محاسبه سود: چشم انداز تاریخی توسعه سرمایه داری
|کد مقاله||سال انتشار||تعداد صفحات مقاله انگلیسی||ترجمه فارسی|
|8598||2010||17 صفحه PDF||سفارش دهید|
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Publisher : Elsevier - Science Direct (الزویر - ساینس دایرکت)
Journal : Accounting, Organizations and Society, Volume 35, Issue 2, February 2010, Pages 205–221
The paper introduces the notion of different methods of calculating and analysing profitability as signatures of capitalism at different stages of development. Its point of departure is Bryer’s thesis of the capitalist mentality, which is subject to theoretical and empirical critique and developed in new directions. Interactions between the development of the productive forces and the socialisation of capital ownership jointly impact on these signatures, such that profit calculations are historically contingent. Aspects of feudalism, particularly restrictions on usury impacted upon accounting calculation, retarding their development. In the industrial revolution calculations reflected the scale and scope of specialised investment in plant, whilst the progressive socialisation of capital prompted a separate set of calculative practices. It was only in the 20th century, with the unification of large scale industry and finance capital that the modern notion of profitability as return on capital employed finally developed.
The ‘Sombart thesis’ that it is impossible to envisage capitalism without accounting (Sombart, 1916), has been usefully extended first by Weber and more recently by Bryer. Weber (1927) suggested that the specific signature of capitalism was not merely double entry bookkeeping (DEB), as suggested by Sombart, but the existence of the capital account which supports rational computation of income yield through modern bookkeeping. Bryer, 2000a, Bryer, 2000b, Bryer, 2005, Bryer, 2006a and Bryer et al., 2006b develops the point, arguing broadly that what is important is the capitalist mentality, evidenced by the type of calculations that accounts are used for and manifested as accounting signatures. More narrowly, Bryer (2005, p. 25) identifies capitalism with the calculation of rates of return and more specifically still, the return on capital employed (ROCE). In doing so, Bryer offers a completely new and ingenious perspective on the relationship between accounting and capitalism (Chiapello, 2007, p. 274). In view of the potential importance of Bryer’s contribution, this paper seeks to offer a measured critique of the arguments and evidence as presented primarily in recent papers in this journal and elsewhere, in the form of a systematic historical survey of profitability calculations. Whilst one might wish to be broadly supportive of Bryer’s approach as a means of taking forward this important area of debate, there are a number of points requiring further development before this can be done. First, if there is to be an understanding of the accounting and capitalism relationship as a series of transitions in the development of a calculative mentality, which is a feature of Sombart and Weber as well as Bryer, the role of scholastic doctrine in the retardation of such development needs greater recognition. Specific aspects of the feudal superstructure, the usury laws, the ‘just price’ (the social regulation of prices at cost of production), and related scholastic doctrine, significantly undermines the likelihood of feudal and capitalistic calculative mentalities as described by Bryer. Calculative mentalities described in such terms lead to a second problem. Accounting signatures, such as the feudal rate of return, which for Bryer (2005, pp. 29–30, and Fig. 2) is the accounting signature of capitalistic merchants, and the rate of return on capital employed in production, signifying the full capitalist mentality, are questionable as interpretations of Marx, and of doubtful benefit as indicators of the transition from feudalism to capitalism. Finally, as far as empirical evidence is concerned, Bryer’s hypothesis predicts and makes claim to widespread use of rate of return calculations from a relatively early date. However, as will be demonstrated, when this evidence is exposed to detailed scrutiny, these calculations do not correspond very well to Bryer’s signatures, and fully ROCE calculations make a much later appearance than suggested in his previous empirical surveys. As is the case with the majority of Bryer’s research, Britain is the empirical focus of this discussion. ROCE requires careful definition, which is provided in detail below. In general it is defined broadly for the purposes of this article as the ratio obtained by dividing some measure of profit (as a flow of income) by some measure of capital (as a stock of wealth). It is evident however, that if ROCE is an accounting signature, there are a number of definitional permutations. As will be shown, the precise form of profitability calculations is historically contingent and they are subject to considerable variation. It is therefore necessary to offer a detailed definitional taxonomy of ROCE calculations, which is introduced at the beginning of the empirical section of the paper. The theoretical contribution of this paper is to show that variation in the method of ROCE calculation reflects the organisation of the forces of production (the economic base) and the socialisation of capital (the social superstructure) and the process of their interaction. As Marshall (1982, pp. 115, 117) suggests, the division of labour and horizontal and vertical integration of complex processes call forth the capitalist mentality in the form of systematic profit calculation whilst at the same time economic conduct is a negotiated outcome of social action and ideological constraints on action. The accounting signature is thereby manifested in corresponding and contingent analytical computations of profit and profitability. In other words, accounting technique and calculation is the outcome of a process that includes the capitalist spirit or mentality. Such an approach contrasts with much of the literature which sees the development of accounting technique as a precursor or facilitator of the capitalist spirit of rationality ( Sombart, 1916, Weber, 1927 and Winjum, 1971), or indeed the notion of capitalism itself (Chiapello, 2007). It is however, consistent with