chapter  12
39 Pages

Accounting practitioners, work and organisations

WithDavid J. Cooper, Keith Robson, Chiara Bottausci

In this chapter we focus on one crucial site of accounting practice: the multinational professional service firms (the Big 4), and the historical studies that have examined their emergence and development. We identify six characteristic contributions of these histories and point out their strengths and limitations. First, most histories serve as celebrations of individual firms, practitioners and the service of the audit function. Second, clients are presented as the motor force in the growth and characteristics of the multinational firms. The third theme is the contribution of elite practitioners to the development of the accounting profession. Fourth, histories recount the spread of practitioners and accounting knowledge across geographical space. The fifth theme is the account of the nature of the practice of accounting firms – from bankruptcy, to audit, to management consultancy. Lastly, the histories account for the formal organisational structures of the firms. Later in the chapter we offer several suggestions for further research on firm histories: histories as managed organisations, the experience and practices of work, the firms’ role as cultural and political actors, and histories of firms as agents of imperialism.