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NiCE Working Paper 13-105 September 2013

The performativity thesis and its critics: towards a political ontology of management accounting

Ed Vosselman

Nijmegen Center for Economics (NiCE) Institute for Management Research Radboud University Nijmegen

P.O. Box 9108, 6500 HK Nijmegen, The Netherlands http://www.ru.nl/nice/workingpapers

Abstract
Thispaperexploresaccountingsmediatingroleinbringingtheoreticalstatementsfrom institutionaleconomicsintolife.Itaddressesthesocalledperformativitythesisthatclaims thateconomictheorydoesnotjustobserveandexplainareality,butrathershapes,formats andperformsreality.Accountingmediatesinthatprocessbycreatingcognitiveboundaries thatembedsocietalpracticesineconomictheory. Theperformativitythesisisnotwithoutcriticisms,however.Maincriticismsconcernalack ofproofofthethesis;anoverestimationofthepowerofinstitutionaleconomicstoextend beyondthevirtual;andalackofacriticalstance.Inordertobringmorenuanceinthe discussionontheperformativitythesisthepaperreflectsonevidencefromthefieldof accounting.Thereviewofaccountingstudiesrevealshowaccounting,todifferentdegrees, isimplicatedinstrategicandoperationalactivitiesinmarketsandorganizationsandhowitis supportiveoftheperformativityofeconomics.Moreover,inordertoaccentuatethegood insocietyandtochallengethebad,thepapersuggestsafurtherdevelopmentof(critical) managementaccountingresearchintotheperformativityofbotheconomicsandother socialtheories.Byfocusingonthepoliticsofmanagementaccountingastheycomethrough inconcretecontingentsociomaterialnetworksandastheyaresensitivetounlocalizable virtualpowersofsocialhistoricalformations,apoliticalontologyofmanagementaccounting maybedeveloped. Keywords:calculativeagencies,calculability,performativity,virtualism. Ed Vosselman Radboud University Institute for Management Research PO-Box 9108 6500 HK Nijmegen The Netherlands e.vosselman@fm.ru.nl Tel: 00 31 24 3611876

Introduction Inafunctionalistsviewaccountingispassiveandhasnointrinsicsocietalconsequences.Itisadevice fordecisionmakingandcontrolandassuchitisinthehandsofindividuals,ofhumanactors.The humandecisionmakerisactiveandupfront;accountingispassiveandcomesinlaterasaneutral tool.Thispassiveroleofaccountingisconsistentwiththedominantconceptualmetaphorthat describestheessenceofaccounting:accountingisaninstrument(AmernicandCraig,2009). Inapassivemodeaccountingisaformofrepresentation.Itturnsabsenceintopresence.Itre presentsspecificobjectsorflowsastheyarespaciotemporallysituatedintherealworld.Theactof representation,however,isnotwithoutproblems.Differentobjectsandflowshavedifferentre presentationalperformances,andthetechniquesofrepresentationdifferintheircapacitytore present(Kalthoff,2005).Althoughasatechnologyaccountingcameinasavisiblesignsystem beforewriting(EzzamelandHoskin(2002,p.35)reachingbacktoancientEgypt(Ezzamel,2012),the actofaccountingmaybeseenasapracticeofeconomicwriting(Krmer,1996;Kalthoff,2005). Economicwritinghasbothamemoryandatransformationfunction(Luhmann,1998).Froma functionalistsview,theaccountingrecordsthatresultfromthispracticereflectwhatishappeningin therealworldandserveasmemoryanchors.Theobjectsandflowsintherealworldareconsidered tobeindependentoftheirrepresentationthroughthepracticeofwriting(accounting).Thus,reality isexternaltoandpriortoitsrepresentationbyaccounting.Onceaccountinghasanchoredthe objectsandflows,thenumbersandfigurescanbetracedbacktotherealsituationwithout problems.Theaccountingrecordsrendertheobjectsandflowsvisible;theyreflectthetruth.By representingobjectsandflowstheaccountingrecordsnotonlymakeitpossibletoforget,butalso enabletransportation.Therecordsthustranscendlocalcontexts.Theyenableatravelthroughtime andspace.Accountingthusmirrors,storesandtransports. Thefunctionalistsviewofaccountingandthecentralizationofthehumanactorisconsistentwith neoclassicalinstitutionaleconomictheory.Institutionaleconomicsputshumanactorsupfront.For example,inprincipalagencytheory(Ross,1973;Stiglitz,1974;JensenandMeckling,1976;Jensen, 1983)theprincipalandtheagentarenaturalizedontologies.Outoftheirselfinterestsagentsintend tobehaverationallyandsometimesopportunistically.Theytransactinmarkets.Seenfroma principalagencytheoryperspectiveaccountingispartofasolutiontotheagencyproblemasitis relatedtoadivergenceofinterestsbetweenaprincipalandanagent;boththeprincipalandthe agentarepriortoaccounting.Aninstitutionaleconomicsperspectivethusconceptualizesaccounting asrepresentationofsomething(Rheinberger,1992,1997)andrepresentationforsomeone (Rheinberger,1992,1997);accountingisconsideredtoprovideareflectionofrealityouttherethat ispriortoaccounting.Accountingisamonitoringdevicetotheprincipalthatmitigatesinformation asymmetry.Withinaneconomicperspectivethedominantmetaphorofaccountingisindeedthatof aninstrument(AmernicandCraig,2009). Thefunctionalistsviewofthepracticeofeconomicwritingmaybecriticizedbecauseofitslackof attentionforthepossibilitiesofwriting(andthusofaccounting)tobreakthroughspaciotemporal limitationsofobjectsandflowsandtocreate.Thatis,accountingmaynotonlyreflect,storeand transport,butmayalsoperform.Accountingmaybeapracticeofoperativewriting.Inpracticesof operativewriting(Kramer,1996)accountingrepresentsobjectsandflows,butatthesametime permitsoperationswiththeseobjectsandflows.Accountingtools,then,aresymbolicmachinesand theobjectsandflowsareindifferenttowardsthesymbolsusedinthesemachines.Accounting 3

numbersdonotsimplyrepresentanobjectoraflow,butpresentanoperationwhichisperformed onthemandofwhichthenumbersaretheresult(seealsoKalthoff,2005,p.83).Thatis,accounting isperformative.Kalthoff(2005)demonstratesthisperformativefunctionofaccountingbyexploring calculationinbankingpracticesofriskmanagement.Thepracticesareembeddedincalculation categories,algorithms,rules,proceduresandformats.Accountingtechnologiesrepresentobjects, butatthesametimepermitoperationswiththeseobjects,thustransformingandmodifyingthem, forinstanceintoaprofitandlossstatementor,incaseofthegrantingofloanstocorporations,intoa reportonthebasisofwhichadecisionregardingtheacceptanceorrejectionofaloanistaken (Kalthoff,2005). Inapracticeofoperativewritingtheaccountingmachinemanufacturesarepresentationofspacio temporalobjectsandflows.Reality,then,doesnotexistindependentlyoftheaccountingpractice. Rather,realityisinternaltoitsrepresentation;itisshapedthroughthepracticeofitsre presentation.Thispracticeisnotjustarepresentationofsomethingorarepresentationfor something,butitisarepresentationascreation(seeRheinberger,1992,1997,foranelaboration onthisdistinction).Bymanufacturingarepresentation,accountingisperformative.Itdoesnot servetofindatruth.Againstthisbackgrounditisinneedofinternalplausibility;thepracticeof accountinghastobecorrect.Tothatend,therulesofthegamehavetoberespectedandfollowed. Fromanactornetworktheory(i.e.Latour,1999,2005;Law,1999;Callon,1986,1999;Callonetal., 2011)perspectiveaccountingisconceptualizedasanactant.Notonlydoestheperformativityof accountingrefertoitsrepresentationascreation,italsoentailsamediationbetweenactorsand actantsinanetwork.Ininteractionwithotheractorsitshapeswhoandwhatcounts.Asanactant thepresencemanufacturedbyaccountingissymmetricaltohumanactors;ithasmaterialagencyi. Thatis,accountingisactiveandhasanimpactinacollectiveofhumansandotherthanhumans.Itis madetoactbyothersinarelationalnetwork;thatis,itperforms.Ithelpschangingtheactionsand actantsinthenetwork.IntermsofMillerandOLeary(2007)itisamediatinginstrument.This actornetworktheoryperspectivethusdiffersfundamentallyfromaninstitutionaleconomics perspective.Ratherthantocentralizethehumansubjectthemainpurposeofactornetworktheory approachesistodecentralizeit.Thecoreofhumanagencyisperceivedasatechnicallyframedand performedinteraction(Latour,1999). Althoughinextantalternativeaccountingresearch(BaxterandChua,2003)theLatourianversionof actornetworktheoryhasbeendominant(seeJustesenandMouritsen,2011,forarecentreview),a focusontheperformativeimpactofaccountingonsocietyalsocallsforamoreindepthinvestigation intoCallonistics(Fine,2003).Essentially,Callonisticsrefertothesocalledperformativitythesis (SantosandRodrigues,2009).Theperformativitythesisstatesthatratherthanexplainingand/or predictingarealitythatispriortoandindependentofeconomictheory,neoclassicalinstitutional economicsissucceedinginthematerializationofitsideasandofthebehavioralassumptionsthatare atthebasisofthetheory.EconomicsmayproduceHomoEconomicus.Accountingisconsideredto beamediatorinthematerializationofHomoEconomicusanditsinteractionpatternsinmarketsor inmarketlikespaces. However,theperformativitythesisisnotwithoutcriticism.Forinstance,SantosandRodrigues(2009) claimthatthereisnostrongevidencethateconomicsproduceHomoEconomicus.Fine(2003;2005) criticizesthelackofanunderlyingtheoreticalframeworkthataccountsforthemechanismsthatare atplayinconstitutingmarketsandHomoEconomicus.Moreover,althoughagreeingwiththeidea thateconomicshasasocietalimpact,DanielMillerquestionsifthetheoreticalstatementsin institutionaleconomicshavethepowertogetmaterializedintherealworld(Miller(2002;2005). 4

