Accounting in and for hybrids. Observations of the power of disentanglements

Gustaf Kastberg Weichselberger, Cristian Lagström
2021 Accounting Auditing & Accountability Journal  
PurposeThe authors argue that the mainstream scholarly discourse on hybridity and accounting is thus far primarily interested in the use and effects of accounting "in" hybrid organizations. Consequently, the literature has to a lesser extent explored how accounting mediates hybrid settings (while also being mediated), and the role of disentanglements in such processes. In hybrid settings, objects are difficult to define, and measures and tools difficult to agree upon. However, the literature on
more » ... hybrid accounting is inconclusive and indicates that accounting can potentially both stabilize and de-stabilize relations in a hybrid setting. The authors address the research question of how accounting emerges and manifests itself in a process of entangling and disentangling in a heterogeneous emerging hybrid setting.Design/methodology/approachThe paper is based on a longitudinal qualitative case study of the implementation of social investments, a public sector calculative framework based on the logic of measuring long term and social and economic impact of prevention. Methodologically, the study was guided by actor-network theory. In total, 18 observations and 48 interviews were conducted.FindingsThe observation the authors make in their case study is that much effort was spent on both keeping things apart and tying elements together. What the authors add to the literature is an illumination of how the interplay between entanglements and disentanglements facilitated the design idea of social investments to be enacted as multiple semi-integrated and purified hybridizations. The authors describe different translation points, each representing a specific hybridization where elements were added, recombined and disentangled. Still, the translation points were not completely compartmentalized, but rather semi-integrated where associations were facilitated through active mediation, likeness and productiveness for each other.Research limitations/implicationsOne limitation is the single case approach. A second limitation arises from the ANT approach to hybridity.Practical implicationsA practical implication of this paper is that in hybrid settings, the semi-integrated character may be interpreted as a strength because it allows the mobilization of heterogenous actors. However, this may also come at the cost of governability and raises further questions of managerial practices in hybrid settings.Social implicationsThe paper suggests the potentially productive role of disentanglements in allowing multiple hybridizations to evolve in hybrid accounting settings.Originality/valueThe paper suggests the potentially productive role of disentanglements in allowing multiple stabilized hybridizations to evolve in hybrid accounting settings.
doi:10.1108/aaaj-12-2019-4318 fatcat:ea4ulxu3gjh5vbkjmsptzvnx7q