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Accounting for Control of Italian Culture in the Fascist Ethical State: The Alla Scala Opera House

Bigoni, M., Funnell, Warwick N., Deidda Gagliardo, E., Pierotti, M. (2021) Accounting for Control of Italian Culture in the Fascist Ethical State: The Alla Scala Opera House. Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal, 34 (1). pp. 194-222. ISSN 0951-3574. (doi:10.1108/AAAJ-09-2019-4186) (KAR id:83436)

Abstract

Purpose - The study focuses on the complex interaction between ideological beliefs, culture and accounting by identifying during Benito Mussolini’s time in power the contributions of accounting to the Italian Fascist repertoire of power in the cultural domain. It emphasises the importance of accounting in making the Alla Scala Opera House in Milan a vital institution in the creation of a Fascist national culture and identity which was meant to define the Fascist ‘Ethical State’. Design/methodology/approach - The study adopts the Foucauldian concept of discourse in analysing the accounting practices of the Alla Scala Opera House. Findings - Financial statements and related commentaries prepared by the Alla Scala Opera House were not primarily for ensuring good management and the minimisation of public funding in contrast to the practices and expectations of accounting in liberal States. Instead, the dominant Fascist discourse shaped the content and use of accounting and ensured that accounting practices could be a means to construct the Opera House as a ‘moral individual’ that was to serve wider national interests consistent with the priorities of the Fascist Ethical State. Research implications - The study identifies how accounting can be mobilised for ideological purposes in different ways which are not limited to supporting discourses inspired by logics of efficiency and profit. The paper also draws attention to the contributions of accounting discourses in shaping the identity of an organisation consistent with the priorities of those who hold the supreme authority in a society. Social implications - The analysis of how the Fascist State sought to reinforce its power by making cultural institutions a critical part of this process provides the means to understand and unmask the taken-for-granted way in which discourses are created to promote power relations and related interests such as in the rise of far-right movements, most especially in weaker and more vulnerable countries today. Originality/value - Unlike most of the work on the relationship between culture and accounting which has emphasised liberal States, this study considers a non-liberal State and documents a use of accounting in the cultural domain which was not limited to promoting efficiency consistent with the priorities now recognised more recently of the New Public Management. It presents a micro-perspective on accounting as an ideological discourse by investigating the role of accounting in the exploitation of a cultural institution for political purposes.

Item Type: Article
DOI/Identification number: 10.1108/AAAJ-09-2019-4186
Uncontrolled keywords: Accounting, Ethical State, Discourse, Culture, State
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HF Commerce > HF5601 Accounting
Divisions: Faculties > Social Sciences > Kent Business School
Depositing User: Michele Bigoni
Date Deposited: 14 Oct 2020 10:01 UTC
Last Modified: 14 Jan 2021 13:55 UTC
Resource URI: https://kar.kent.ac.uk/id/eprint/83436 (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)
Bigoni, M.: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-5803-249X
Funnell, Warwick N.: https://orcid.org/0000-0003-3089-0908
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