Finally,beitfromdifferentangles,bothWhittleandSpicer(2008)andRoberts(2012)challenge actornetworktheory(andthusCallonistics)foritslackofcriticalcommitment. Thispaperaddressesthesocietalimpactofaccountingandaccountabilityasthesearerelatedtothe performativitythesisandrelatedcriticisms.Inordertobringfurtherclaritytotheperformativity thesisthepaperexaminesevidencefromthefieldofaccounting.Themainquestioniswhetherand howextantaccountingresearchbringsmorenuancesinthediscussionontheperformativityof economics.Moreover,inordertoaccentuatethegoodinsocietyandtochallengethebad,the papersuggestsafurtherdevelopmentof(critical)managementaccountingresearchintothe performativityofeconomicsbyfocusingonthepoliticsofmanagementaccountingastheyare implicatedinconcretecontingentsociomaterialnetworks. Theremainderofthepaperisorganizedasfollows.First,Callonisticsarediscussedinmoredetail, followedbyadiscussionofitsmaincriticisms.Thepaperthenreviewsanumberofmicrostudies thataddress(explicitlyorimplicitly)theperformativityofeconomicsandaccounting.Themini reviewrevealshowaccountingindeedmediatesinbringingnotionsofinstrumentalrationalityand accountabilityasincorporatedininstitutionaleconomicstheoryintolife,bothin(financial)markets andinorganizations.Thepaperthusprovidessupportfortheperformativitythesisandrevealssome ofthemicromechanismsthatareatplayinperformingeconomics.Inordertofurtherimprovethe societalcontributionofmanagementaccountingresearchbasedonCallonisticsandonactor networktheoryingeneral,adevelopmenttowardsapoliticalontologyofmanagementaccountingis thenadvocated.Itisclaimedthatsuchanambitionhasthepotentialtoaddacriticalflavortoactor networktheoryinspiredmanagementaccountingresearch. Callonistics Sociotechnicalagencements ToCallon,economicpracticesarenottreatedasanontologicallyindependentsphereofthesocial world.Therearereciprocalrelationshipsbetweensocietalpracticesandeconomictheory.Economic theorybothrepresentssocietalpracticesandintervenesinthem.Toalargeextent,economic theoryframesandformatssocietalpractices.Inlinewiththiswayofthinking,whatisatstakewith accountingisnotanexusbetweenarealityoutthereandtheimagethatshowsthroughan accountingmirror,butanexusbetweenaccountingandtheoreticalstatements,particularly statementsfromneoclassicalinstitutionaleconomics.Asaform,orasanotherthanhuman,an actant,accountingthusmediatesinbringingeconomictheoryintolife(Callon,1998).Re presentationandinterventionareentangled,theycannotbeseparated;accountingrepresentsand intervenesatthesametime.InthestrongestsenseithelpstocreateanddistributeHomo Economicus. Ratherthanbeingapriorinaturalizedontologies,economicagentsresultfromtheframingand distributionofcalculativeagencies.Acalculativeagencyisaselfinterestedagencyobsessedbythe calculationoptimizationofhisorherowninterest(Callon,2007,p.346).Suchacalculativeagency isnotsimplyaresultofthediffusionofautonomousvalues,normsandconceptionsoftheworld thatserveasintermediariesthroughwhichabstractideasortheoriesactuponeconomicagents. Rather,suchanagencyistheresultofthediffusionofsociotechnicalinstitutions.Therefore,to accountfortheframinganddistributionofcalculativeagenciesitisnecessarytosubstitutesocio technicalinstitutionsforindividualswhosebrainsareembeddedinvaluesandnormsguidingthem. 5

Thesociotechnicalinstitutionsarecalledagencementsiibecausethereisanentanglementof humanactorsandmaterialities(Callon,2005).AnagencementisanassemblagethatputsHomo Economicusinthecenter.Itisahybridcollectivethatcompriseshumansaswellasotherthan humanssuchasmaterialandtechnicaldevicesandtexts,andthatisdistributedthrougha performationofeconomics,whichistheimpactofeconomicsoutsidethetheoryitself(Callon, 1998a,p.23).Suchhybridcollectivesprovideactorswithacapacitytoactandtogivemeaningto actions. Thus,theperformativityofeconomicsessentiallyisapoliticalprocessthroughwhichhomo economicusisframedandequippedwithprostheseswhichhelphiminhiscalculationsandwhich are,forthemostpart,producedbyeconomics(Callon,1998a,p.51).HomoEconomicusisa calculativeagencythatcanonlyperformunderspecificcircumstancesandthathastobeequipped withcertainmaterial:paper,informationtechnology,computers,calculationmethods,statistical programsandmore.
Theappearanceandspreadofthisnewspecies(i.e.homoeconomicus)canbeunderstoodonlyifweagreethatagency, andespeciallywhatwecallhumanagency,doesnotdependonlyonevolvingandadaptiveprocessestakingplacegradually overlongperiods(astheyarestudied,forinstance,bypaleoanthropology).Humanagencyisadistributedagencythatgoes beyondthesomaticresourcesoftheindividual;itisthevariableoutcomeofacomplexprocessofengineering.Thisagency canbedescribedmorepreciselyasasociotechnicalagencementconsistingofmaterialelements,textsanddiscourses, competenciesandembodiedskills,routinesandsoon.HumanSTAsarevariable,evolvingand,aboveall,increasingly dependentonhumanactivityitself(Callon,2007,p.142).

Callon(2007b)identifiesthisassemblage,thisartifactasHomoEconomicusversion2.0.Similartohis predecessor,HomoEconomicusversion1.0,version2.0islinkedupwithscientificmanagementas developedbyFrederickWinslawTaylor.HavingtheidentityofanagentHomoEconomicusremains tobeapuppetonastring.Yet,comparedtohispredecessor,asaconsequenceofavailable prostheseshehasmorestrategicspaceavailable. Theperformativitythesisendorsesanunderstandingofhumanactionthatislargelydependent uponthestructuralconfigurationsofthesociotechnicalinstitutionsandthenetworksinwhich humanactiontakesplace(SantosandRodriques,2009).Theimplicationofthisisthatindividual actiondisclosesthenatureofsociotechnicalinstitutionsoragencementsratherthanrobustand naturalizedbehaviouraltraitsofhumanactors(Callon,1998,2005,2007b).Accountingmediatesin thecreationandoperationofsuchagencements,thuscontributingtotheperformativityof institutionaleconomics.Itthusassistsinsuccessfullyenactingthepatternsofbehaviourpostulated byinstitutionaleconomics.Inotherwords,accountinghelpstobridgethegulfbetweentheoretical statementsregardingbehavioralpatternsofindividualsandrealbehaviour.Itmediatesin distributingcalculativeagenciesratherthanservingasatoolforanaturalized,rationallyacting individual.Accountingmediatesinshapingwhoandwhatcounts.Itispartofreality,partofthe network.Itisanactantratherthananinstrumentinthehandsofhumanbeingsthatpossess naturaltraitssuchasindividualrationalityandopportunism.Thus,ratherthanbeingsolid characteristicsofhumanbeings,rationalityandinstrumentalityareshapedbymediating sociomaterialities(Orlikowski,2007).Inmediatingintheconstructionofagencies,ofspacesinwhich theymeetandoftheboundariesbetweenthingsandpeople,accountingissymmetricaltohuman actors.Ratherthanwhetheraccountingreflectseconomicreality(atruth)ornot,thequestion becomeswhetheraccountingisabletoperformandenactarealitycorrespondingtowhatitsays.

