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Governmentality and counter-conduct : a field study of accounting amidst concurrent and competing rationales and programmes.

Ahrens, T. and Ferry, L. and Khalifa, R. (2020) 'Governmentality and counter-conduct : a field study of accounting amidst concurrent and competing rationales and programmes.', Management accounting research., 48 . p. 100686.


This paper contributes to the diverse and growing stream of accounting research on Foucault’s notion of counter-conduct, which is broadly concerned with the uses of accounting in the development of alternative ways of governing. Its key problematic lies in the roles that accounting can play in the intertwining of particular practices of governing, for instance, by underpinning practices that facilitate political campaigning, making specific policy choices, and creating new administrative arrangements. We illustrate our argument with some of the ways in which Newcastle City Council (NCC) used accounting to manoeuvre between the programmes of localism, centralism, devolution, austerity, and marketisation to develop novel forms of counter-conduct in response to austerity funding cuts. We show how accounting was used to underpin a multi-facetted counter-conduct that sought to profile itself locally and nationally against austerity as a highly visible and controversial programme of government. However, accounting also served to undermine NCC’s own counter-conduct, for example, through its engagement with longer established programmes, such as marketisation, and by rationalising the council’s administrative responses of austerity cuts.

Item Type:Article
Full text:(AM) Accepted Manuscript
Available under License - Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial No Derivatives.
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Publisher statement:© 2020 This manuscript version is made available under the CC-BY-NC-ND 4.0 license
Date accepted:27 January 2020
Date deposited:03 February 2020
Date of first online publication:11 February 2020
Date first made open access:11 February 2022

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