chapter  2
Calculating corporate failure
ByPeter Miller, Michael Power
Pages 26

Corporate failure has neither the objectivity nor the immutability often attributed to it. Of course, it is possible to measure and chart the volume or rate of corporate failures, and this can be taken as an indication of recovery or decline for the economy as a whole. Moreover, the failure of individual companies clearly can have devastating consequences for individuals, families, and even entire towns and regions. But, important as these dimensions of corporate failure are, it is more than a given statistical event or personal experience. The intense criticisms of the financial report­ ing function that often follow major corporate failures frequently miss the point, in so far as such criticisms appeal to corporate profitability and asset strength as an underlying economic reality that has been hidden from view. The moment of corporate failure is more complex than such 'realist' appeals would suggest. For corporate failure is itself constituted out of an assem­ blage of calculative technologies, expert claims and modes of judgement. Accounting does not function here as a mirror that reflects an underlying economic reality, one that law has only to acknowledge and regulate. Rather, the calculative technologies of accounting provide financial norms around which complex processes of negotiation of domains and outcomes can take place.