AsCallon(2005)states,theanthropologythatcharacterizesanyindividualasanautonomous subject,capableofrationalchoices,andresponsibleforhisorherbehavior,isbecomingpervasive. Toalargeextentitisthroughaccountingthatneoclassicalinstitutionaleconomicsoccupyakey positioningivingactorsacapacitytoact. Thespacesbetweenagencies Thecalculativeagenciesarenotcompletelyisolatedfromeachother.Economictheoryalsoproduces thespaceswithinwhichencountersbetweentheagenciestakeplace.Thesespacesmaybemarkets (Callon,1998)ororganizations;incaseofaperformationofprincipalagencytheorythelatterwill beanexusofcontractsorganization(JensenandMeckling,1976;Jensen,1983)oramarket bureaucracy.Similartoamarket,anexusofcontractsorganizationisaspaceforpursuingprivate interests.Fromorganizationaleconomicsreasoning,undercertaincircumstances,comparedtothe spaceofthemarketthenexusofcontractsorganizationmaysavetransactioncosts.Asa consequence,individualscanreachtheirgoalsmoreefficiently.Inordertoreachsuchefficiencyand topreventopportunisticbehaviorfromoccurringattheleveloftheorganizationaregulatory institutionisneeded.Theinstitutioncodifiesanumberofcriticalrulesofthegame(Jensen,1983, p.326)byallocatingdecisionrightsandspecifyingperformanceevaluationandrewardsystems.The mainpurposeoftheseinstitutionsistosafeguardagainstpotentialopportunisticbehavior.Thatis, theinstitutionsfacilitatecooperativeinteractionsbetweenorganizationalparticipantsbypreventing anopportunismproneminoritytopursueitsselfinterestwithguileattheexpenseofthecollective (cf.Williamson,1975;1979). InordertoenableHomoEconomicustomeet,boundariesbetweenpeopleandthingshavetobe created.Inordertoenablecirculationgoodshavetobetransformedintothingsthatgofromhand tohand.Suchcirculationisbothproductionandqualification.Thecirculationqualifiesthegoodsso thattheyentertheworldoftheusers.Calloncallsthissingularization(Callon,2005).However, marketcirculationorcirculationinamarketbureaucracyalsoimpliesthatthisattachmentinducesa transactionafterwhichtheagenciesinvolvedarequits(Callon,2005).Transactionsarenecessarily reducedinteractions.Theyaretheresultofframingactivitythatproducespowerfulmechanismsof exclusion.Manyelementshavetobeexcludedfromthemarketornexusofcontracts(market bureaucracy)frame,atleastforthemomentofthetransaction.Thetransactionisenabledthrough the(atleasttemporary)exclusionofotherfactorsthatcannotbeincludedwithinthatcalculation. Calculationandthecirculationofgoodsinmarketsandinmarketbureaucracyrequiresaccounting toolsandpractices.Accountingtoolsandpracticesprovideprosthesesforhumanbeingstobecome calculative. Althoughthecoreofcalculativebehaviourthusseemstobetheresultofaprocessof disentanglement(seealsoMiller,2002;2005),Calloninsiststhatthespacesinwhichagenciesmeet arecharacterizedbybothdisentanglementandentanglement.AsCallonstates,themarketproduces astageonwhichtheprocessofentanglementdisentanglementcanbemanagedbytheagents engagedinthetransaction(Callon,2005,p.7).Heexemplifiesthisasfollows(Callon,2005):if personAbuysacarfrompersonBtheyhavetogetridofissuessuchasglobalwarming,traffic congestion,problemsofroadsafety(disentanglement).Theythencanfocusonthequalificationof thecarthatAis(maybe)goingtobuyandontheprocessofthatcar'sparticularattachmenttothe worldofthebuyer(entanglement)(Callon,2005,p.7). 7

Concretemarketshavethesingularityofteemingwithmultifariousactorsandentitiesandatthesametimeofconstantly beingframed,shaped,rarefiedinasense,toorganizemarkettransactionsandensuretheiraggregation.(Callon,2005,p. 8).

Moreover,Callonnotesthatsuccessisboundtobeatemporaryachievement.Therefore,the agenciesandtheirbehavioralpatternseventuallyhavetocopewithoverflows,i.e.reactive responsestorealityasitistheresultofperformationofeconomictheory.Futureresearchnotonly hastoaccountforthemechanismsthroughwhichcalculativeagencies,thespacesinwhichthey operateandtheboundariesbetweenthingsandpeopleareframed,butitwillalsohavetoaccount forthewayoverflowsarecopedwith.Ratherthanviewingoverflowsasaccidentalaseconomists do,Callondefinesanoverflowasaphenomenonthatisnotunexpectedbutratheranormand unavoidable(seealsoChristensenandSkrbk,2007,p.106).Whileframingproducesorder, overflowproducesdisorderandthreatenstheframingattempts.Framingtriggersmattersofconcern thatmayevolveintopoliticalissues.Theanswerstotheseissuesmayinturnhaveanimpactonthe organizationofeconomicactivity(Callon,2007b,p.139). Theperformativitythesisanditscritics Callonisticshavemetcriticisms.Majorcriticismscomefromdifferentangles.Theyparticularly concernalackofproofoftheperformativitythesis;anoverestimationofthepowerofneoclassical institutionaleconomicstoextendbeyondthevirtualandtomaterialize;andalackofacriticalstance. Thissectiondealswiththesecriticismsinmoredetail. Alackofproof First,alackofproofoftheperformativitythesis.SantosandRodrigues(2009)claimthatthereisno strongevidencethateconomicsproduceHomoEconomicus.Inparticular,andthisisthestrongest senseinwhicheconomicscanbesaidtobeperformative,economistscanproduce,throughtheir engineeringefforts,thecalculativeagenciespostulatedbyneoclassicaleconomictheory,thatis, homoeconomicus(SantosandRodrigues,2009,p.990).However,SantosandRodriguesmistakenly substituteeconomistsforeconomics.Callondoesnotclaimthateconomistsareperformative,but economics.Inotherwords,theperformativitythesisisnotondeliberateactionsofcentralised economiststhataimtoshapesociety.Rather,itisabouttheoreticalstatementsbeingactantsthat aremadetoactbymanyotheractorsandactants(amongstthemaccounting)inconcretesocio materialnetworks.Theperformativityofeconomicsisanetworkeffect,nottheresultofdeliberate actionsofhumanbeings(i.e.economists)thatareoutsidethenetwork.SantosandRodrigues continuetostatethattheycansupporttheweakerclaimthateconomics,ratherthanbeing performativeintheshapingofcalculativeagencies,isperformativeinmarketbuilding,thereby contributingtothecommodificationofsociallife.Intheirview,theemergenceofcalculative agenciesmightbesimplytheresultofthiscommodificationofsociallife,associatedwiththe processesofmarketexpansion.Inthismorelenientnotion,economicsisperformativewheneverit isusedinmarketbuilding(SantosandRodrigues,2009,p.990).Again,thispointstoa misconception.InCallonistics,themainpointisnoteconomicengineeringorsocialengineering (SantosandRodrigues,2009;itisheterogeneousengineering.Economicsisnotusedbyothersto helpbuildingmarkets,isnotaninstrument,butisanactantinsociomaterialnetworks,involvedin theshapingofmarketsanditsinhabitants. 8

Similarly,Fine(2003,2005)pointstoalackofproof.Fineclaimsthattheperformativitythesislacksa theoreticalframeworkthatdiscernsthemechanismsatplay,bothatthemicrolevelofindividuals behaviorandatthemacrolevelofthelogicofthemarketeconomyanditsmaininstitutions(Fine, 2003,2005).Withoutsuchaframework,Fineargues,theideathateconomistsconstitutemarketsis simplyatautologyoranassertionofcausationwithoutsupportingargument(Fine,2003,p.480). Butagain,itisnottheeconomistsintentionalactivitytoconstitutemarketsthatisattheheartof theperformativitythesis,butthecapacityoftheoreticalstatementssituatedinconcretecontingent sociomaterialnetworkstoperformmarkets.Suchpowercanbeexplainedbyresearcherswhoenact suchnetworks,aswillbedemonstratedinthereviewsection. Virtualism Second,itisclaimedthatmarketsarenotmaterializedonthebasisoftheoreticalstatements,but thatmarketsonlyexistinavirtualworld(Miller,2002,2005),that,atamacrolevel,contradictswith arealworld.Thus,theperformativitythesisgivestomanycredentialstoinstitutionaleconomics.To Miller,institutionaleconomictheorydoesnotsucceedininfluencingthephenomenainreality. Institutionaltheoryisnotpartofanetworkbutisseparatefromit.Millerseparatesrepresentation fromrealpracticing,fromintervention.Heseesamacrocontradictionbetweenarealworldanda virtualworld.Tohim,ratherthananetworkeffect,theperformativityofinstitutionaleconomic theoryisdirectlyrelatedtothepowerofitsdiscourse:
.thatweliveinaperiodofhistorywherewecanseetheincreasingabilityofcertainpowerfuldiscourses,includingthat ofeconomists,torealizethemselvesasmodelsintheworldthroughtheirincreasingcontroloverthatworld.Thatistheir increasingabilitytobeperformative(Miller,2005,p.4).

Millercompareseconomistswithpriests.Heobservesforinstancethatboththeoristsand practitionerssuchasmanagementconsultantsandaccountantshavespreadthegospelof shareholdervalueasanextphaseofsuccesfullbusiness.


AndbehindthemanagementconsultantslaythesternpriesthoodoftheIMFlayingoutthetermsofpurecapitalismto whichthecountrymustconformorbepunishedforitsheresy(Miller,2005,p.4).

