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Social Accounting from a Social Movement Theory Perspective


Dr Colin Dey, University of Stirling. Presentation for the 2010 CSEAR UK Conference, St Andrews.

Dr Colin Dey, University of Stirling. Presentation for the 2010 CSEAR UK Conference, St Andrews.

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  • It may seem self evident that there is a connection btw soc acc and soc move but not the case indeed making this connection has taken me yearsSocial movements beenimmersed in it, but not only reading also other dimensions of activism inc art – so these slides incorporate some examples – this is chrisjordan
  • What can social movement theory tell us? What kind of social movement should we be seeking? More activism is tempting perhaps but maybe not
  • Experience atspinwatch conferenceShould we be activists? Or do as Zizek advises and think more carefully before we act?
  • Lots of ways to cut and classify eg procedural vs reflexive, dialectical vs dialogical, etc solutions?Becoming clear that attempts to classify all this work as shadow accounts is inaccutrate, there are important differences. But what might be worth doing is to develop more understanding of what forms of external social accounting are may be effective
  • Media as professional symbol handlers – doing it consciously eg in the thick of it


  • 1. Social accounting from a social movement theory perspective
    Dr Colin Dey
    University of Stirling
  • 2. Are we really part of a movement...?
  • 3. If so… do we agree on our aims?
  • 4. Dissecting the social accounting movement
    “Accounting theorists tend to go no further than producing critiques of corporate practice... as interventions either to be published in academic journals or submitted to policy-related inquiries. The modern anti-corporate movement has chosen, in contrast, a distinctly different mode of engagement. Their critical interventions are maintained through the participation of various communities of activists: investigative journalists and columnists, writers and broadcasters, documentary filmmakers, humanitarian pressure groups, independent corporate watchdogs, and local resistance movements.”
    Coulson and Shenkin, 2007
  • 5. Alinsky’s Rules for Radicals
    If you push a negative hard and deep enough it will break through into its counter side
    The price of a successful attack is a constructive alternative
    Pick the target, freeze it, personalise it and polarize it
    Other well-established activist rules include:
    Be oppositional
    Communicate values
    Target the undecided
    Convergence of communications techniques between activists and dominant institutions
    Increasing emphasis on behavioural change at the individual level rather than problematising systemic concerns
  • 6. Academic concepts of external social accounting
  • 7. Social movement theory
    Resource mobilisation
    Political process/opportunity
    Frame analysis
  • 8. Frame analysis in social movement theory
    Framing as a basis for mobilising collective action: beliefs and meanings that inspire and legitimate the activities and campaigns of social movement organisations
    Research has focused on identifying and analysing the various frames used by campaign organisations
  • 9. Framing as ‘conceptual scaffolding’
    “To frame is to select some aspects of a perceived reality and make them more salient in communicating text, in such a way as to promote a particular problem definition, causal interpretation, moral evaluation and/or treatment recommendation”
    Entman, 1993
  • 10. Framing resource use… 1950’s style
  • 11. Framing the same issue today...?
  • 12. Core framing tasks
    Diagnostic framing
    Prognostic framing
    Motivational framing
  • 13. Framing Dynamics
    Framing contests and counterframing
    Successful framing: linked to the notion of resonance
  • 14. Framing contests: Climate change
  • 15. Framing contests: Health inequality
    Emergence of health inequality mirrors that of climate change
    Initial coverage driven by expert science and popular risk predictions
    Apparent political consensus emerges but conceals major schisms and tensions
    Recent descent into all-out framing contest driven by political right
  • 16. What is the role of social accounting in framing contests?
  • 17. Towards a typology of shadow accounts as framing processes
    Where/how is shadow accounting used?
    In what circumstances is it successful?
    Classify tactical approaches used:
    Reformist or radical:
    Symbolic ormaterial damage
    Mass participation or elite participation
    Proactive companies vs laggard companies
    Symbolic damage or gain
  • 18.
  • 19. Towards a democratic and emancipatory social accounting…?
  • 20.
  • 21. Context
    Types of shadow accounts as problematisations
    Propaganda, appropriation, risk, arenas
    Legitmacy crises, managerialsim
    Emancipation, dialogic accounting, change
    Framing and social movement theory
    Framing techniques
    Framing contests
    Climate change and Health inequality
  • 22. intro
    Academic shadow.external accounts as a response,
    Look at NGOs = quote from Shenkin.Coulson
    Experience at spinwatch conference
    Chapt 9 of GOA – the social audit movement
    Social movement theory and frame analyssis
  • 23. Gray’s shadow accounts
    Adams’ portryala gap analysis
    Cooper’s social account
    Gall and Has counter accounts
    NGO social audits and reports
    Viewed as external problematising accounts with differing aims and techniques
    Georg and Thomson arenas and multiple accounts
  • 24. Key issues and questions
    Legitimacy crises, reputation risk management, ethics of narcissus, myths, managerialism, propaganda
    Mobilising opinion, unintended consequences, reflexivity, agenda setting, arenas
    Alignment, assemblages, rationality, knowledge, regimes
  • 25. On the positive side
    Emancipation, change, dialogic accounting, civil society, public opinion, niches, utopias, experimentation and engagement, activism,
  • 26. Social movement theory and framing
  • 27. Framing techniques
    Extension, bridging,
  • 28. Framing hypotheses
  • 29. Shadow accounts
    Value-driven, external accounts that critique and challenge institutional conduct
    ‘Accounting for the other, by the other’
    In contested arenas, discourse is not determined by single report - rather it will be constructed from information made available to others from previous engagements and multiple, often contradictory reports
  • 30. Questioning the role of shadow accounts
    Shadow accounts as sub-politics: counter-expert risk discourse
    Do shadow accountants seek to impose their ideology on others/ provide an evidence-based critique to allow others to act/ challenge the moral legitimacy of the institutional conduct?
    Mapping out approaches to shadow accounting and exploring the outcomes of accounting interventions