 and Chua and Poullaos, 1998). Some of these limitations may become more apparent when one examines professionalisation projects in other countries with different traditions, economies and societies. For example, little is known––theoretically and empirically––about the trajectories of aspiring occupational groups in continental Europe or in countries at the margins of advanced capitalism that are currently undergoing rapid and profound socio-economic changes, against the backdrop of advancing globalisation. In these contexts, the existence of strong and organised interests pushing the globalisation process in opposite directions may result in prolonged and poorly resolved thrusts of social change. The theoretical underpinning of this paper relies on the Weberian school of thought which, by and large, centres on the concept of market closure to shed light on the professionalisation trajectories of aspiring occupational groups. Much of this literature, however, has made rather limited use of the wealth of Weber's thought in trying to understand complex historical processes. The present analysis, following Chua and Poullaos (1998), who supplemented `closure' with the class–status–party model, employs an even more all-inclusive approach and argues for the usefulness of two other Weberian concepts, namely rationalisation and charisma. The empirical focus is on a particular episode in the trajectory of the Greek accounting profession that took place in the 1990s (see also Caramanis, 1999 and Caramanis, 2002). Specifically, the paper examines a failed attempt by SOL,3 a group of local auditors in Greece, to reinstate their professional monopoly over statutory audits. SOL––a state corporatist institution since its birth in the 1950s––had lost control over the jurisdiction of statutory auditing in 1992, in the wake of liberalisation measures introduced by the conservative (New Democracy) government then in power (Caramanis, 1999). The audit reform of 1992––the result of a bitter intra-professional conflict––`opened' the profession to SELE,4 an aspiring occupational group representing the international accounting firms operating in Greece. The discussion is largely an historical interpretative account that sets out to uncover the complex mechanisms of historical change. SOL's attempt to reverse liberalisation was prompted by the return of the Greek socialist party PASOK to power in 1993. However, SOL's attack was mounted within an unfavourable socio-political climate: the advance of globalisation and the prevalence of a neo-liberal politico-economic discourse and rationalisation processes, largely imported in Greek politics and society in the 1990s (Pagoulatos, 2003). The role of globalisation and various powerful international agents in the Greek intra-professional conflict in the 1990s has been documented elsewhere (Caramanis, 2002). In general, Caramanis has examined the implications of the advent of `globalisation' for accounting professionalism, as smaller nations experience a diminution of their power and sovereignty, while a complex system of superimposed, overlapping and often competing national and international agencies of governance takes hold. In particular, Caramanis's analysis has demonstrated that international politico-economic actors played a key role in the outcome of the Greek intra-professional conflict in the 1990s. This paper employs Weber's views on history in order to offer a more embedded, contextualised and holistic interpretation of the episode. It will be shown that, despite the prevalence of a neo-liberal, pro-market discourses and the support given to liberalisation by important figures on the international politico-economic scene (Caramanis, 2002), SOL was capable of launching a credible attack on liberalisation. Indeed, the outcome of the conflict often appeared uncertain, illustrating Weber's conception of history as intrinsically fluid. Offering a theoretically informed explanation of this episode––SOL's ability to pose a serious threat to liberalisation and the uncertainty of developments and outcome––is a major objective of this paper. What gives additional interest to the study of the trajectory of the Greek auditing profession in the 1990s, while the country attempted to adjust its institutions and forms of organisation to the imperatives of an increasingly prevalent free market model, is the uniqueness of the case. No other profession in Greece (doctors, engineers, lawyers, etc.) has experienced––in anywhere near the same measure––the upheaval, turmoil, and fierce conflict that the Greek auditing profession went through (Caramanis, 1999). This may reflect the relative importance of accounting (and money) in modern society (see also Abbott, 1988). The theoretical framework underlying this analysis––to be elaborated in the following section––rests on four methodological pillars derived from Weber's theory of historical development (Weber, 1968). First, the concept of class–status–party, the threefold stratification structure of modern society, seen as a significant dimension in the study of social change; second, rationalisation viewed in terms of material and ideal interests and as a primary initiator of social change; third, the importance of charisma in social dynamics; and fourth, a conception of historical development as the uncertain and fluid outcome of competing material and ideal interests, brought about through the interaction