ToMiller,theperformativityofeconomicsliesinitssuccesstovirtuallycontroltheworldandnotin itsabilitytorealisethemodelofthemarket.Themarketremainstobeanideologicalmodeland doesnotbecomeanempiricalphenomenon,arealobject.Ratherthanadescriptionofpracticethe marketisamoralandideologicalsystemwhoseintentionistocreatethenormativeconditionsfor exchange.MillerclaimsthatCallonismakingthesamemistakeaseconomistsdo:takingare presentationofeconomiclifeforitspractice.ToMiller,sciencehastoaccountfortheextraordinary powerofthisactofrepresentationtoreconstitutetheworld(macro)initsimage.Ithastoaccount forvirtualism.Ithastopositionthevirtualworldagainsttherealworldinwhichtransactionsalways takeplaceinaparticularmoralframework.Intherealworld,everyonewishestofeelthattheir economictransactionsarealsoexpressionsoftheirlargersenseofbeing.Tothisend,transactions areritualizedasformalexchangesthatdrawattentiontothisidealcongruenceofbeingandpractice. WhereCallonthinksthattheperformativityofeconomicsisreflectedintheconstructionofreal agencies,ofspacesinwhichtheseagenciesmeetandoftheboundariesbetweenthingsandpeople, Millerclaimsthattheabilityofperformativeactiontorealisethemodelofthemarketisstill comparativelyrare.HestatesthatCallonsemphasisoncalculationanddisentanglementresultsin 9

anattempttorescuetheconventionalnotionsofthemarket,butfornoparticularlygoodreason. Millersanthropologicalargumentisthatthemarketisanideologicalmodelratherthananempirical phenomenon.Hemoreovercriticizesthenotionofcalculativenessasitisincorporatedinthesocio technicalagencements.Heclaimsthatinrealitydecisionmakingisnot(andcannotbe)whatnew institutionaleconomicsstate.Inreality,decisionmakingisnotamatterofdisentanglement,butisa totalizingaffair.InMillersviewthewaytoprofitabilityisnotthroughdisentanglement,but throughfurtherentanglement.Thebetteranorganizationacknowledgestherichmixtureoffactors thataccountforprofitability(inwhateversense)themoreitislikelytobesuccessful.Thequestion thenbecomeswhethertheorganizationbusinesscouldeverbeentangledenoughtoreflectthe totalizingactsofthestakeholders.Thepowerofeconomistsandaccountantstocreateavirtual worldthenbecomesproblematic.Itmightcreatedistortions;thesimplificationsofthe disentanglementsthatareexpectedofmarkettransactionsmightdecreaseefficiency.Profitability andsuccessismorethanspecifiedperformanceandcontraperformance.Aneffectiveassessmentof valueisthetruebasisforprofitability,forsuccessoftheorganization.Exchangeisalways embeddedinvalues.Thisdoesnotmaketheexchangelesscalculative,butitdoesimplythatthe calculationsbecomemoreandmorecomplex.Creatingamarketispretendingthatcalculationis relativelysimple;thecalculationofvalueisreducedtoaquantitativeinstrument.Butisthis simplificationofcalculationrealpractice?Bygivingapositiveanswertothisquestion,intheeyesof MillerCallonbecomesaquintessentialeconomistwhoattemptstoreducevaluetopricebyseeing valueasthatwhichoverflowstheframe,insteadofseeingitasthatwhichconstitutesordinary transactions.
ApossibleanalogyistothinkofCallonaspresentingtousthebarebonesoftransactions.Hehacksoffthefleshtoshowthe relativesolidityofthemarketprinciplesinside.Butskeletonsarenotagents,theyarethedead,remnantsleftwhenthat whichgivesagencyisstrippedaway.Wecantheorizesuchbarebonesacademicallybutthatisnothoweconomiesor economicagentsoperate.Asactorstheyarealwaysburdenedbyfleshandlifeandrelationships.Instead,asarguedin Virtualism,wecanfindinpracticeanincreasingtendencyformarketideologytogainthepowertoremoveallother externalitiesasdistortions.Thisisanactualandgrowingphenomenonintheworldthatwereallyoughttobepaying attentiontoinsteadoffalsegrailsofinherentmarketlogics(Miller,2002,p.232).

ToMilleritisthedifferencebetweentrueandfalseconceptionsofrealityandhumannature,the differencebetweenrealityanditsrepresentationthatneedsstudying. MillersvirtualismconsiderablydiffersfromCallonsviews.Callonclaimsthatthecapitalistformof theeconomyassumesanorganizationofmarketsinwhichtherearebothcalculativeagencies (equippedandformattedtocalculateprofits,maximizeshareholdervalue,reduceproductionor distributioncosts)andthecontrolledrarefactionofrelationsandencountersbetweenagencies, obtainedprimarilybysingularizinggoodsandsettingupsystemsofcirculationofagenciesand goods(Callon,2005,p.15).Thereisnocontradictionbetweenworldviewsandvaluesofeconomists ontheonehandandrealityontheotherhand,thereisjustamultiplicationofdifferences,gaps, displacementsandtranslations.Inotherwords,thereareasymmetriesandrelationsofdomination thattheysustain.Theserelationsareproducedbysociotechnicalinstitutions(agencements)that produceasmanyattachmentsasdetachments,asmanyentanglementsasdisentanglements (Callon,2005,p.16). ToCallon,thereisnorealtruthupfrontwhichcanthenbeputagainstthevirtualworldof institutionaleconomics.Economicsandaccountingbothareengagedinthedynamicsofpower struggles.Science(economicsandother(social)sciences)arenotoutsidereality,butarepartofit. 10

Theyareallinthenetwork.Theultimateaimofthesocialsciencesistoengageindifferent anthropologicalprojectsstrugglingtoimposetheirconceptionsandtheimplementationthereof (Callon,2005,p.11).CallonagreeswithMillerthatthesocialsciencescanhelptotransformthe world.Buthedisagreesaboutthestrategywithwhichtoachievethat.Hedoesnotwanttosearch forthetruthwhileatthesametimecombattingtheillusionsthatmaskthestrengthofthepowerful, butaimstoparticipate,alongwithcertainactorswhoareinapositiontoproducesmalldifferences. Heaimstoshowthathumansactinmultipleanduncertainforms(Callonet.al,2011)andthatother worldsarepossible. ThemaindifferencesbetweenvirtualismandCallonisticsaresummarizedintable1. Virtualism Thereisexanterealityoutthere(areality priortotheory) Scientificactivityaimsatrepresentingthetruth andatcombattingillusions(forinstancethose createdbyeconomics) Theoryisoutsidereality Economictheorycreatesavirtualworldthatis linkedtorealitythroughbeliefs,valuesand norms
Table1:VirtualismagainstCallonistics

Callonistics Economictheoryperformsreality Scientificactivitymediatesintransformingthe world Theoryisinsidenetworks,itparticipates Economictheoryisbroughtintolifethrough performativepractices

Alackofacriticalstance Third,Callonisticsiscriticizedforitslackofacriticalstance.DrawingonFournierandGrey(2000)asa sensitizingframework,WhittleandSpicerclaimthatactornetworktheoryhasacommitmentto realism(itreliesontheassumptionthatsociallifecanbeobservedobjectivelybyscientistsusing esotericconcepts(p.9)),positivism(sociallifeisunderstoodthroughaprocessofscientific verification(p.9))andconservatism(theknowledgeisexplainedwithoutareflexiveexaminationof thephilosophicalandpoliticalassumptionsthataccompanytheresearcher(p.9))(Whittleand Spicer,2008)Althoughthismakesactornetworktheoryvaluableformakingdetaileddescriptionsof accountingandorganizing,accordingtoWhittleandSpicer(2008)itispoorlyequippedtoaddress theissuesthatmakeupcriticalstudiesinaccountingandmanagement,particularlytheissuesof instrumentalreasoningandasymmetricalrelationsofpower,reinforcedbytheappearanceof neutralresearch(seeAlvessonandWillmott,1992,1996;Adler,2002).Callonisticsmightbe accusedofjustdescribinghowaccountingisengagedinsituationalpowerstruggles,howitmediates betweeninstitutionaleconomictheoryandpracticewithoutaimingtojudgewhetherthisisgoodor bad,ortrueorfalse.Itacceptstheeconomicmananddoesnotapriorirejectthiscreature.Tosome, CallonisticsisthereforeapoorresourcetodrawuponforANThastendedtowalkandtalkmoreand morelikethestickfigurehomoeconomicusfromneoclassicaleconomicsforsometimenow (MirowskiandNikKhah,2007,p.190).However,IagreewithRobertsandWilson(2012)thatinthe notionoftheperformativityofeconomicsthereisperhapsanattemptvisibletoremedythe paranoiaoftheegoasitisincorporatedintheconstructofHomoEconomicus. Moreover,WhittleandSpicersmodernistsmodeofcritiquemaybequestionedinamore fundamentalway(seealsoAlcadipaniandHassard,2010).InrecentCallonistics(andinactor 11

