Webs of Influence and Highways of Re-Colonization: The Case of Professional Bodies

19 Pages Posted: 31 Jul 2013

See all articles by Rachel F. Baskerville

Rachel F. Baskerville

Victoria University of Wellington - School of Accounting and Commercial Law

Date Written: July 6, 2013


The discussion in ‘Webs of influence and highways of re-colonization: the case of professional bodies’ examines how Belich’s thesis from ‘Replenishing the Earth. The Settler Revolution and the Rise of the Anglo-World, 1783-1939’ might impact on our theorizing of accounting bodies and diffusion of prototypes of professional bodies. This study starts with some early theories, originating in the early 20th-century German school of anthropology, Kulturkreislehre, closely related to the Diffusionist approach of British and American anthropology; the triumph of diffusionism was most evident in USA ethnologists such as Clark Wissler. And although dismissed by later scholars, Graebner’s theories influenced Wilhelm Schmidt and were extended by the British anthropologists Elliot Smith and W.J. Perry; Smith was among the later hyper-diffusionists. In the British centre of scholarship, the Royal Society, early advocates of diffusion of a cultural practice from centre to periphery did not go unchallenged, such as the paper presented by Edward Tylor in 1889. This issue, which was soon labelled as “Galton’s problem”, was whether on not some units were closer than others because of a common source. This is related to a more general problem: Tylor described this as his concern that similar cultural phenomena were due to “the like working of men’s minds under like conditions” or due to a common or shared recent origin. Evidence of the enduring appeal of two-strata models is also reviewed.

Research in accounting history based on the ‘colonialism/protectionism’ model dominates much scholarship, largely based on historical research, such as that offered by Magee and Thompson . When applied to the evolution of professional bodies, this scholarship views the establishment of professional bodies as a process of diffusion of both institutions and class values from the motherland of the British Empire to peripheral colonial jurisdictions. The ‘colonialism/protectionism’ model is also based on considering the steps which followed after the British Empire provided the oldlands (Britain) with the control of other peoples, usually through conquest. The recipient countries of the benefits of the expansion of the British Empire are seen sometime as a tabula rasa; with little discussion of the reaction to the impact in some scholarship. In other studies there is a respectable quantum of documentation on impacts on the local ethnicities or evaluation of the dynamic socio-political contexts.

Douglas’s Grid/group matrix analysis suggested the ‘smug pioneer with his pickaxe’ was the archetype of the individualist. And yet settler societies also developed on the basis of the ‘Enclave’ mentality. Life was risky, and the origins of mateship can be seen in the early farming, shipping, and gold digging communities. Colonial societies were not without their ‘positional’ individuals, regulating land acquisition, establishing the court hierarchy based on the British model, ensuring order and decency in these rapidly growing communities. Settlers were not all English speaking, and the Dutch settlements in South Africa, the Chinese influx to the goldfields in California and the southern British colonies, the East European setters to Australia, all took a role in commonalities or distinctiveness in settler mentalities in different countries.

This study introduces the model of Settlerism/re-colonization: the notion of recolonization sees those periods of boom and bust driving a search for export markets. Export markets did not lead the boom: the boom periods were, instead driven by the settler mentality of endless growth. It is suggested that this new lens of recolonization may offer a fresh perspectives on the direction of incentives or drivers to the establishment of professional bodies. If one envisages this process called re-colonization as settler-driven, it is a movement from the newlands back to the oldland. This counter-indicates the concept of diffusionism with which this study commenced. Instead of being like a stone thrown in a still pond, with ripples touching the shore in every direction, this was the utilisation of accountants and accounting as part of the export-led economic re-integration. Owners of capital both ends of that highway of trade and commerce wanted the order and audit accountancy could provide. In particular, the flows of funds – whether by telegraph, cash or gold – had to be scrupulously accounted for. There is also evidence of a degree of rejection of the importation of notions of class with the professional status.

The complex ingredients from the multiple ethnicities within the settler societies, and individualism and enclave mentalities, suggests that the end results were a rich diversity of practice and inclusiveness through building up many culturally embedded professional bodies in colonies of the British Empire. And any accounting firms on the periphery of Empire, the newlands, may have felt their activities were very small compared with the size of the core trans-Atlantic business base, but the multi-national companies walked with their feet, seeking auditors with the world-wide networks. This reverts to one of the early forms of colonisation, being (1) Networks, the established of ongoing systems of long range interaction, usually for trade; (2) Empire, the control of other peoples usually through conquest, but nowadays just as likely to be through IFRS monitoring by auditors, global compliance studies in the World Bank ‘Reports on the Observance of Standards and Codes’, or the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board of the USA; (3) Settlement, the reproduction of one’s own firm through long range migration/influences; to which can be added (4) Re-colonization: when the trading routes themselves promote the growth of new stronger or personal networks, with strong influences changing core operations at original centre, such pressures increasingly strengthened by internet-based communications and 24/7 availability in professional servicing.

To move to more cyclical models, rather than the uni-directionism of some of the prevalent diffusionist models, will better inform the underlying tensions which are never absent from professional positioning: the tension between chasing the business/trading dollars and serving the public interest with high quality and independent services. Added to this are the inter-related processes and functions of networks, empire-building, and recolonization from the ‘newlands’ back to the ‘oldlands’, of both professional bodies and professional firms.

Keywords: Empire, re-colonization, accounting professional bodies

JEL Classification: M40, B00, N8

Suggested Citation

Baskerville, Rachel F., Webs of Influence and Highways of Re-Colonization: The Case of Professional Bodies (July 6, 2013). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2289637 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2289637

Rachel F. Baskerville (Contact Author)

Victoria University of Wellington - School of Accounting and Commercial Law ( email )

Faculty of Commerce and Administration
PO Box 600
New Zealand
006444636951 (Phone)
006444635076 (Fax)

HOME PAGE: http://www.victoria.ac.nz/sacl/staff/rachel-baskerville.aspx

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