interpretations that allow the co-existence of techniques in the same historical period so that reasoning itself is not a sufficient explanatory variable (Lemarchand, 1994), or a legitimation process for pre-existing moral attitudes (Carruthers & Espeland, 1991), or as signatures for categories of economic organisation ( Bryer, 2000a and Bryer, 2000b). Nonetheless an entirely new approach is offered to these debates by representing accounting calculation as a mutating dependent variable explained by the dynamic interaction of asset deployment and asset ownership. The historical contribution of the paper is to re-examine Bryer’s and others’ evidence to show that accounting calculation as a signature can only be understood by the simultaneous consideration of the material basis of economic activity and the prevailing mentality. Admitting this approach suggests that instead of highly specific calculative methods as signatures of capitalism and feudalism, the evidence shows considerable diversity of method, unevenness of development and a relatively protracted evolution to what might be described as modern methods of capitalist calculation. In contrasting these to the methods employed under feudalism and during the Reformation, the paper answers a call for further research (Carmona & Ezzamel, 2006, p. 125) by providing examples of how religion creates and enforces a notion of social order, and how accounting helps shape and secure this notion of order. To develop these ideas, the remainder of the paper is set out as follows: the second section considers the computation of profitability ratios from the perspective of scholastic doctrine and accounting theory. It begins with a re-examination of the Sombart–Weber thesis and the origins of Bryer’s calculative mentality from the perspective of medieval scholastic doctrine. It then considers critically the relationship of Bryer to Marx, showing that Bryer’s exegesis of Marx places conceptual limitations on the application of an otherwise powerful analytical approach. The section concludes with some theoretical support for a historically contingent taxonomy of profitability ratios. The third section reviews the empirical evidence, first through a re-examination of the case studies used by Bryer and then with reference to a second series of new examples which have not been referenced previously in the context of these debates. The fourth and final section draws conclusions.
نتیجه گیری انگلیسی
Although the above discussion has been critical of Bryer’s notion of the calculative mentality, it is nonetheless recognised that his contribution is an important next step in the Sombart-Weber debate. The present paper is intended as a step further. Instead of the association between capitalism and basic accounting techniques, the concern has been the rationale behind accounting calculation, and therefore with the mentality of economic decision-makers. Whilst accepting Bryer’s broad view, his narrow view has been challenged. In particular, Bryer uses the capitalist mentality to predict behaviour in all forms of capitalism with only partial reference to the organisation of productive forces, leading to over-reliance on ROCEBC as the accounting signature of interest to the accounting historian. Instead the evidence shows a wide diversity of calculative method and the appeal of this paper is to call for greater recognition of alternative accounting signatures. If accepted, then mapping these calculations is a new and important part of the research agenda. A start has been made in the analysis above, but the scope of the paper is wide, so only limited depth has been given in each case. Also the paper only covers up to the interwar period, when what might be described as the ROCE method used in today’s accounting textbooks began to come into use. Significant developments after this time, such as the introduction of tax imputation systems and the rise of shareholder ideology could also be considered. Further archival work is necessary, particularly to evidence the actual calculations performed by entrepreneurs, managers, and investors in different periods, either to confirm the commonality of accounting signatures or to record exceptions and to explain them. Inter-firm comparisons within industries where accounting practices are known to have varied, for example railway and canal companies, provide further opportunities to refine and revise the arguments set out in this paper. For the pre-Tudor period, archival work is difficult, in view of the hypothesis of no or very restricted profit calculations, and the argument may have to be borne out as in this paper, with further interpretation of scholastic tracts. For later periods contemporary publications and circulars in contexts where business people are required to explain economic performance in accounting terms are also likely to be productive sources of enquiry. The review of evidence uncovered so far of the employment of ROCE calculations shows that most early modern and industrial revolution entrepreneurs did not make use of such calculations, and their partial use and later adoption reflected both the specialised organisation of production and narrow social ownership of capital. There is evidence to suggest that the methods of calculating and dividing profit emerged in tandem with institutions that governed the accumulation and distribution of profit, particularly the mechanisms for interest rate regulation. Early or transitional capitalism contains only partial aspects of the calculations necessary for the computation of ROCE, which is why there are only limited and partial examples before 1900. The slow retreat of feudalism offers many examples of how religion uses accounting to impose social order. Its replacement with secular, but personal (as opposed to corporate) capitalism further slowed the adoption of modern accounting calculations in Britain. Modern capitalism as a mentality required the demise first of usury in the courts and associated restrictions on risk free returns, and then of the labour theory of value in the realm of political economy. Only then could the doctrine of capital as a sui generis factor of production emerge and demand its own return, independent of rent and wages, as profit, and only then was the computation and analysis of profit and profitability made possible.