networktheoryapproachesingeneral)realityisinternaltotheprocessofknowingorinternaltoits representation;itisrepresentationascreation.Thismakestheknowledgeproductionapolitical process.ToLatour(2005),politicalrelevanceisrelatedtothegraspingofcomplexitiesand multiplicitiesbyregisteringasmanyassociationsaspossibleinordertofindpossibilitiestochangea stateofaffair.Thereisalwaysaconcernforthepossibilitythatthingscouldbeotherwiseandthat realityisnotadestiny(Law,2007).Moreover,intheresearchpracticetheresearcherdoesnot describebutenacts;heorsherepresentsascreation.Notonlydoesthischallengethepositivistic characterofCallonistics,butinthenotionofenactmentitisalsoexpressedthatthenarrativesare versionsofthebetterandtheworse,therightandthewrong,theappealingandthe unappealing(Law,2007,p.15).Accountsareproducedthroughpolitics;thegoodisbeingdoneas wellastheepistemologicalandtheontological(Law,2007,p.15).Inotherwords,accountsarenot justpolitical,butontologicallypolitical(Law,2004;LawandUrry,2004;Mol,1999,2002).Therealis implicatedinthepoliticalandviceversa.Thingsmightalwaysbeotherwise(Law,2008).Oneresultof thinkinginontologicallypoliticaltermsisthateverytimewemakerealityclaimsinscienceweare helpingtomakesomesocialrealitymoreorlessreal(LawandUrry,2004,p.396;seealsoAlcadipani andHassard,2010). Thenotionofontologicalpoliticschallengesbothanaturalizationofobjectsandthewaypoliticsis usuallyunderstood.Ratherthannaturalizationsboththeresearcherhimselfandhisenactmentsare consequencesofresearchpractices.Asforpolitics,thisistraditionallyunderstoodassomethingthat givesvoicebyandinitself(Latour2007).However,ratherthanbeingaspecificdomainoflifeoran essenceitself,politicsturnsaroundtherepresentationoftheassemblingofmultiplerealitieswithin manydifferentpracticesandarenas.Everyaccountisapoliticalaccount,andallkindsofothersare allowedtoobjecttotheaccounts(Latour,2005).Ratherthanfocusingonthestabilizationof relationsactornetworktheoryapproachesthusfocusoncontroversiessurroundingthingsthatarein themaking. WhereasWhittleandSpicer(2008)questionablyclaimthatactornetworktheoryapproachessuffer fromrealism,positivismandconservatism,Roberts(2012)claimsthatCallonisticspaynoattentionto underlyingvirtualpowersofthesociohistoricalformationofcapitalismandrelatedneoliberalism (Roberts,2012).InhiscritiqueRoberts(2012)claimsthatactornetworktheorytendstooveridentify withhowconcretecontingentactornetworksareenrolledattheexpenseofanalyzinghowsuch networksarealsointernallymediatedthroughunderlyingorvirtualhistoricallyemergingand developingcapacities,potentialsandpowers,particularlythatofcapitalism.AcritiqueofCallonistics thereforeisthatitexploresthetranslationsofactornetworksintimespaces,withoutrelatingthem todifferentplanesofimmanence(DeleuzeandGuattari,1994),thatistothoseunderlying potentials,powersandcapacitiesofahistoricalsystemthatfoldoverandrefractintooneanotherin arichontologicalabsolutehorizon(Roberts,2012,p.38).Toalargeextentthesesystemscannotbe localized,theyareunlocalizable(Roberts,2012,p.37).Forexample,sociotechnicalarrangements oragencementsmaybeseenasimmanentmomentsinthedrivetoenhancetheproductivityand efficiencyoftheworkforcethatisimmanentmomentsofcapitalism.However,actornetworktheory basedapproachesrejectimmanenceandtendtofocusonplanesoforganization(Deleuzeand Guattari,1994);theyenactaspecificrealityanddescribewhat(nonvisible)principlesorganizeit.As aconsequence,theclaimsmadebyCallonisticsmayberestrictedtothickdescriptionsofhitherto hiddenprinciplesofconcretecontingentrelations,tonarrativesandtostories.Moreover,by

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rejectingthenotionthatconcretecontingentnetworksareinimmanencetheresearchlacksabasis tomakecriticalevaluations. AlthoughRoberts(2012)indeedmaybepointingtoaflawinactornetworktheorybasedresearch,it isalsotruethatanumberofresearchersthatareinspiredbyCallonisticsoractornetworktheoryina broadsensestresstheimportanceofsociohistoricalformationsasforinstanceneoliberalism(for instanceFriedman,2010;Miller,2008). Evidencefromthefieldofaccounting Extantaccountingresearchoffersanecdotalevidencefortheperformativityofinstitutional economics.WithoutreferringtoactornetworktheorynortoCallonistics,PeterMillersstudyinto themechanismsthroughwhichDCFtechniqueswerepromotedintheUKinthe1960soffersanearly exampleofaccountingsmediatingpowerinbringingneoclassicalbehaviouralassumptionsintolife (Miller,1991). SomerecentstudiesthataddresstheissuearemoredirectlyrelatedtoCallonisticsoractornetwork theory.Inthenextsectionaminireviewofrelevantaccountingstudiesisprovided.Thestudies convincinglydemonstratehowaccountingisaperformativemediatorbetweeneconomicsandreal lifepractices.Accountingprovestobemorethanjustarepresentationalpracticethatcreatesa (distortive)virtualreality.Rather,theontologicallypoliticalaccountsrevealhoweconomic statementsandaccountingmaygobeyondthevirtual,therebychallengingDanielMillersvirtualism. Representationandinterventionprovetobeentangled.Beittodifferentdegrees,incollective practicestheperformativityofeconomicsisrecognizable. Accountingasamediatorinmarkets Vollmeret.al(2009)reflectonthesignificanceofCallonsconceptofperformativityintheSocial StudiesofFinance.ItwasbroughttherebyCallon(1998a),andsubsequentlyspecifiedbyMacKenzie (2006),MacKenzieandMillo(2003)andDidier(2007),addressingtheblurreddistinctionbetween representationalandinterventionistusesofeconomicmodelsbyfinancialpractitioners(Vollmeret. a,2009,p.622).Financialmarketsareseenassociotechnicalagencements.Calculabilityandvalue assignmentareintrinsictotheworkingofsuchmarkets.Numbersareassignedtoentities(bethey financialsecuritiesorconsumablegoods),whichendowstheseentitieswithrelativestabilityand enablestheircirculationthroughoutsociety. Againstthebackgroundofthefinancialcrisis,RobertsandJones(2009)explorehowselfinterested behaviourand,thus,thecognitiveconstructofHomoEconomicusisconstructedthroughcalculation infinancialmarkets.Inparticulartheyexplorethemediatingroleofaccountingincreatingand sustainingmarketrelationships,bothfeedingtheillusionofrationalindividualbehaviourandthefear andpanicasthemarketfell.Theyobservethattheworkofframing/disentanglementwasmassive. Theyconcludethataccountinginitscapacitytorecogniseordisentangleprofitswithinastream oftransactionshasprovidedthemotive,meansandrealizedgains(andnowlosses)forall concerned(RobertsandJones,2009,p865).However,itprovedthatinterestsandriskswere inadequatelyassignedtoentities;interestsliebetweenratherthanwithinindividualsorinstitutions. InCallonslanguagetheyconcludethataccountingiskeyinreproducingasenseofselfasisolated tooisolatedandautonomoustooautonomous,suchthatitislargelyblindand/or

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indifferenttotheunintendedsideeffectsofthecalculated(RobertsandJones,2009,p.865).Inter estsinthesenseofacomplexwebofinterinstitutionalnetworksandrelationships(interests)were renderedlargelyinvisiblebyaccounting.Here,ratherthanturningabsenceintopresenceaccounting turnedpresenceintoabsence;itobscuredallkindsofmoralhazardinthenetworkofrelationships.


Sothetensionthatbecomesvisiblehereisbetweeninterdependencies(interests)thatweresystemicandthe calculationsofindividualandinstitutionalselfinterestthatwereseeminglyindifferenttothese.Therealhazard,however, wasnotjustthelackofcareexercisedintheborrowing,lending,tranching,rating,leveraging,insuringandbuyingofthese passthroughproducts.Itwasalsothat,inreality,theyturnedouttobeanythingbutpassthroughsincethe unanticipatedconsequencesofthiscarelessnessthenrevisitedagentsateverypointinthenetworks.Theerrorofself interestliesinthewayinwhichitimaginestheselfasseparateandseparablefromothers.Itscalculationconceivesof othersonlyininstrumentalterms,andsoitremainsblindorsimplyindifferenttotheconsequences ofitsconductforothers(RobertsandJones,p.866).

Accountingasamediatorinorganizations Calculationisacognitiveoperationthatrequirescommodificationandstandardization.As calculabilityisincreasinglyvisibleinmodern(public)organizationsthatdevelopintothedirectionof marketbureaucracies(e.g.inhealthcare,universities,housingcorporations),questionsaboutthe performativityandeconomicsareperpetuated.Apartfromattentiontotheperformativityof accountinginmarkets,thiscallsforattentioninthescientificaccountingdisciplineforframingand overflowinginorganizations. Anillustrationthataccountingmaygobeyondtheconstructionofavirtualorganizationandmay transformdaytodayorganizationalpractices(and,thus,maybeinandnotoutsidereality)is providedbyKeeverset.al(2012).TheyprovideanaccountofhowsocalledResultsBased Accountability(RBA),asamandatedexogenouschangeimposedbyfundingagencies,became implicatedintransformingtheeverydaysocialjusticepracticesinlocallybasedcommunityorganiza tions.Relatedtodominantmanagerialdiscourses(fuelledbyinstitutionaleconomics)inthepublic sectorRBAisaninstrumenttogovernandmanageserviceprovisionacrossthepurchaserprovider divide.RBAisanintentionalstructure(AhrensandChapman,2007)thatseekstoensureeffective andefficientgovernmentspendingandtostrengthentransparencyandaccountabilityinthepublic sector.Assuchitiscloselyrelatedtotheoreticalstatementsfromeconomics.Keeverset.al(2012) showhowthediscursivematerialpracticeofRBAinterfereswiththesituatedlocalcommunity practices.Althoughtheadvocates(consultants)ofRBA(i.e.Friedman,2005)takeare presentationalistspositionbynaturalizingRBAasamirrorandbystressingthataccountabilityand performancemeasurementmethodsshouldnotinterferewiththeservice(thusrevealingthe perspectivethatRBAisoutsidethenetwork,thatrealityispriortoitsrepresentation),Keeverset.al (2012)convincinglyshowthatRBAisnotaninstrumentinthehandsofacenterthatmeasuresand actsfromadistancewithoutinterferinginthedaytodaypractices.Rather,itintraactswithand shapesthephenomenathatbecome(Barad,2007)inthelocalcommunities.Thatis,RBAis performative.Ititerativelyreconfiguresthatwhichisincludedandexcludedfrommatteringinday todaylocalpractice.IncorporatedincomputerizedcasemanagementRBAbecomesanactor;inthe daytodaypracticestherelationshipbetweentheprofessionalsandtheyoungpeople(thetarget groupofthelocalcommunities)changedinarelationshipbetweentheprofessional,theyoung personandthecomputerasanactant. 14

