Accounting and popular culture:
framing a research agenda
University of Edinburgh Business School, Edinburgh, UK
Purpose – The objective of this paper is to recognize the richness in exploring the inter-linkages
between accounting and popular culture. Such an investigation should reap returns in not only
furthering an understanding of accounting, but also the ways and means in which notions of
accountability and audit permeate our everyday lives. In addition, it attempts to capture the signiﬁcant
transformative inﬂuence of accounting, and calculative practices more generally, in the actual shaping
of the contours of the cultural context. Finally, it brieﬂy introduces the six papers in this AAAJ special
Design/methodology/approach – The paper draws on literature from the ﬁelds of both accounting
and cultural studies to set out a theoretically informed framework for the future examination of the
myriad ways in which accounting is entwined with the popular.
Findings – The paper argues a case for the study of accounting within the domain of popular culture,
proposes two theoretical lenses from which to examine the inter-linkages between these two
disciplines, and presents a diverse range of research possibilities for further scholarly inquiry in the
Originality/value – Traditionally regarded as trivial and unworthy of academic attention, research
into the regular rituals that pervade the everyday is now a legitimate ﬁeld of scholarly inquiry among
social and cultural theorists. Accounting researchers, however, have remained relatively aloof from
this general trend, preferring to seek solace in the sphere of the corporation rather than the coffee shop.
This paper is novel in that it attempts to broaden the scope of accounting scholarship into the new
domain of popular culture.
Keywords Accounting and popular culture, Audit society, Calculative practices, Everyday life,
Governmentality, Popular culture, Accounting
Paper type Conceptual paper
1. Introduction: why study accounting and popular culture?
The subject of popular culture has remained remarkably unexplored by accounting
researchers. This situation persists despite the colossal commercial signiﬁcance of the
ﬁeld; think for example, of the revenues garnered from reality television shows such as
Big Brother. Perhaps one of the rationales for such neglect is the aura of triviality
which appears to surround the space populated by the popular. While now a
recognised domain of intellectual pursuit (Schudson, 1987), popular culture initially
suffered from a distinctly downbeat reputation. The very components of popular
culture were blatantly low brow, the pursuits of the masses. This perception, of course,
The current issue and full text archive of this journal is available at
The author would like to thank the Editors of AAAJ, James Guthrie and Lee Parker, for their
support and encouragement of this special issue. In addition, it is important to record an
appreciation for the insightful contributions to the ﬁeld made by the contributing authors of the
issue. The valuable comments of the reviewers of this paper are also gratefully acknowledged.
& Accountability Journal
Vol. 25 No. 4, 2012
q Emerald Group Publishing Limited