Accounting for crime in the neoliberal world

Alessandro S. Ala, Irvine Lapsley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

This paper examines the recent European public sector accounting reform which introduces controversial calculative practices for the recognition of criminal activities in national accounts. Namely, accounting for unlawful drug production and drug trafficking, and accounting for prostitution. Challenging the presumption of accounting neutrality, this study analyses this “accounting for crime” policy from a semantic and an epistemological view point as a cognitive system of creation of meaning and formation of knowledge. The analysis reveals the polyhedrality of neoliberalism, and the way it exerts its influence on society through its circuitous discursive process of social construction and transfiguration of reality which flows crosswise its multiple dimensions. At the macro level this policy operates as a ‘hegemonic project’: It bonds together the economic and political interests of different ‘historical blocs’, making the implementation of these practices a matter of ‘common sense’. At the micro level this policy functions as an ‘apparatus of governmentality’: It encapsulates the cognition of crime within a panoptic logic of economic rationality, transforming its outcome into a contributory value of a country's prosperity. In this context, this study outlines the centrality of accounting practice as a pivotal tool of the neoliberal ideology: It permits extending the realm of calculative methodologies to the commodification of human weaknesses, addictions, and sexuality, in a rational process of accounting to balance the supply and demand of sex and drugs, between prostitutes and clients, pushers and addicts.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages22
JournalBritish Accounting Review
Issue number5
Early online date5 Aug 2019
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2019

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • government accounting
  • crime
  • accounting neutrality
  • ideology
  • neoliberalism and accounting
  • neoliberal discourse
  • hegemony
  • governmentality


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