Thusmeaning,matterandpowerrelationsareproducedandconstrainedthroughtheiterativeintraactionsofthe governmentdepartment,itsbureaucrats,theyoungperson,theiryouthworkers,managers,theoutcomesbased accountabilityreportingdatabaseonthemachineandtheadministrativesystemofSouthernYouth.Thesestructural relationsofpowerarematerialized,contestedand(re)producedthrougharangeoflocalpracticesincludingthenumbers andnotesrecordedinthecomputer(Keeverset.al,2012,p.114)

InthiscasetheRBAsystemisfarfromasystemthatcreatesavirtualworldbyjustmappingreality. Rather,itimposesanotherformoforganizing.Itreshapeslocallybasedcommunityorganizationsin theimageofthefundingagency.Atthelocal,RBApracticesestablishashiftinfocusfrom situationallyembeddedpracticesofknowinganddoingtopracticesinwhichacorrespondence betweendesiredresults(reality)attheonehandanditsmeasurementandgraphingattheother handisreached.Thus,theanalysisdemonstratesthattheintroductionofRBA,anchoredinacom puterizedcasemanagementmonitoringtechnologyandentangledwithfundingtiedtoindividual izedoutcometargets,isunravellingsomeofthedailyorganizingpracticesofsocialjusticethatcreate asenseofbelonging,assistyoungpeopletohaveasenseofcontrolovertheirlivesandbuildhope fortheirfutures(Keeversetal,p.116). Keeverset.al(2012)implicitlyillustratethedisentanglementofhumansandthingsandtheframing ofrarifiedinteraction.Theyhighlighttheinvisibilityofrelationalaspectsofpractice.Byintroducing RBAthefocusisshiftedfrominteractiontotransaction;thedeliveryofservicesisplacedatthe foreground,whilereciprocityandasenseofbelongingarebackgrounded.Theprofessionalpractices changefromatotalizingaffairinwhichentanglementisthenormtoadisembeddedand disembodiedaffairthatiscontrolledfromadistance.ByintroducingRBAaformofinstrumental rationalityisintroducedthatchangesrealprofessionalpractices.Thus,RBAdoesnotsimplycreatea virtualworld.Itdoesnotonlyprovideanincompleteanddistortiverepresentationofthepractices, butatthesametimeitinterfereswiththepractices.RBAisperformativeinthesensethatitbringsa representationalistmodeofaccountingandaccountabilityintolife,thusobscuringthestatusof RBAasitselfaformofculturallyandhistoricallysituatedactivity,manifestedinspecificpractices andassociatedartefacts(Suchman2007,p.187;Keeverset.al,2012). WhileKeeverset.al(2012)illustratehowformsofinstrumentalaccountabilityframedaytoday practiceswithinaspecificorganization,ChristensenandSkrbks(2007)contributionisto demonstratethattheCallonlensisappositeinordertobetterunderstandwidelyexperiencedtrends inpublicsectorchange.Theydrawonthenotionsofframingandoverflowtoshowwhypublicsector accountabilityinnovationsarelikelytoproduceanunexpectedoutcome.Morespecifically,they showhowtwochangesinaccountabilitytechniquesinseparatejurisdictions(DenmarkandNew SouthWales)weredistractedintheirimplementation.Theinnovations(orreforms)weremeantto provideinformationtothegeneralpublicandwerepromotedbyacentralagencythatexplainsand directstheimplementation.However,theinnovationswerefragileaccomplishmentsthatproduceda varietyofoutcomesthatwerenotcompatiblewiththeoriginalaim.Itisfoundthattheactor networksoftheaccountabilityinnovationsdevelopedinsuchawaythatthecentralagencies becametheprimaryaudiences,thusresultingin
inordinateattentiontoissuesaboutresourceusageratherthanissuesofperformance.Thatis,thespendingagencies(who werealsotheaccountabilityreporters)anticipatedtheneedsofthepublicspendingguardians(Wildavsky,1974)andthe resultantaccountabilityinnovationwasdivertedfromitspubliclyarguedpurpose.(ChristensenandSkrbk(2007),p. 104).

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Thisresearchthusshowswhypublicsectorinnovationsmayproduceunexpectedresults.Itisshown howinbothjurisdictionstheaccountabilityframeisconstitutedbyarangeofobjectsand materialitiessuchasWhitePapers,Statutes,guidances,andtheaccountabilityreportsthemselves. Thesematerialisationsproducecognitiveboundarieswithinwhichinteractionsthesignificance andcontentofwhichareselfevidenttotheprotagoniststakeplacemoreorlessindependentlyof theirsurroundingcontext(Callon,1998,p.249).Theaccountabilityframesthusproducetheactions andtheentities.Thepaperalsoshowshowtheframedinteractionsproduceanumberofoverflows andhow,asaconsequence,theaccountabilityframeistransformedinaresourceframeasitwas alsopresentinthebudgetingprocess.Theresearchsupportstheargumentthatframingisafragile andimperfecteffectbypointingtoanumberofoverflowsoftheinnovativeaccountabilityframe. Oneimportantoverflowisthattheaudiencetowhichtheaccountabilityinnovationisaimedisnot theaudiencetowhichthereportingagencyperforms.Asecondimportantoverflowisthatthe reportingagencydoesnotcorrectlyunderstandandaccepttheframeoftheaudienceofthe accountabilityreform.Third,reportingagenciesproducebroadrhetoricpromisingmultitudinous effectstoconvincevariousdecisionmakers;and,fourth,thereportingagenciespublishavarietyof insidesecretstogaintrustworthinessforthereport. Apparently,asthereportingpracticescontinuetheoverflowsdonotresultinreframing.Thismaybe duetothefactthattheoverflowsdonotproduceheatedsituations;thepoliticaldebatetherefore remainsunresolvedandtheaccountabilityinnovationsbecamepartofresourceallocationpoliticsin whichthemorepowerfulinstitutionsinfluencingdecisionsaboutbudgetsbecametheprimary audienceratherthanthecitizensorotherstakeholders.Theactivenetworkactorseffectively managetheoverflowsandthereforethereportingprocessremainsstable.Althoughtheemergence oftheaccountabilityinnovationcanbeseenasameansofstabilizingdemocracy,theoperationof thereformprovidesasenseofreinforcedmanagerialcontrol(ChristensenandSkrbk,2007,p. 126).Asaconsequenceoftheframingactivitythecentralagenciesbecamemoreindispensable. TheaccountabilityinnovationsareillustrationsofanadvancementofNewPublicManagement (Hood,1995),amovementthatadvancedtheideasofinstitutionaleconomicsthroughinvestments inaccountingandperformancemanagement.Asthestudyshowshowinstitutionsinfluencing economicdecisionmakingmanagetostayincontrol,keepingtheframesofexistingcalculative agenciesandtheirinteractionpatternsstableandpreventingthemfromtheinclusionofoverflows resultingfromdemocraticpowers,thestudymaybeseenassupportiveoftheperformativitythesis. Itshowshowtheinteractionforthemainpartexcludescitizenry.Itisanillustrationofthe performativityofNewPublicManagement,amanagerialdiscoursewhichisrelatedtoneo institutionaleconomicsthinking.Theaccountabilityinnovationsprovetoadvancetheneoclassical anthropology.Whethertheinnovationswillbepersistentacrosstimeandwhethertheframing effectsarefirstanendeavorandlateranachievement(asCallonclaims)remainsanopenquestion. Aslongastheoverflowsremaincoldanddonotprovokeconcernedgroupstoresistagainstthe innovationpracticesthesituationwillnotchange.Although,asChristensenandSkrbk(2007)do, thesuccessoftheframingmaybeseenasanecessaryinvestmenttoconfirmourbeliefsin parliamentarismandthusindemocracy(andthusexceedsthecharacterofceremonies),itisalsoan accountoftheperformativity,ofthesuccessoftheideologyofNPM. WhileChristensenandSkrbk(2007)addressasituationinwhichtheoverflowshardlyproduce mattersofconcernwithotherstakeholdersandthusdonotsignificantlyresultinreframing, SkrbkandTryggestad(2010)investigateasituationinwhichoverflowsdoproducesuchmatters 16

