Year

2017

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Department

School of Accounting, Economics and Finance

Abstract

The Political Economy of Accounting and the 2003 Iraq War is concerned with the relationship between accounting technology and the bread and butter question for empires, their exercising of unrestricted power. The preservation of a global hegemonic empire necessitates the maintenance of a polarised existence between the hegemon and the rest of the world. This necessitates the capacity to exercise far-reaching forms of power, and indicates the presence of a plethora of subservient technologies. This thesis is concerned with confirming the scope and extent of the roles of accounting technology within imperial power exertions.

The thesis utilises the case study of the exertion of powers by the United States upon Iraqi space, known as the 2003 Iraq War, as it offers a distinct modern-day illustration of multiple applications of imperial powers. The 2003 Iraq War involved the waging of an illegal and globally unpopular pre-emptive war, as well as an invasion, occupation and attempted radical economic and socio-geopolitical ‘de-territorialisation’ and ‘reterritorialisation’ of Iraq. Accounting’s roles and contributions within the stages of planning, execution and management of this project are of primary focus so as to confirm that accounting can be an enabling force for power: it is embedded in political, economic and cultural complexities the most fundamental dynamics of which revolve around the acquisition and execution of power for the sake of dominant interests.

Whilst mainstream research portrays accounting as a mundane, value-free calculative practice that is ultimately concerned with the science of quantitative efficiency, this thesis applies the critical approach to accounting research to question mainstream assumptions and, instead, to demonstrate the political inherence and interested nature of accounting. More specifically, it utilises Tinker’s (1980) Political Economy of Accounting (PEA) method of investigation because PEA recognises that an interpretation of the economic realm is incomplete in the absence of an understanding of the social and political contexts within which it operates. PEA underscores accounting’s interested nature: that accounting operates within a wider environment of structures and institutions within which economic, social and political forces interact and interplay. Since PEA adopts this conflict model of society, it acknowledges the existence of dominant interests that exert dominant influence so as to realise dominant control over the majority of society. Therefore, PEA concedes that accounting is a socially contested and constructed technology that can be manipulated so as to exert diverse forms of power; power is at the forefront of PEA’s approach to accounting research. In addition, this thesis examines the historical geography of capitalism (Harvey, 1985, 1998, 2001, 2004, 2005a, 2007a) and its interplay with accounting technologies through space and time so as to provide an understanding of the rich intersections between capitalism, accounting and space. This novel fusion is referred to as the capitalism’s accountings of space concept, and its propositions are utilised as guiding parameters of investigation throughout the thesis. Accordingly, this thesis is a trans-disciplinary mode of investigation that utilises historical interpretations to situate accounting technology within the broader social, economic and political contexts within which it operates in imperial projects.

The findings of this thesis confirm that, far from being a neutral, value-free mechanism for decision-making, the allocation of resources and the realisation of efficiency goals, accounting is a partial language and an interested tool that is appropriated to further the interests of dominant political and economic groups. Accounting was not an objective element within the United States’ power exertions upon Iraqi space; rather it was an essential and subservient instrument. This thesis demonstrates that accounting, accountability, budgeting and auditing mechanisms were used strategically for the benefit of elitist interests that not only opposed the interests of the majority Iraqi population but also, afforded adverse repercussions to the rest of the world. This thesis will display the power relations that the US’s intervention brought into effect, including powers of subjugation and oppression that contributed to and fuelled indigenous resistance, and will also demonstrate accounting’s roles in the dispossession and exploitation of Iraq. Most significantly, knowledge of the applications of accounting within the contexts of socio-ecopolitical polarisation, death, destruction and despair provides the means to illuminate the far-reaching and dire potentials of accounting, thereby facilitating for emancipatory change.

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