of rationalisation forces and charismatic personalities and resulting in a unique concatenation of events. This framework is supplemented by reference to the literature on Greek politico-cultural dualism, the entrenched polarities in modern Greek society of a `modernising' culture vs. an `underdog' culture (Diamantouros, 1993; Mouzelis, 1995). As will be demonstrated, this body of literature reveals certain peculiarities in the Greek class–status–party configuration and, thus, helps in putting Weber's historical model in context. The discussion is also informed by reference to the broader sociopolitical literature on professionalism to interpret the actions and strategies of competing professional groups. Drawing upon Abbott, the paper emphasises the nature of professional work and the links between occupational groups and their jurisdiction of practice (1988). Professional accounting groups are viewed in neo-Weberian terms as avenues offering a potential for market closure and collective social mobility. Their major objective is the achievement of (preferential) access to the market for their expertise (Larson, 1977; Macdonald, 1985) and the advancement of the interests of their (most influential) members (Willmott, 1986). Concurring with Chua and Poullaos (1998), market closure as a collective objective and developmental process is viewed as (i) contingent upon the resources available to competing occupational groups; (ii) variable in terms of content, degree or practical strategy, reflecting the space and time-specific realities of professional life; and (iii) embedded within the wider socio-political structure in which occupational groups operate. The analysis also highlights the role of legal action as a weapon for attacking or defending jurisdictions of practice, a theme rather neglected in the standard literature on accounting professionalism. For those familiar with the Greek socio-political landscape, the importance of legal action as a catalyst in the historical development of the professions should come as no surprise (Mouzelis, 1978, Mouzelis, 1986 and Mouzelis, 1995; Pepelasis, 1959). Legal action may also be an important factor in countries that have a tradition––Byzantine-Roman in origin––of codified law. This tradition is prevalent in continental Europe but stands in contrast to the Anglo-American tradition of case law. Finally, the paper acknowledges the role of players who work outside the accounting profession but who nevertheless have a vital interest in its developments. These players include corporate clients, state agencies, academics, journalists, and regulators (Burrage, Jarausch, & Siegrist, 1990; Chua & Poullaos, 1998; Sikka & Willmott, 1995). The research is based on a mix of data and across-method triangulation (Denzin, 1978; Jick, 1979). A variety of published as well as unpublished material was used, supplemented by interviews with people who played a significant role in, or were familiar with, the development of the Greek auditing profession in the 1990s. Short, focused interviews were conducted with a total of 12 individuals: six auditors from various professional affiliations, two officials from the Greek professional institute, two senior officials at the Ministry of National Economy, one politician and one financial journalist. Rounds of informal follow-up interviews (in person or by telephone) were also conducted with the same individuals, when it was necessary to clarify certain points. In addition, informal personal interviews were conducted with 12 rank and file members of the auditing profession from various professional affiliations. None of the interviews was recorded on tape. It was felt that this would make interviewees feel uncomfortable and, so, notes were taken instead. Documentary evidence and interview data were used with two primary objectives in mind (Yin, 1994). First, to reconstruct the chronology of events with a view to tracing the series of events over time and establishing, whenever possible, causal links. Second, to content analyse the evidence in order to relate it to theoretical issues, aimed at establishing a chain of evidence and at explanation building. The interviews were helpful in clarifying certain aspects of the episode when written sources were incomplete or ambiguous. The re-construction and/or the explanation of a few minor events in the episode are sometimes based solely on interviews, when written evidence was not available or non-existent. In such cases, the account offered by one individual was always triangulated by interviews with other individuals with different professional affiliations. It is acknowledged that one of the problems faced by the study is that of data accessibility, that is, the refusal of certain parties to allow (full) access to their archives. Such difficulties illustrate the impossibility of obtaining a complete reconstruction of the past. To a certain extent, historical `facts' are discursive constructs created through the `distorting lenses' of the historian. However, in conducting the research, particular attention was paid to trying to establish the why and how of historical events and every effort was made to ensure that the picture of the conflict portrayed is––to use an accounting term––`true and fair'. The remainder of the paper is organised into the following main sections. Section `Introduction' sets out the theoretical framework and provides the general context