Taking pluralism seriously:Embedded moralities in management accounting and control systems

Jesse Dillard, Robin Roslender

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

89 Citations (Scopus)


Professor Norman Macintosh has long been a leading, and at times a dissonant, voice in critical accounting studies, exhibiting an intellectual dexterity seldom encountered in the accounting academy. His work ranges from the application of traditional organizational theories within work organizations to poststructural renderings of capital market exigencies. Here, we consider and extend Professor Macintosh's work contemplating the morality embedded within, and propagated by, management accounting and control systems (macs). We begin with Macintosh (1995) employing structuration theory in investigating the ethics of profit manipulation within large, decentralized corporations. The work highlights the fundamental dialectical contradictions within these work organizations, demonstrates the indeterminacy of traditional ethical reasoning, and shows the extent to which macs provide legitimating underpinnings for management action. We propose to extend the conversation using the tools provided in Macintosh's subsequent work: a Levinasian ethic (Macintosh et al., 2009), and heteroglossic accounting (Macintosh, 2002)—both emerging from his poststructuralist predilections. A Levinasian perspective provides an ontologically grounded ethic, and heteroglossic accounting calls for multiple accountings representing alternative moral voices. A critical dialogic framework is proposed as a theoretic for imagining heteroglossic accounting that takes pluralism seriously by recognizing the reality of irresolvable differences and asymmetric power relationships associated with assorted moral perspectives.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)135–147
Number of pages13
JournalCritical Perspectives on Accounting
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2011


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