A thanatopolitical visualisation of accounting history: Giorgio Agamben and Nazi Germany

Publication Name

Accounting History


The extensive measures taken to destroy a people are facilitated by a complex matrix of interrelated actors and practices, yet there remains an underdeveloped implication of accounting in the wider moral and political imperatives. The purpose of this article is to introduce a thanatopolitical visualisation of accounting history adapted from the work of Giorgio Agamben and Michel Foucault. The theoretical triptych implicates business and accounting in the State-sanctioned financial, political and actual deaths of people. Through reference to Nazi Germany (1933–1945) and the companies Deutsche Bank and Ford Werke, the utility of the theoretical device is illustrated, and silences in accounting are given exposure through alternative accounts. Adopting a close-reading method, the peripheral yet integral role of accounting helped conceal the human cost of thanatopolitical ideology. Beyond the Holocaust example, this triptych is relevant for the exploration of other instances of thanatopolitics, such as war, natural disasters and pandemics.

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