within which this episode of intra-professional conflict took place. Section `Weber's view of historical development and greek politico-cultural dualism' gives a brief historical background to the conflict and serves as a road map to help the reader follow the narrative. Section `Historical–political background and mapping the professional terrain' is the main empirical part of the paper and presents the sequence of events that took place soon after PASOK returned to power in October 1993. Particular attention is given to successive legislation passed through the Parliament and to the actions of the socialist government as it responded to divergent demands of various interest groups associated with rationalisation processes and charismatic influences. At times, PASOK's policy apparently drifted in different directions and these developments dramatically and unexpectedly influenced the fortunes of rival accounting groups. Finally, Section `Oscillating between liberalism and corporatism' draws together the main points of the discussion and highlights certain theoretical issues.
نتیجه گیری انگلیسی
The main theoretical objective of the paper has been to extend the work of other accounting authors working within a broader neo-Weberian paradigm. This line of research has primarily focused on the concept of market closure and was recently supplemented by another Weberian construct, notably the class–status–party social stratification scheme (Chua & Poullaos, 1998). The current paper has argued for the usefulness of two other significant Weberian concepts, namely rationalisation and charisma. Specifically, the paper has highlighted the following major methodological issues. First, the analysis of the SOL–SELE conflict confirms that the threefold stratification structure of class–status–party in modern society plays a central role in the historical process, providing an interlocking network through which human action plays itself out. The multifarious economic, social and political interests represented by each of the three groups coincide or conflict with each other in complex ways. Moreover, each group may not be unified and homogeneous in the priorities it sets and the objectives it pursues (Chua & Poullaos, 1998; Sikka & Willmott, 1995). Second, the narrative has demonstrated the role that a charismatic personality can play as a catalyst in historical development, a theme rather neglected in contemporary sociological literature on accounting professionalism, although the importance of key figures has attracted some attention from accounting scholars working from different theoretical perspectives (e.g. Carnegie & Edwards, 2001; Kedslie, 1990). It has been argued that Unileader, with his perceived charismatic personal qualities, made possible and then enhanced SOL's coherence and unity in the post-liberalisation period (in the form of SOL SA). After achieving widespread recognition as the undisputed leader of a united and sizeable SOL SA, Unileader then served as the group's spokesperson in dealing and negotiating with the government's senior ministers. Thus, SOL SA was able to exert significant influence upon the political decision making relating to the accounting profession, and to seriously disrupt liberalisation. In short, had SOL SA dissolved, following the audit reforms of 1993, it is highly unlikely that the attack on “liberalisation” would have been possible. Third, the paper has viewed the liberalisation of the Greek auditing market as a rationalisation process along pro-liberal lines, within the wider context of advancing globalisation forces in world politics and economy. Greece's progressive integration in the 1990s into the prevailing Anglo-American free market economic system provided a unique opportunity for, and gave impetus to, the neo-liberal rationalisation of its administrative infrastructure and forms of organisation and bureaucracy. In the realm of accounting, neo-liberal rationalisation in the 1990s entailed the replacement of traditional state corporatist institutions (SOL) by competitive free market forms of organisation (SOEL). In actuality, the pre-liberalisation audit set up––despite any merits it may have had––was arguably something of an anomaly within the global audit regime, which is dominated by the `Big Four'. The opportunity that the historical trajectory presented in the 1990s was seized by SELE––supported by, among others, major class interests (notably the Confederation of Greek Industries)––to advance its objective of free access to the market of statutory audits. Fourth, the intra-professional conflict between SOL and SELE was seen as a struggle of material and ideal interests, within the class–status–party social stratification. The narrative has shown that rationalisation along neo-liberal, free market lines and charisma were the two major engines of historical change in the Greek auditing profession in the 1990s. The analysis of the episode has illustrated Weber's conception of history as a fluid and unstable dialectical interplay between rationalisation and charisma. Although neo-liberal rationalisation has been the prevailing logic in Greek politics, at least since the early 1990s, it was charisma that enabled SOL to launch a credible challenge to liberalisation and to create uncertainty and upheaval. The uncertainty and unpredictability of various events in this episode were exacerbated by the nature of the Greek political