دانش اخلاقی در اقتصاد دانش کجاست ؟ قدرت و پتانسیل در ظهور دانش اخلاقی به عنوان جزئی از سرمایه فکری
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Publisher : Elsevier - Science Direct (الزویر - ساینس دایرکت)
Journal : Critical Perspectives on Accounting, Volume 20, Issue 7, October 2009, Pages 804–822
There is a growing discussion of intellectual capital and the knowledge economy more generally within the accounting literature. This literature, however, has focused narrowly on the considerable discrepancy between book and market values and the inability of traditional accounting concepts and methods to deal with the intangible nature of key sources of corporate competitive advantage. This essay contributes to this literature by providing a broadly poststructuralist reading of the emergence of ethical knowledge as a component of intellectual capital, a category of asset that has almost been completely overlooked within the extant accountant literature on the knowledge economy. The paper does three things. Firstly, it draws on a broad review of the accounting literature to explore how intellectual capital is being defined and constructed within that literature. Secondly, it provides a poststructural analysis of the way ethical knowledge emerged within the intellectual capital statements of an early innovator in Intellectual Capital reporting. Finally, the paper tentatively hints towards the moral and civic potential of alternative conceptualisations of ethical knowledge networks at the margins of the knowledge economy and considers some areas for further research in this regard.
Capitalism has changed again, or so we are told (Stiglitz, 1999). Intangible assets are now key to economic success. So much so that we apparently now live in an information age, a networked society, a knowledge economy (Petty and Guthrie, 2000). Knowledge, the defining characteristic of this new epoch, is now considered to be the primary economic resource, with new media and communications technologies the primary facilitators of its use. Some economists suggest that this re-orientation has major implications for our understanding of economic fundamentals. For example, Joseph Stiglitz (1999), ex chief economist to the World Bank, contends that knowledge is fundamentally different from other primary resources because, as a public good, it is not diminished through use (Barber, 1997). Such is the significance of this shift that the literature now talks of ‘knowledge capitalism’ ( Peters, 2001a and Peters, 2001b). The combination of knowledge and technology however, is not only prescribed as the key to global economic success but also the key to re-invigorating democracy (Barber, 1997). Barber (1997, p. 208) for example, comments, ‘Telecommunications technologies are everywhere celebrated: celebrated as the key to the new global economy – this was Bill Gates’ theme at the 1997 World Economic Forum in Davos, for example; celebrated as the secret of Americas new global economic recovery; … and celebrated as the beginning of a “new era in American Politics” and of a new stage in the evolution of global democracy.’ Yet what has really changed (Tome, 2004)? While some economists hint towards a move from competition to co-operation,1 knowledge capitalism is still based on consumption and growth (Stiglitz, 1999). Despite the increasingly intangible nature of consumption, vast quantities of things are still produced (even though they may be made in different places and represent the output of different processes). Knowledge capitalism is still based on the same ideology, the same set of values, the same basic prioritisation of property rights, the same theory of distributive justice and the same over-arching neo-liberal agenda (Tome, 2004). The new nomenclature indicates not a change in substance but rather a change in form. So while the mode of production may be different, the depletion of natural resources continues unabated, pollution levels remain unsustainable (Athanasiou, 1998), the economic gap between East and West continues to widen and power continues to operate within and through new knowledge networks resulting in both injustice and exploitation (Amitava and Mukhopadhyayb, 2005 and Johnston, 2007). Why indeed would we expect the new technologies of the knowledge economy to be immune to the interests of capital (Buchstein, 1997)? As Barber (1997, p. 220) explains, ‘the global socio-economic forces that are today shaping the world will also shape technology's usage.’ It comes as no surprise then that technology serves to increase the profitability, efficiency and influence of large corporations all of which is contrasted with a new kind of information poverty that compounds material hardship (Barber, 1989–1999). Barber (1998–1999, p. 579) comments, ‘Increasingly a gap can be described between information-rich and information poor segments of Western Nations – the former, technologically literate and able to utilize the new technologies to gain mastery over their commercial and political environments; the latter, technologically illiterate and thrown more and more to the periphery of a society where power and status are dependent on information and communication.’ This shift in both discourse and form does provide new sights for the practice of power, yet as with previous modes of capitalism, The Knowledge Society is also dialectical. The proliferation of information and communication technologies provides the opportunity for greater surveillance and the erosion of human rights. But they have also allowed anti-hegemonic, grassroots and NGO2 networks to monitor, mobilise and co-ordinate resistance (Van Benschoten, 2000 and Chopak, 2001) and have been used to facilitate examples of a more deliberative form of democracy3 (Buchstein, 1997, Barber, 1989–1999 and Barber, 1997). They allow for citizens to monitor as well as be monitored4 (Van den Hoven, 2005). Barber (1998–1999, p. 582) concludes that, ‘despite the potential of the telecommunications market for inequality and of the technology it supports for abuse, the new technologies, in themselves, can also offer powerful assistance to the life of democracy’. Both Barber (1997) and Thrift (2005; see also Weare, 2002) conclude that there is in knowledge capitalism, perhaps more than in previous forms, the possibility for empowerment and a strengthening of the, ‘democratic public sphere’ (Buchstein, 1997).5 Indeed, some see in the internet and new communications technologies something akin to Habermas's public sphere (Rheingold, in Buchstein, 1997). There is a growing discussion of the knowledge economy within the accounting literature. However, in contrast to the broader discussion of power and global democracy associated with this turn, the accounting literature has narrowly focused on the inability of traditional accounting concepts and methods to deal with the intangible nature of contemporary capitalism and on suggestions that these deficiencies are often reflected in huge discrepancies between book and market values (Seetharaman et al., 2002, Mouritsen et al., 2001 and Power, 2001). There is little exploration of the new threats and opportunities it presents for greater corporate accountability and democratic progress. Guthrie et al. (2003) identify a number of emerging streams within the intellectual capital literature in accounting, these being, financial accounting and performance, the practice of reporting intellectual capital, management accounting and control, identification and classification of intangibles, capital market use of intellectual capital information and the interface between companies and financial analysis on the issue of intellectual capital. Much of the research has been empirically orientated and has focused on practices within companies.6Brennan and Connell (2000) suggest that the accounting literature has focused on frameworks for classifying intellectual capital and developing indicators for measuring intellectual capital. There is also interest in stock market investment practices (Edvinsson, 2000). Much of this analysis may of course represent an attempt to rationalise the capriciousness of market values and legitimise the ideology of market efficiency (Di Norcia, 2002). As Di Norcia (2002, p. 174) observes “novelty and fad driven markets involve ‘financial euphoria’ bordering on delusion and madness.” There has, therefore, been little critical engagement with the ideas, practices and new sights of power in this new form of capitalism within the accounting literature (although see Mouritsen et al., 2001 and Roslender and Fincham, 2001) or the possibilities within such developments for greater deliberative democracy. A discussion that is not only absent from current streams of accounting research on intellectual capital but which also seems to be missing from future research agendas (Guthrie et al., 2003). This essay takes a critical view of intellectual capital and focuses on one specific issue that has received comparatively little attention within the accounting literature on this subject: ethics.7 This issue is explored within the broader context of knowledge, power and democracy that are constitutive of the discourse surrounding the knowledge economy as described above. The remainder of this introductory section lays the basis for the study by justifying a focus on ethics and delineating how the notion of ethics is conceptualised within the paper. The paper commences with Sen's (1997, p. 5) observation that ethics has always been relevant to business practice (see also Willmott, 1998, Bowie, 1982 and Nonaka and Toyama, 2005). He disputes what he says are two presumptions held in standard economic analysis: ‘the rudimentary nature of business principles (essentially restricted, directly or indirectly to profit maximisation) and the allegedly narrow reach of moral sentiments (often treated as irrelevant to business and economics).’ He says, ‘There is an interesting asymmetry between the treatments of business principles and moral sentiments in standard economic analysis. Business principles are taken to be very rudimentary (essentially restricted, directly or indirectly, to profit maximisation, but with a very wide reach in economic matters covering effectively all economic transactions). In contrast, moral sentiments are seen to be quite complex (involving different types of ethical systems), but it is assumed, that at least in economic matters, they have very narrow reach (indeed, it is often presumed that sentiments have no real influence on economic behaviour). Sen (1997, p. 8) comments that moral sentiments ‘exist, they are important, they are productive, and we can ignore them only by impoverishing economic analysis and by demeaning the sophistication and breadth of human conduct.’8Willmott (1998, p. 81) similarly contends that, ‘supporting business practice is a raft of moral norms which keeps economic activity afloat.’ And Bowie (1982, p. 39) concludes that, ‘as a matter of necessity business practice must rest on a moral base.’ The paper begins with these convictions that ethics (however it is construed, whether as ‘moral sentiments’, ‘moral norms’ or a moral base’) is both important and productive within a business and economic context and it explores whether the intellectual capital discourse, with its focus on previously unrecognised and recorded sources of value, contains any greater awareness of the important function that ethics plays within a business context, and it if does, how this category of intellectual capital is being defined, discussed, constructed, reported and sustained. The paper therefore commences with Sen's conviction that ethics does play a prominent role in business practice. However, this observation is viewed through a poststructuralist lens (McPhail, 2005). The paper provides a poststructuralist reading of the emergence of ethics as a category of intellectual capital. Ethics is therefore viewed not primarily in essentialist or normative terms, rather the paper explores how the notion of ethics is being defined within this new discursive practice (Mouritsen et al., 2001) and how any associated forms of ethical capital, ethical knowledge or ethical assets are being generated and sustained. As such, the paper explores ethics as a sight of power within this new phase of capitalism ( Willmott, 1998, McPhail, 1999 and Jones, 2003). Willmott (1998, p. 77) conveys the sense in which poststrucuralist theory is appropriated within this paper when he explains that it prompts us to ask, ‘how is the conventional frame constructed? What is placed within the frame? And what is left outside?’ The paper therefore investigates whether and how ethics is becoming within the broader discursive practice of intellectual capital (what is being placed within the frame) and the network of practices constitutive of this effect (Mouritsen et al., 2001). However, in keeping with the discussion of the broader democratic potential within this new phase of capitalism, the paper also shares what seems to be Sen's implicit assumption that ethics should play a more prominent role in business thinking and practice. But this is not simply a matter of recognising the values that underpin business practice and incorporating them into existing reporting mechanisms. As Willmott (1998, p. 81; see also Roberts, 2003) explains, ‘It is one thing to acknowledge how economic activity is dependent upon moral conduct if it is not to descend into chaos. It is quite another to use this argument to justify the ethics of business.’ Although poststructuralism is often maligned for supposedly undermining the very possibility of ethical standards (Feldman, 1998) the paper adopts a more positive view of this genre of work. Jones (2003, p. 241; see also Biesta and Stams, 2001, Parker, 1998, Roberts, 2003, Critchley, 1992 and Critchley, 1999) for example, contends that poststructuralist approaches to ethics have, ‘nothing to do with a vicious relativizing of ethical standpoints.’ Willmott (1998, p. 77) similarly commends the use of postructuralist theory in order to ‘develop an approach to ethics which accepts this contingency without embracing a nihilistic attitude of “anything goes”.’ He concludes that ‘Poststructuralist … thinking points towards a position in which the contextual embeddedness of ethical discourse is accepted without concluding that this view necessarily renders human action ethically arbitrary and/or that any ethical anchor for human conduct is impossible. But, to repeat, moving towards this position necessitates a questioning and relinquishing of established ways of thinking about ethics.’ (1998, pp77/78) This paper adopts this less relativistic stance on the potential contribution of poststructuralist perspectives on business ethics. A perspective which not only resists the tendency to reduce ethics to a corporate asset (Jones, 2003, Roberts, 2003 and Bauman, 1993), but which also cautions against any comforting reassurance that ethics proper can somehow be easily identified and restored to business in some formulaic manner, and managed appropriately (Bauman, 1993, Willmott, 1998 and Jones, 2003). At a secondary level, then, the paper attempts to retain a commitment to broader moral, civic and democratic aspirations without slipping into crude prescriptivism (Bauman, 1993). The narrative surrounding the knowledge economy discussed above suggests that an increasing appreciation of the importance of ethics, even within conventional business practice; and technological advances do coalesce to create the conditions of possibility for civic engagement and more, as well as less accountability and democracy (Thrift, 2005). These possibilities, however, are only very briefly alluded to at the end of paper and require considerably more thought and investigation than the parameters of a single academic article allow. They are included in order to mitigate against both an overly simplistic and an overly negative view of power and ethics in this new discourse. The paper therefore critically explores whether and how ethics is emerging within the practice of intellectual capital. Section 2 reviews the accounting literature on intellectual capital in order to capture the primary elements of the discussion, to assess the extent to which ethics is being explored within the literature and to outline any critical discussion of the way power might be seen to operate through the discourses surrounding intellectual capital and ethics more specifically. Section 3 provides an empirical analysis of the way ethical knowledge is emerging within particular intellectual capital statements. This section draws on a number of data sources including the intellectual capital statements of two prominent early innovators in intellectual capital, along with interviews with a large multinational telecommunications firm, two knowledge management firms and representatives from a large, international professional body. Section 4 briefly comments on the dialectical potential within these developments for greater deliberative democracy and corporate accountability (De George, 1999 and Argandona, 2003) and sketches out some areas for further research. 2. Intellectual capital, ethics and power The paper therefore begins to explore the connections between three inter-related concepts: intellectual capital, ethics and power. This preliminary section reviews some of the literature on these issues and the potential links between them. It has three aims. Firstly, the section elaborates the broader context of the phenomenon of intellectual capital and presents some of its working concepts. Secondly, it explores the emerging discussion of ethics and intellectual capital within the business ethics literature. Finally, the section explores some critical education literature that has begun to reflect on how power may be seen to operate through ethics, primarily through the policy agendas associated with the Knowledge Society. The review of these three issues will provide the background for exploring the emerging discussion of ethics within some intellectual capital statements in Section 3.
