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Constructing the governable small practitioner: The changing nature of professional bodies and the management of professional accountants' identities in the UK

Abstract : This article aims at contributing to the sociology of the accountancy profession by analysing how professional organisations govern the various categories that have emerged in the professional body throughout its history. To this end, the attempt by the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales to give an institutional existence to the category of “the small practitioner” is examined. The plasticity and the polysemic nature of the notion of smallness, which refers simultaneously to physical (small/big), geographical (local/global) and moral (anonymous/notorious) characteristics, offers a particular opportunity to show how these three dimensions have been integrated into evolving organisational arrangements and discourses aimed at legitimising the professional order. It is contended that the definition of what small practitioners are, and how they should be dealt with, can only be understood as part of the broader issue of governance of the accountancy community and the nature of the professional body. The ICAEW's efforts to problematise the nature of small practices indicates a will to integrate distant modalities of accounting expertise into a single professional space, so as to prevent the physical and geographical distance between big and small firms from becoming too conspicuous a hierarchical distinction, and thus preserve the ideal of the community of peers upon which professional bodies have been built.
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Submitted on : Monday, June 14, 2010 - 10:17:37 AM
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Carlos Ramirez. Constructing the governable small practitioner: The changing nature of professional bodies and the management of professional accountants' identities in the UK. Accounting Organizations and Society, 2009, Vol.34,nº03, pp.381-408. ⟨10.1016/j.aos.2008.05.004⟩. ⟨hal-00491673⟩

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