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In attempting to understand the genesis and scope of mod­ern cost and management accounting systems, accounting histori­ans adopting what has been labeled a Foucauldian approach have been rewriting the history of key 18th and 19th century develop­ments in the U.K. and U.S. through new evidence, new interpreta­tion, and a refocusing of attention on familiar events. This is a disciplinary history which sees modern cost and management ac­counting as articulating a new kind of expert disciplinary knowl­edge, as well as exercising a disciplinary power, in the construc­tion of a new human accountability. However, this disciplinary view has been challenged by more economic rationalist historians, e.g., Boyns and Edwards [1996] for the British Industrial Revolution and Tyson [1998] for the U.S., as being too narrowly concerned with labor control. This paper takes up the gauntlet. It addresses the theo­retical issues and seeks to clarify the import of the disciplinary view and its contribution to understanding how 19th century ac­counting practices shaped emerging managerial discourses, initially in the U.S. It argues that, until businesses adopted this new disciplinarity, there remained an absence of practices focused on calculating human performance, and accounting was not fully de­ployed to construct that system of administrative coordination [Chandler, 1977] which distinguishes modern management action and control.



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