Participation in budgeting: A critical anthropological approach

Alice Bryer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Accounting researchers adopting structural and post-structural interpretive approaches have long criticized mainstream assumptions about the enduring economic aspects of accounting systems, highlighting their roles in reflecting and shaping social realities that are contradictory, diverse, and changing. The paper aims to develop this critique by inquiring empirically and philosophically into the roles that constructing participation in budgeting might play in enhancing ‘ontological plurality’, that is, supporting actors’ perspectives, abilities and concerns which are generally excluded by structuring action to maximize private profits. It defines and elaborates a critical anthropological approach using Marx’s notion of ‘social praxis’ and Latour’s idea of ‘modes of existence’ to highlight the theoretical contribution of anthropologists exploring beyond traditional divides over social agency through studies of grassroots participative responses to contemporary socio-economic crises. Drawing on ethnographic data collected through a multiple site case study of eight worker cooperatives in Argentina, the paper analyses how reciprocal relations between the actors’ levels of agency in wider associative actions, and their degrees of participation in budgeting, caused gradual expansions in ontological plurality, moving the actors beyond their particular tensions and broader structural conflicts. Exploring the notion of ‘ontological movements’, the paper develops a continuum of participation and ontological pluralism in budgeting, which it argues contributes to the structural and post-structural interpretive accounting literatures through historical, constructive, and participative components.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)511–530
Number of pages20
JournalAccounting, Organizations and Society
Issue number7
Early online date25 Jul 2014
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2014

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