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The Quantification of Private Life – The case of constructing docile bodies of policyholders

Friday February 16, 2018 from 10:00 to 11:30

"The Quantification of Private Life – The case of constructing docile bodies of policyholders"

Erik Strauss

After studying business administration at the Catholic University of Eichstaett‐Ingolstadt, Prof Dr Erik Strauss obtained his PhD and Habilitation from the WHU – Otto Beisheim School of Management. During his time at the WHU, he was also the managing director of the Center for Controlling and Management of the WHU which conducts benchmarking studies of controlling processes with DAX30 firms. Since March 2014, he holds the Dr Werner Jackstaedt Endwoed Chair of Accounting & Control at Witten/Herdecke University.

Prof Dr Strauss’s main research interests are (i) the influence of new technologies on management accounting and control, (ii) change management in the finance function, and (iii) the development of the management accountant role. He published in journals like Contemporary Accounting Research, Management Accounting Research, Journal of Management and Governance, Schmalenbach Business Review, Journal of Accounting and Organizational Change, Qualitative Research in Accounting and Management, Accounting History or Journal of Management Control.  

Additionally, he is a member of the editorial board of Qualitative Research in Accounting and Management as well as Journal of Governance & Control. Furthermore, he works as reviewer for different journals such as Organization Science, Management Accounting Research, European Accounting Research or Journal of Management Control. Simultaneously, he is engaged in the European Network for Research in Organisational and Accounting Change (ENROAC) and serves as academic director of Entrepreneurship Zentrum Witten (EZW).

Although interpreting accounting as a social and organizational practice has a long history, prior research almost marginalizes that accounting can also be seen as practice that is shaped and shapes meanings, structures and practices in private life.

Drawing on an in‐depth single case study in a car insurance company that offers their policyholders a smartphone application to track their driving behavior for calculating an individual car insurance premium, we show that through the disciplinary instruments of “hierarchical observation”, “normalizing judgement”, and “examination” (Foucault, 1977), the driving performance measurement system elicits an internalized self‐discipline because policyholders are classified in terms of their abnormal driving behavior which forces them to normalize their driving behavior. Surprisingly, policyholders obey to those norms instead of resist because they were not able to create a comprehensive understanding of the underlying calculative mechanisms and driving abnormalities are evaluated through a range of discounts which constitutes a “calculated leniency of a penalty” (Foucault, 1977, p. 227). These results accentuate the relevance of accounting practices in governing the private individual through disciplinary power and generate new ideas how a voluntarily subjection to the disciplinary effects of accounting practices might be achieved by firms.

Overall, this paper offersinsights how calculative practices of accounting shape and are shaped by meanings, structures, and practices in private life.

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More information:
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Eduardo Schiehll, Téléphone : 340‐6516
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