Opening up the politics of standard setting through discourse theory: the case of IFRS for SMEs

Rebecca Warren, David Carter, Christopher Napier

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Purpose: This paper investigates an element of the internal politics of standard setting by reference to the International Accounting Standards Board’s [IASB] movement to the International Financial Reporting Standard for Small and Medium-Sized Entities [IFRS for SMEs]. We examine the politics of the IASB’s expertise in technocratic governance by focusing on how the IASB defined SMEs, gave the standard a title and issued a guide for micro-entities.
Methodology: Our narrative case study focuses on central ‘moments’ in the development of IFRS for SMEs. We employ Laclau and Mouffe’s condensation, displacement and overdetermination to illustrate embedded politics in articulating IFRS for SMEs.
Findings: We extend literature on the internal politics of standard setting, such as agenda setting, by examining the condensing of disagreements between experts and political pressures and processes into central decision moments in IFRS for SMEs. We illustrate these moments as overdetermined, manifesting in an act of displacement through the production of a micro-entity guide. This form of politics is hidden due to the IASB’s attempt to protect their technocratic neutrality through fixing meaning.
Originality/value: We make three contributions. First, overdetermination through condensation and displacement illustrates the embedded nature of politics in regulatory settings, such as the IASB. Second, we provide a theoretical explanation of the IASB’s movement from listed entities to IFRS for SMEs, drawing on Laclau and Mouffe. Third, we reinforce the necessity of interrogating the internal politics of standard setting to challenge claims of technocracy.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-28
Number of pages28
JournalAccounting, Auditing and Accountability Journal
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 23 Sept 2019


  • Condensation
  • Displacement
  • Overdetermination
  • IASB
  • IFRS for SMEs
  • Politics

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