ofconcern.Theyaddressframingandoverflowwithinacompanythatfacedmajorchangesinits environmentandmarket:theFerryDivision(since1995knownasScandlines)oftheDanish governmentownedrailwaycompanyDSB.Theirworkprovidesanswerstoquestionsregarding activerolesofaccountinginformulatinganadaptivestrategy.Itisillustratedhowaccountingisnot aninstrumentinthehandsofhumanstoimproveanefficientimplementationofstrategy,butisan actantthatcreatesstrategyandstrategicactors.SkrbkandTryggestad(2010)showhowa strategynottoliquidatetheFerryDivisionbuttofurtherdevelopitismutuallyconstitutedby accountingdevices.Strategyandstrategicactorsareconstitutedinadoublemovementofframing andoverflow.Ontheonehand,theaccountingdevicesintheformofbudgetsandbalancesheets createframes:takenforgrantedboundarieswithinwhichactorsinteract.Theyarethusformativein (re)creatingstrategyandstrategicactors.Ontheotherhand,asitisimpossiblefortheaccounting framestointernalizeeveryinterestinthestrategicdecisionmakingprocess,theaccountingframes createoverflows.Forexample,theresponsibilityaccountingsystemcreatedoverflowsbecausethe interestsofthecaptainsoftheshipswereimproperlyincluded.Thecaptainsdidnotacceptthe responsibilitythatwasinscribedintheresponsibilityaccountingsystembecausetheroleofcaptain calledfortheprofessionalskillsincommandingandnavigatingshipsandthecaptainsdefinedtheir roleinthoseterms(SkrbkandTryggestad,2010,p.116)insteadofintermsofaneconomic agent.Their(professional)interestsandviewswerethusexcludedfromtheresponsibility accountingframe.Thisproducedoverflowsintermsofemergingconcernsandresistance.The captainswereanemergingconcernedgroup(Callon,2007b)thatmobilizedmaritimelawtodefend itsprofessionalposition.Unexpectedly,thecaptainsemergedasstrategicactorsthatwereoutside theoriginalstrategiccenter.Theoverflowsthattheyproducedwerehotandtheaccounting expertshadtodealwiththem,andhadtoreframetheaccountingdevices(theresponsibility accountingsystem).Indoingso,theaccountingdevicesdidnotstayfaithfultotheCEObutalso shapedidentitiesofotherstrategicactors(i.ecaptains). SkrbkandTryggestadsstudyanalysestheframing,overflowandreframingofstrategizingwithin apublicorganization.Itillustrateshowtheframingthroughaccountingdevicestriggersmattersof concern.Throughframing,overflowingandreframingaccountingisperformativeincreating calculabilityandinbringingbehaviouralassumptionsfromeconomictheoryintolife.Thepaper convincinglyshowshowstrategizingischaracterizedbybothdisentanglement(throughframing)and entanglement(throughoverflow),bybothdetachmentandattachment.Indoingsoitissupportive ofCallonsargumentthatdisentanglementandentanglementhavetobetakentogether.However, thepaperalsoillustratesafailureofshapingthecaptainsintopurelyeconomicmen;theyeffectively resistedtobecomeresponsibleagentsinthesenseofinstitutionaleconomicstheory. Whenaddressingthequestionwhysomeideasturnintostrategieswhenothersdonot,Whittle andMueller(2010)showhowmanagementaccountingsystemsactasanobligatorypointof passage(Callon,1986).Theirfindingsshowhowmanagementaccountingsystemsareimplicatedin theconstructionofaddedvalueandhowthisaffectstheconstructionofstrategicideas.They arguethataccountingnumbershavepowerbecausetheyarepresentedasifthenumbersare independentoftheinterestsofthosewhoproduceanduseit(Roberts,1991,p.359).The numbersarepresentedasiftheyaretheresultofaneutralapplicationoftoolsandtechnologiesthat connectsthemtoarealityoutthere.Theyarethealliesoftopmanagersthatimplicitlyactas spokesmenofneoclassicaleconomics;accountingnumbersthushavepowerbecauseofasuccessful performationofeconomics.TopmanagementconsideredMAStobeaneutralarbiterof 17

organizationaltruth(Roberts,1991,p.355);totopmanagementMASprovidedafaithful representationofvalueaddingactivity.Topmanagementthoughtofthemanagementaccounting systemasafaithfulallyintheprocessofstrategyformulation.Atthesametime,theconsultants werecombattingthesystem.Thenumberswerenotontheirsideandconstructedtheiridentities andsignificanceasmarginal.Themanagementaccountingsystemtreatedthegroupofconsultants asacostcoveringunitwhiletheconsultantswereconvincedthattheygeneratedprofitforthefirm inthelongrun,somethingthatwasnotvisibleinthemanagementaccountingsystem.Their economicconsequencestothefirmwereplacedinacategoryconsultingincomefromfees.The participatingconsultantsthusviewedthemanagementaccountingsystemasunfaithfulandunfairin measuringthecontributionmadebytheirunits.Apparently,intermsofCallontheinterestsand viewsoftheconsultantswereexamplesofoverflows.Theconsultantsfeltdissatisfiedandtookup effortstochangetheexistingaccountingregime.WhittleandMueller(2010)showthepolitically ladenbattlesintheprocessofgeneratingtherightnumbers,numbersthatspeakthetruthabout thevalueofvariouscorporateactivities(p.641).Theyshowhowthepoliticaltacticsofan entrepreneurialgroupofconsultantscametochallengenormallyinvisibleMAStobecomevisibleand opentoquestion,atleasttemporarily.However,theconsultantsdidnotwinthebattle.The consultants(orstrategistsinthewild)failedtopassthroughtheobligatorypassagepoint(Callon, 1986)oftheaccountingregime;thenumbersprovedtobemorepowerfulthantheconsultants narrativesindefiningthestrategicagendaofthefirm.Inotherwords,thepoliticallyladenbattles didnotleadtoareframingofthemanagementaccountingsystem;thetacticsemployedbythoseon theperipherywerenotstrongenoughtoestablishtheirownobligatorypassagepoint.Apparently, thecognitiveboundariesthemanagementaccountingsystemproducedwerenotredrawn.The powerstrugglesdidnotresultinaninclusionoflongterminterestsastheywereexpressedbythe groupofconsultants.Themanagementaccountingsystemcontinuestoperformeconomicsinthe sensethatitcontinuestoencouragedecisionsandactionsthatareprofitableintheshortterm.The powerstrugglesdidnotleadtoaproliferationofthesocial,nordidtheyresultinaninclusioninthe managementaccountingsystemofpotential(uncertain)longtermbenefitsforthefirm. Instrumentalrationalityasitsupportedtopmanagementspositionwasnotsuccessfullycontested. Themanagementaccountingsystemremainedtobesuccessfulinperformingeconomics. Thestudydemonstrateshowinstrumentalrationalityandcalculabilityasitisessentialinneo classicaleconomicssurvivespowerstruggles,andcontinuestobepresentinthefirmthroughthe cognitiveboundariesthatmanagementaccountingsystemsproduce. Conclusionsanddiscussion Thereviewedstudiesinaccountingandaccountabilityrevealthataccountingnotsimplyrepresents (for)something,isnotsimplyamirror,butiscreatedasarepresentation.Moreover,itrepresents andintervenesatthesametime;representationandinterventionareentangled.Accountingproves tobeperformative.Allreviewedstudiessupportthisclaim.Thestudiesrevealhowaccounting createscalculabilityinstrategicandoperationalpracticesinmarketsandorganizationsandhowit maychangewhoandwhatcounts.Howaccountingcreatesandsustainsmarketrelationshipsand feedstheillusionofrationalindividualbehaviour(RobertsandJones,2009);howthecreation(or framing)ofperformanceindicatorsandmeasuresmaychangeprofessionalpracticesthrough materializationsintheformofinscriptionsandcomputersinthenameofefficiencyand 18

accountability(Keeversetal,2012);howtheframingofaccountabilitypracticesmeantforabroader audiencemaymakethepresentnetworkactors,thefunders,moreindispendable(Christensenand Skrbk,2007);howaccountingproducescalculabilityframesthatshapestrategiesandthattrigger mattersofconcern,thusgivingshapetonewstrategicactors(SkrbkandTryggestad,2010);how managementaccountingsystemsareimplicatedintheconstructionofaddedvalueandhowthis affectstheconstructionofstrategicideas(WhittleandMueller,2010).Inallcases,accountingis performative,notonlyinthesensethatitcreatesrepresentations,butalsointhesensethatit mediatesbetweenactorsandactants.Itisnotjustperformativeinthesensethatitisinthehandsof prieststhat,throughdiscursivestrategies,trytoconvinceothersthattheaccounting representationsreflecta(desired)reality,butthroughdiscursivematerialpracticesand materializationsitintervenesintheconstructionofactionsandactors.Assuch,thereviewedstudies aresupportiveofCallonsclaimthattheperformativityofeconomicsisnotthesimpleresultof discoursesthatreflectcertainideologies,valuesandbeliefs,butofpowerstrugglesinconcrete contingentnetworksinwhicheconomicsandaccountingareengaged.Suchstrugglesmayindeed leadtoamultiplicationoftranslations.Insofarasideologies,valuesandbeliefsmattereditwas throughmaterializationsintheformoftextsandinscriptionsratherthantopriesthood. Asanactorinthenetwork,accountingnotonlyturnsabsenceintopresence,helpsturning theoreticalstatementsintoexistence,butisalsoengagedinthetransformationofalreadyexisting presence,asisshownbythesrudiesofKeeversetal,(2012)andSkrbkandTryggestad(2010). Moreover,asshownbyRobertsandJones(2009)itmaybeactiveinturningpresenceintoabsence. ThroughastrongemphasisonreproducingasenseofSelfthatresemblesHomoEconomicusinter institutionalnetworksandrelationships(interests)wererenderedlargelyinvisiblebyaccounting. Moreover,formsofmoralhazardwereobscured.Here,accountingseemstoproduceexclusion ratherthaninclusion;rarifiedinteractionratherthanaproliferationofthesocial.Therefore,Roberts andJones(2009)offeraverystrongdemonstrationoftheclaimsintheperformativitythesis. Accountingsmediatingroleisrelatedtotheintensitywithwhichoverflowsentailareframing activity.Dependingonwhethertherearestrategistsinthewild(Callon,1998)accountingmay enhance(RobertsandJones,2009;Keeverset.al,2012)orhinder(SkrbkandTryggestad,2010) instrumentalrationalityandrarefactionofinteractionpatterns.InthecaseoftheFerrydivision decisionmakingonstrategytakesthedirectionofatotalizingaffairasdescribedbyMiller(2002), yetsuchtotalizingoccursthroughdialecticprocessesofdisentanglementandentanglement.Here, theissuesatstakearehotandinducepoliticalreactionstotheaccountingframesbydifferent actors.Thisimpliesaproliferationofthesocial,andaninclusionofinterestsofothers.However,this doesnotonlyleadtoanincreaseofcalculativeagencieswithintheorganization.Asexemplifiedby thecaptainsdefendingtheirprofessionalstatusthebehavioralassumptionsofinstitutional economicsarenotalwaysbroughtintolife;thecaptainsrefusetotaketheshapeofHomo Economicus.Ontheotherhand,inthecaseofthefinancialmarkets(RobertsandJones,2009) calculativeagenciesaredistributed,andrarifiedtransactionsareframedinteraliaonthebasisof statementsfromfinancetheory.Overflowsareobscured;thisisportrayedasoneofthereasonsfor theultimateemergenceofthefinancialcrisis. Towardsapoliticalontologyofmanagementaccounting InCallonsperformativitythesisthefocusisontheperformationof(institutional)economics.Miller andPowerfurtheranalyzetherelationshipbetweenorganizing,accountingandeconomics(Miller andPower,2013).FromtheirviewsCallonisticswouldpointtoaparticularwaythroughwhich 19

