The gendered nature of valuation: Valuing life in the Titanic compensation claims process

Ingrid Jeacle*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

The sinking of the Titanic has captured the public imagination for over a century. A tragic tale of man’s powerlessness over nature, it has served as a lesson in hubris that has been dramatized in film and immortalised in popular culture. Following the disaster, relatives of the deceased lodged compensation claims against the White Star Line (registered owners of the Titanic). In these compensation claims for loss of life we witness the monetary commensuration of life. For the accounting scholar, therefore, the Titanic story offers an opportunity to contribute to the growing body of research in the area of valuation; in particular, it facilitates an understanding of the valuing of human life. Drawing on the history of life assurance and compensation legislation in both the UK and US, the paper argues that by the time of the Titanic disaster in 1912, an accounting constellation (Burchell et al, 1995) had been formed which established an equivalence between the value of a life and economic earning power. However, while this earnings based model determined the value of men lost in the tragedy, it failed to commensurate the lives of women and children. Rather emotion and sentiment arising from the high profile nature of the disaster appeared to allow for a plurality of other valuations to emerge that ruptured the pre-configured constellation and challenged the linear trajectory of the economic model. As such, Titanic was a “valuation event” which severely disrupted the existing gendered assemblage. The contribution of this paper therefore is to recognise the gendered nature of valuation and to appreciate the impact of such gender bias on the practice of valuation.
Original languageEnglish
Article number101309
Number of pages16
JournalAccounting, Organizations and Society
Early online date20 Sep 2021
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 20 Sep 2021

Keywords

  • commensuration
  • compensation
  • gender
  • Titanic
  • valuation
  • value

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