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Title: Accounting against the economy : the beyond GDP agenda and the limits of the "market mentality"
Author: Yarrow, David
ISNI:       0000 0004 7967 500X
Awarding Body: University of Warwick
Current Institution: University of Warwick
Date of Award: 2018
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This thesis develops a novel account of the emerging tension between economic theory and accounting practice brought about by the 'beyond GDP' agenda. Following the report of the Stiglitz Commission in 2009, the global statistical community has sought to reform accounting systems to correct for the flaws of GDP as a metric of welfare and progress. These measurement initiatives present an apparently radical challenge to the foundational assumptions of neoclassical synthesis economics. Yet the interaction between this accounting agenda and the theoretical vision of the economy which underpins the national accounts has yet to be extensively explored. After locating this deficiency in the critical assumption of an identity between accounting practice and economic rationality, the thesis draws upon the work of Karl Polanyi to ground a novel account of the politics of this agenda. Polanyi's work provides a sophisticated account of how the idea of economic growth itself was predicated on the emergence of a mode of economic thinking that equated the economy with an autonomous and self-regulating system of markets: the 'market mentality'. Drawing on official methodological sources, reports and expert interviews (at the OECD, Eurostat and the ONS), the thesis traces the numerous practical and conceptual difficulties which statisticians and accountants face in reconciling beyond GDP reforms with this market-centric vision of the economy and human nature. Analysing four prominent strands of the beyond GDP agenda - inequality measurement; the valuation of unpaid work; human and natural capital accounting; and the pricing of non-market goods - it illustrates how the practical demands of implementing these reforms are leading to an increasingly complicated and fraught relationship between national accounting practice and the theoretical vision of the economy inherited from industrial society. As accountants and statisticians are discovering, moving beyond GDP involves more than overcoming the priority placed upon economic growth in policy-making; rather, it involves problematising this broader mode of political reasoning about 'the economy' and a more fundamental re-constitution of its borders with society, nature and politics. These findings contribute to wider debates about the changing role of economic expertise in the governance of post-industrial societies, and the role of statistical representation in mediating this.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Economic and Social Research Council
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: HC Economic History and Conditions