Accounting and Management Discourse in Protoindustrial Settings: The Venice Arsenal in the Turn of the XVI Century
Accounting and Business Research, 2004
Posted: 8 May 2009
Date Written: 2004
This paper investigates managerial ideas and accounting notions developing at the Venetian state shipyard, the Arsenal, in the turn of the 16th century, with three major elements of interest. First, it shows the existence of rather sophisticated managerial and accounting discourse in the Renaissance period, where modern forms of management through accounting can be highlighted inside the 'Venetian method'. Second, it allows for an understanding of the evolution of accounting discourse over time: in the particular time span under investigation (1580-1643) new concepts and notions emerged, coupled with new ways of talking about managing issues through emerging accounting concepts (the invention of the idea of work in progress; costing expertise and other calculative practices). Third, it shows how a modem form of economic discourse gradually established itself in the face of hostile social and moral norms. The event under investigation describes a process in which the formal meaning of the economic (Polanyi, 1977) took place, with its associated moral imperative of organising and economising, conflicting to a large extent with social order. Though the tenn efficiency never appears in the documents, its ethos and pathos arc there, fostered by accounting and discourse about managing.
Keywords: accounting history
JEL Classification: M10, M41, N80, N83
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