system, characterised by an ongoing and inconclusive conflict between modernisers and underdogs that cut across the political spectrum. Historically, modernisers have sought to promote the development of Greek society and the economy along neo-liberal lines while the underdogs have adhered to a traditional, pro-statist, inward-looking and anti-reformist political line. The underdogs' opposition to liberalisation was resolute and unyielding, despite the ascendancy of the modernisers in Greek politics in the 1990s. Here in lies a deep contradiction: on the one hand, SOL's ties to the governing PASOK via Unileader and the underdog political formations in Greek society, enhanced the credibility of the attack on liberalisation; on the other hand, the realities of an increasingly internationalised Greek economy, as well as the ascendance of the modernisers within PASOK and in Greek society in the 1990s, hindered SOL's campaign. Fifth, the paper has also demonstrated––following Weber's conception of the historical process––that despite the unexpected disruptions and turnarounds which made the history of the Greek accounting profession from 1993 to 2001 look so tumultuous, there was also a more stabilising tendency at work beneath the surface. The `liberalised' profession was apparently secure at the start of the new millennium, vindicating the superiority, at that particular historical juncture, of the neo-liberal rationalisation over competing traditional/corporatist discourses and ideals. Sixth, the analysis of the empirics has also illustrated that class–status–party is linked to two Weberian concepts that inform the theoretical framework of this paper. First, charisma and class–status–party structure: Unileader, apart from being an unquestionably charismatic leader, was also a member of the governing PASOK party and a junior member of the executive branch of government, with professional affiliations (status). Thus, the former (charisma) reinforced his latter capacities (party-status) and vice versa, to the point where Unileader came to be recognised, by friends and foes alike, as the single most important person in the Greek accounting firmament. Second, rationalisation and class–status–party: rationalisation, however wide and global a phenomenon it might have been, was nontheless, willingly or not, promoted by the agencies of the state (and other socio-economic forces too). Somewhat in passing, the narrative has also indicated that legal action may prove fruitful for occupational groups in attacking or defending contested jurisdictions of practice. Legal action may be beneficial as a means of achieving market closure in countries in continental Europe as well as in those countries with a Byzantine-Roman legal tradition. Further, the paper has indicated that in the present era with the advent of supranational politico-economic organisations, legal action may be taken in international forums. This may allow the formation of more volatile configurations of material and ideal interests. The analysis has indicated that a more all-inclusive Weberian approach is a useful methodological tool for understanding and explaining complex processes of (contemporary) historical change in the accounting profession, and perhaps in other domains as well. For example, such an approach can help in analysing what is taking place when strong vested material and ideal interests are pushing in opposite directions, e.g. in societies undergoing rapid, deep and multifaceted change. Without theoretical guides, such struggles between competing interest groups in history often appear as merely protracted and poorly resolved battles with a fuzzy plot line. Greece over the past decade has been a country in transition, with intense struggles between competing vested interests, but other countries in continental Europe and elsewhere are experiencing similar phenomena. As free-market globalisation (i.e., free-market rationalisation) gains momentum, countries with a corporatist tradition––even those of advanced economies like France, Germany and Sweden––are attempting to re-structure their economic and social institutions to conform to the liberal, Anglo-American model (Hirst & Thompson, 1996; Kofman & Youngs, 1996; Robertson, 1992; Sklair, 1991; Spybey, 1996). The resulting changes may affect the organisation of many institutions and cause friction between competing material and ideal interests. Evidence of such friction in accounting can be observed in many countries (Cairns, 1997; Demirag, 1993; Hoarau, 1995; Hopwood, 1994; Seal, Sucher, & Zelenka, 1996). Finally, the paper tentatively suggests that the concept of cultural and political dualism––used to elucidate the Greek class–status–party construct––may be applicable to other countries that have already experienced or are now undergoing rapid socio-economic change. For example, the dualism model seems relevant in trying to analyse late-developing societies in the Balkans and Latin America during the late 19th and early 20th century (Mouzelis, 1986 and Mouzelis, 1995; Papadopoulos, 1989). If appropriately applied, dualism––seen from a Weberian standpoint as the perennial conflict between competing ideal and material interests––may even be useful for the study of changes in accountancy in continental Europe or in countries at the margins of advanced capitalism that are currently undergoing rapid and profound socio-economic changes along liberal lines.