نتیجه گیری انگلیسی
Although it would seem that ethical knowledge did begin to emerge as a component of intellectual capital within Carl Bro's accounts, whether this specific case is indicative of other attempts to recognise, record and manage the business value of ethics (Sen, 1999; Willmott, 1998 and Bowie, 1982) requires further investigation. Yet as the Parker's (2002) sentiments imply, much more research is required, not only into the potentially deleterious impact of the emergence of ethical knowledge as a component of intellectual capital, but also into the potential these shifts represent for more participatory and deliberative forms of accountability and democracy. There may be scope here to draw on alternative conceptualisations of ethical knowledge emerging at the margins of the knowledge economy. For example, the kind of ethical knowledge being discussed and captured within Car Bro's statements seem to construe ethical behaviour as an individual achievement, rather than a network achievement. Although the literature is beginning to make the connection between the knowledge society and Habermasian discourse ethics (O’Donnell et al., 2000 and Daboub and Calton, 2002), some new thinking around this particular socio-economic shift, specifically in the area of knowledge networks, and Network Science (Barabasi, 2003; Susani, 2002 and Madey et al., 2002), may provide the basis for a shift away from viewing ethics as the outcome of a process of rational dialogue, or ethics as an individual achievement, to ethics as a network achievement. Recasting accounting and business ethics in these terms might be helpful for beginning to explore both the kinds of networks and the type of network characteristics conducive to broader civic goals. Appling a networked perspective to ethics, may similarly lead us to explore the kinds of networked forms of organisation, corporate and otherwise, required for a particular normative ethic to work, or which might allow moral sense to function19 ( Midgley, 2003, Bauman, 1989, Hutcheson, 1999, Hand, 1989, Smith, 1976 and Wilson, 1993). For example, Rawls’ Veil of Ignorance and Original Position may only work within a particular kind of networked configuration of relationships, a network that provides us with connections into other peoples lives (Rawls, 1972). This is just one ill-defined example of the ways in which networked configurations may be seen to be significant, in the same way, for example, that particular social conditions might be seen to follow from Rawls’ position. Similarly, Open source methodology20 (Schweik and Semenov, 2003) may also provide an interesting counterpoint to the forms of governmental technology identified above. Open source software provides new economic and project based examples of new kinds of economic networks, networks that are self-organizing and collaborative.21 The open source approach has been proposed as a more general methodology for solving complex problems (Schweik and Semenov, 2003 and Lessig, 2002). Indeed, Schweik and Semenov (2003) postulate that open source might provide a model for addressing complex management and public policy problems. They specifically discuss how this model might be adapted to their International Forestry Resources and Institutions (IFRI) study of forestry management. They comment, “Imagine applying an “Open Content” approach to this endeavour. It would involve an “Open Publication License” … which follows generally the same principles as the Open Source Definition described earlier, but applies them to information content (e.g., documents, databases, etc.) rather than computer programs.” In a similar manner, it might be possible to at least begin to ‘imagine’ how an open source approach might be applied to ethical codes, ethical dilemmas within a corporate setting and constructing ethical knowledge databases around particular dilemmas for example. There is just the beginning of some awareness of the need for linked and cross-company ethical knowledge management systems within The International Federation of Accountant's (IFAC) work on ethics and professionalism. For example, one of the objectives of a recent forum was to ‘consider the proposal from the Professional Oversight Board that the CCAB should facilitate the establishment of arrangements by which selected experience of the accountancy firms in dealing with ethical issues and fraud can be shared with other firms and, as appropriate, with the wider profession for use in CPD.’ Again, it is at least possible to envisage how an open source methodology might be applied to this particular proposal. A final example of a potentially more democratising form of knowledge technology might be found in the networking technologies of activist groups and independent media developments on the WEB. Examples of networked models of ethics can be found in, for example, the type of pod casts22 and blogs23 emerging on activist networks and corporations. These types of innovation might be used as prototypes for capturing tacit and other forms of ethical knowledge and developing ethical knowledge networks more generally either within corporations or including corporations.24 Of course one can envisage how these technologies might result in more surveillance, colonisation and governmentality. The objective here is to mitigate against an overly simplistic and overly oppressive and negative view of power in the knowledge economy and simply to introduce some concepts for further thought and consideration that have not yet been adequately addressed within the accounting literature. The paper has critically explored whether and how ethics is emerging within the practice of intellectual capital reporting. Ethical knowledge did begin to emerge as a component of intellectual capital within Carl Bro's accounts. The accounting literature predominantly orientates the concept of intellectual capital within fairly mainstream economic growth theory (Petty and Guthrie, 2000) and is lacking a more detailed discussion of ethics and analysis of the civic and democratic potential within the developments which collectively constitute ‘the knowledge economy’.