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From the Science of Accounts to the Financial Accountability of Science

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  26 September 2008

Michael Power
Department of Accounting and FinanceThe London School of Economics and Political Science


This introductory essay describes some intellectual intersections between the history and sociology of science and the history and sociology of accounting. These intersections suggest a potential field of inquiry that concerns itself explicitly with science and economic calculation, a potential that is partly realized in the essays that follow. It is possible to describe a broad shift from concerns for the scientific credentials of accounting to a recognition of the constitutive role that accounting plays for science. In other words the so-called cultural hegemony of the scientist is giving way to that of the accountant. This shift has a number of loosely related but complementary elements. The first is to be found in some recent historical work that links ideals of scientific objectivity to administrative and political values. A second element is a body of work that is critical of theorydominant approaches to experiment and concerns itself with laboratory practice in social context. A third element is an emerging interest in the economics of science. I argue that such a program is weak where it abstracts from processes of economic calculation, and this suggests the fourth element: a contextual approach to economic calculation to be found in sociologically informed accounting research. In the light of these four elements, the essay concludes by considering directly the implications of accounting for science, particularly given recent initiatives to make science more accountable.

Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1994

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