accounting,organizingandeconomizingcouldbeclaimedtobemutuallyconstitutive.Theyextend thenotionofmediationbyidentifyingfourrolesofaccounting:territorializing,mediating, adjudicatingandsubjectivizing.Accountinghelpsterritorializinginthesensethatitrecursively producesthecalculativespacesinwhichthereisrarifiedinteractionbetweencalculativeagencies; accountingmediatesbetweeneconomicsandgoaldirectedefficientbehaviourbycalculativeagents. Itlinksupdifferentactorsandspaceswithstatementsfromeconomictheory.Accounting adjudicatesbyevaluating,rewardingandpunishingcalculativeagencies,andbydeterminingfailings andfailures.Initsstrongestsense,accountingsubjectivizesinthesensethatithelpsproducingHomo Economicusversion2.0. However,inspecificnetworksaccountingmayalsobeperformative(thatis,itmayalsoterritorialize, mediate,adjudicateandsubjectivize)inmanydifferentways.Asthereisamultiplicityofpractices theremaybeconcretecontingentnetworkswhereinstitutionaleconomicsislessperformativewhile competingtheoriesaremoreperformative.Forexample,theremaybesocietalpracticesthatdonot constructanagentasitisrepresentedininstitutionaleconomics(inCallonstermsHomo Economicusversion2.0),butasteward(Davisetal.,1997).iiiToactornetworktheoryresearchersit mightbeachallengetoenactsuchpracticesandnetworks,andthus,tohelpaccentuatingand developingsociotechnicalarrangementsofstewardshipratherthatcalculativeagencies.Similarto agents,stewardstakeshapeasaconsequenceoftheirrelationswithothers,bothhumansand otherthanhumans,anditmightbeachallengetoaccountingacademicstoenacttheactornetwork ofasteward,and,thus,tonarrate(Czarniawska,2009)stewardship.Forinstance,SegalandLehrer (2012),throughacasestudyoftheEdmontonPublicSchools,exploretheextenttowhich stewardshipcanbeinstitutionalized.Itwouldbeinterestingtoexploretheperformativityof stewardshiptheoryintheshapingofstewardsandtheirinteractionpatterns. Thechoiceforsucharesearchprojectwouldbeapoliticalone.Politicsthen,isconnectedtothe topicandisnotanessenceinitself.Itisintheknowledgeprocess.Itisconnectedtochoicesofand intheenactmentofconcretemultiplecontingentnetworksthroughwhichforinstanceeducation (andrelatedissuesofaccountingandaccountability)ispracticed.AccountsbasedonCallonisticsare ontologicallypolitical;therealisimplicatedinthepoliticalandviceversa.Thingsmightalwaysbe otherwise(Law,2008).Inactornetworktheorythereisaburningdesiretohavenewentities detected,welcomedandgivenashelter(Latour,2005,p.224). Myclaimwouldbethatactornetworktheory(and,thusCallonistics)maybecomecriticallyengaged withaccountingandmanagementbyenactingmultiplepracticesandbydefendingthatsome practicesaremorefavourablethanothers.Thishasalreadybeendoneoutsidethefieldof accounting,forinstanceinstudiesofhealthcare(Mol,2008)andanimalfeeding(LawandMol, 2008).Althoughnotexplicitlytakinganactornetworktheoryapproach,intheaccountingfield Vaiviohasdemonstratedhowsystematicperformancemanagement(thequantifiedcustomer) becameperformativeinanoninstrumentalwaybyrevealingtheimportanceoftacitknowledgeof salespeople(Vaivio,1999).Morestudiesmightbeconductedthatenactbothinstrumental accountability(oraccountabilityastransparency;Roberts(2009)),therebydemonstratingthe performativityofinstitutionaleconomics,andmoreintelligent(Roberts,2009)andrelational accountability,therebydemonstratingtheperformativityofothertheories.Next,acomparison betweenthesestudiescouldthenparticularlyfocusonthedifferentwaysthroughwhichaccounting territorializes,mediates,adjudicatesandsubjectivizes(MillerandPower,2013)inthesedifferent settings.Moreover,byparticularlyhelpingtoenactintelligentandrelationalpracticesof accountability,researchmightservetoredressanalltoextremeperformativityofinstitutional 20

economicsthatresultsinaselffullfillingprophecyofopportunisticbehaviour(GhoshalandMoran, 1996;Ferreiraetal.,2005)andotherpernicioussocietalconsequences(Chua,2011).Indoingso, accountingresearchershelptomakesomereality(i.e.arealityofrelationalaccountabilityand stewardship)morereal,whilesimultaneouslymakingtherealityofinstrumentalaccountabilityand calculativeagencieslessreal.ThiswouldevengobeyondacallbyQuattronethat


especiallyinthesehistoricmomentswhenthefailureofideasoftransparency,representationandstabilityofthenature oforganizations,economicsandsocietyissoclearandthereisthusaneedforacontinuousquestioningoftheassumptions thatgeneratetheoriesinaccounting,financeandeconomicsacademicsmayhavetheimportantroleanddifficulttaskof showingwhatseemsnormalinadifferentlight(Quattrone,2009,p.628).

Acriticalengagementwithmanagementaccountingissuesfromanactornetworktheoryperspective notonlyshowspresenceindifferentlights,butalsorepresentsdifferentrealitiesascreations. Inshort,futureresearchmightunderscorethepoliticsinmanagementaccounting.Suchpoliticsare notlocatedinaseparatesphereandarenotpriortopractices,butcomethroughinconcrete practicesindispersedsocialmaterialnetworks.Ratherthanbeingtranscendentexplanantiafor managementaccountingthepoliticshavetobeexplained,theyaretheexplananda.Researchinto thepoliticsofmanagementaccountingunderscoreshowthe(calculative)agenciesoragencements arenotnaturalordestiny,buthowtheybecomeassembledincomplexpracticesinwhichhumans andotherthanhumansareentangled.Theresearchrepresentshowaccountingasitisentangled withotheractorsterritorializes,mediates,adjudicatesandsubjectivises(MillerandPower,2013)in concretecontingentnetworks.Suchnetworkscontainelementsthatmayresidebothinsideor outsideafocalorganizationoranorganizationalrelationship;theycrossboundaries.Theresearch accountsfortheperformativityofinstitutionaleconomicsaswellasfortheperformativityofother theories.Ithighlightsthatboththegoodandthebadaremadeupinmultiplepracticesanditcan servetounderminethebadandtounderscorethegoodbyenactingandcomparingspecificlocal practices,thushelpingtochangestatesofaffaires.Indoingso,apoliticalontologyofmanagement accountingwouldbedevelopedthatacknowledgesthataccountingisnotanessenceinitself,but canonlyexistinprocessesofknowinginnetworksandisinpolitics.Thispoliticalontologyshould alsobesensitiveforthenotionthatconcretecontingentnetworksareinimmanence,thusalso illuminatingthatvirtualandunlocalizablehistoricallydevelopingsystemsofideologyandpowerare underlyingtheworkingofnetworks. Thispoliticalontologyofmanagementaccountingmighthelpinchangingstatesofaffairsinsociety.

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Scholarsdifferastohowtheytheorizethestatusofnonhumanagencyrelativetohumanagency.Forinstance Callon(1986)andLatour(2005)posittheseagenciestobesymmetrical;bothhumansandotherthanhumans aresymmetricalinthesensethattheyarebothmadetoactbymanyothers.Theotherthanhumansarenot simplyinthehandsofhumans.Othersseehumansandotherthanhumansasinterwined(Pickering1995)or entangled(Suchman,2007).Thebasicpointisthatotherthanhumans(forinstanceaccounting)havean impactinconcretesociomaterialnetworks. ii CallonborrowsthetermfromDeleuzeandGuattari(1998). iii ThisisconsistentwithasuggestionbyCallon(2007)toincludetheissueofhowtheanthropologyof economicsisconstantlyconfrontedwithother,equallyperformative,anthropologicalprograms(2007,p.347) intheresearchagenda.
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