Moral Imaginaries of Performance Measurement Systems in the Pharmaceutical Industry: Struggles and Negotiations to Define What is an Agent and What is Not
62 Pages Posted: 15 Aug 2018 Last revised: 28 Nov 2018
Date Written: August 1, 2018
This study explores how morality is constituted into accounting objects and how accounting becomes a moral mediator. We retrace the moral practices that subtend the field-level construction of a Principal-Agent incentive algorithm in a Big Pharma company, with particular focus on the inscribing work through which different communities of knowledge, internal and external to the organization, try to realize particular moral principles for the performance measurement system in the making. The study draws upon Science and Technology Studies (Latour, 1989; Jasanoff, 2015) to explore performance measurement systems as existing in Moral Imaginaries, ethical visions that positions accounting devices, and their material features and technical functionalities, as embedding and enacting ‘moral’ and ‘just’ viewpoints. We show how performance measurement systems emerge as moral calculating devices that are shaped by, and struggle with, the contrasting moralities of heterogeneous designers, but also act as moral mediators that reshape human actors’ moral imaginaries as their algorithmic constructions and data outputs perform. In so doing, we contribute to Science and Technology Studies by highlighting how the constitution of who / what is an “Agent”, and its actantiality, is embedded upon movements in which morality circulates, is claimed by actors and attributed to others, and finally objectified in material technologies.
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