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Retheorizing accounting, writing and money with evidence from Mesopotamia and ancient Egypt

Ezzamel, Mahmoud and Hoskin, K. 2002. Retheorizing accounting, writing and money with evidence from Mesopotamia and ancient Egypt. Critical Perspectives on Accounting 13 (3) , pp. 333-367. 10.1006/cpac.2001.0500

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Drawing on historical evidence form Mesopotamia and ancient Egypt, this paper theoretically examines the relationship between accounting, writing and money. We develop Foucalut’s work on practices and Derrida’s work on “the logic of the supplement" to advance the argument that writing emerged as a supplement to accounting, money emerged as the double supplement to both accounting and writing, with accounting itself being a supplement to prior ways of numbering and valuing, and so accounting is part of a play of supplements. Accounting simultaneously named and counted objects as commodities, and in so doing it conferred a precise (denominated) value upon them: a value producing a recontextualised action, as items could, beyond the here and now, be called up, checked and demanded in precisely the amount denominated. The paper argues that as supplementary technologies, accounting, writing, and money of account enact new power and knowledge relations which produce a transformation in the forms that power and knowledge can take. From its genesis, accounting, though technically simple, was never theoretically “primitive". We develop this thesis first by re-examining recent findings on the role played by accounting in making possible the genesis of counting and writing, and demonstrating the theoretical complexity of accounting’s role as the supplement that produces further supplements. The paper then suggests that the invention of accounting, writing and money made it possible to enter a world of “transactionality" and this represented a double break: (i) a breakfrom a world in which equivalence and value reciprocity are meaningless because of the absence of money; and (ii) a break into a world where equivalence and value reciprocity are always enacted through supplementarity.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: Business (Including Economics)
Subjects: D History General and Old World > D History (General) > D051 Ancient History
H Social Sciences > HC Economic History and Conditions
H Social Sciences > HF Commerce > HF5601 Accounting
H Social Sciences > HG Finance
Publisher: Elsevier
ISSN: 1045-2354
Last Modified: 04 Jun 2017 04:35

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