The power of language in legitimating public-sector reforms: when politicians "talk" accounting

Mariannunziata Liguori, Ileana Steccolini

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8 Citations (Scopus)
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Language can play an essential role in shaping how accounting reforms and the information around them are communicated and legitimated. However, scant consideration has been given to study what happens when politicians are the decision makers of accounting changes. This paper explores the political use of language by investigating how the Members of Parliament discuss about public-sector accounting reforms, and deploy different rhetorical strategies to legitimate or de-legitimate them. Through the analysis of Italian parliamentary debates in the 1990s and 2000s, this study highlights how the use of language can facilitate the exercise of power by deploying arguments rhetorically dominated by authorisation and moralisation strategies. The rhetorical arguments brought forward allow politicians to disguise their loss of power in favour of the European Union, depicting their actions and proposals as necessary and/or in favour of the public interest.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)161-173
JournalThe British Accounting Review
Issue number2
Early online date21 Sep 2017
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2018


  • public-sector accounting reforms
  • legitimation strategies
  • politicians
  • central government

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