ABS Accounting Research Seminars: Kalle Kraus (Stockholm School of Economics)
Accounting and passionate interests: The case of a Swedish football club
Emotion is an under-developed area of contemporary research in accounting. Influenced by the work of Tarde (1902) and the subsequent work by Latour and Lépinay (2009) and Latour (2013), this paper theorises organizations as a nexus of passionate interests, i.e., constituted by emoted interests that connect/hook actors, and analyses the connections between such interests and accounting. This approach focuses analytical attention on emotion as a relational phenomenon as distinct from an individualised phenomenon; the latter is more common in prior accounting research. Our empirical site is an elite Swedish football club. We show that accounting does not merely generate emotion, as has been assumed in prior work. Instead the deployment, meaning and mode of operation of accounting are impacted by passionate interests. In this case, violent behaviour on the part of spectators creates anxiety about game disruptions such that club management builds budgetary slack in order to avoid overspend. Also, financial and non-financial performance measures act as ‘value meters’ that quantify passionate interests and coordinate collective action. We follow the activities associated with the efforts of management to change a passionate interest in winning the league to achieving financial independence and stability. We also analyse the interest in winning local city-based derbies. This interest is quantified through a non-financial performance metric – the number of successive derbies not won – that crystallises the frustration and anger of fans. We explain that this performance measure matters more than other metrics because of the following. It is (a) simple and unambiguous, supporting existing research; (b) grounded in an enduring passionate interest that has historical roots and connects proximate communities; (c) embedded in and capable of travelling to diverse arenas of everyday life so as to enable emotional accretion. Through the provision of these insights, the paper adds to recent literature on: first, the inter-relationship between accounting and emotion; second, the operation and effects of public rankings as well as performance metrics more generally; and, third, the operation of accounting in sporting organisations.
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