INVENTING THE INVESTOR: THE ROLE OF DISCLOSURE AND REPORTING, AND ACCOUNTING EXPERTISE IN THE GOVERNANCE OF THE CORPORATION AND THE MAKING OF THE SHAREHOLDER
Stein, Mitchell Jon
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This thesis presents an historical analysis of the role of financial accounting in the emerging conceptions of corporate governance during the Progressive era in the United States. Specifically, this thesis advances an approach to the governance and control of corporations in terms of historically-situated subjects who are acted upon by various forms of power leading them to assume specific roles in relation to corporations and their governance. The focus of this study is a broad archival analysis of the emergence of the large industrial corporation during the late nineteenth and into the beginning of the twentieth century. In particular, in this thesis I analyze the importance of financial accounting and reporting discourses, as forms of expertise, to the historical emergence of the corporation’s external relationships with broader government bodies and authorities and a broad range of individuals within the public domain. I employ a Foucauldian theoretical and methodological lens to highlight the importance of disclosure and reporting at the macro level of a public economic discourse regarding the corporation. This discourse illustrates how governance focused less on prohibitory laws regarding corporate actions and more on normalizing forms of power in terms measuring and disclosure. I also analyze at the micro level the role of accounting expertise and how it leads to the understanding within the public domain of corporations as norms of business organization. Specifically, accounting expertise provides a means by which the corporation is seen as not only controllable, but also productive and utility maximizing. Taken together, this analysis highlights how financial accounting and reporting comprise forms of normalizing power which shape and define individuals as various types of corporate subjects, such as investors.