Inscribing the organization: representations in dispute between accounting and production

Alan D. Lowe*, Bryan Koh

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This paper assumes that a primary function of management accounting is the representation of "accounting facts" for purposes such as organizational control. Accountants are able to offer conventional techniques of control, such as standard costing, as a consequence of their ability to deploy accounting representations within managerial and economic models of organizational processes. Accounting competes, at times, with other 'professional' groups, such as production planning or quality management people, in this role of representing the organization to management. The paper develops its arguments around a case illustration of cost accounting set in a low technology manufacturing environment. The research relates to a case organization in which accountants are attempting to establish the reliability of accounting inscriptions of a simple manufacturing process. The case research focuses on the documents, the inscriptions that vie for managements' attention. It is these sometimes messy and inaccurate representations which enable control of complex and heterogeneous activities at a distance. At the end of our site visits we observe quality management systems in the ascendancy over the accountants' standard costing systems. © 2006 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)952-974
Number of pages23
JournalCritical Perspectives on Accounting
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2007


  • actor networks
  • case research
  • inscription
  • production
  • representation
  • standard costing


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