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Accounting for vulnerability

Kuhlmann, Finia (2022) Accounting for vulnerability. PhD thesis, London School of Economics and Political Science.

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Identification Number: 10.21953/lse.00004506


This thesis investigates accounting practices and processes, which strive to account for vulnerability, across three substantive papers, supplemented by an introductory synopsis and methodological reflections. Paper one “Governing Vulnerability: Constituting vulnerable subjects within a neoliberal regime of social care” seeks to understand how notions of vulnerability are conceptualised across social care discourses. A document analysis demonstrates that vulnerability is turned from a threat to neoliberal ambitions into a governable object. It suggests that the ‘vulnerable subject’ is constituted as calculable in risk terms and as desiring towards independence and responsibility – characteristics commonly associated with neoliberal subject notions. While paper one shows how the ‘vulnerable subject’ is constituted on a discursive level, paper two and three draw on an organisational ethnographic study in a social care organisation. Paper two “Dignifying Representations: Constructing an accounting framework for a care service” demonstrates how staff employ different strategies for dignifying representations of vulnerable people in an accounting framework for quality standards, outcomes, and indicators. The paper draws attention to processes, which amend rather than oppose formal, standardised, and quantified accounts, by showing how actors seek to make the representations they need to deliver more appropriate. Paper three “Co-producing User Voices: Making up accounts of experiences of vulnerable service users” examines how feedback on the delivery of services is ‘co-produced’ in organisational attempts to meet the requirements of external bodies, such as commissioners and regulators. The analysis traces the co-production of accounts of user experiences in interactions between vulnerable users and organisational actors, and conceptualises co-production as an extended, continuous, and technically mediated process. Overall, the thesis provides reflections on what is at stake when accounting becomes a representation of vulnerable people, whose voices are rarely heard, and contributes to our understanding of accounting practices at the margins.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information: © 2022 Finia Kuhlmann
Library of Congress subject classification: H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
H Social Sciences > HF Commerce > HF5601 Accounting
J Political Science > JA Political science (General)
Sets: Departments > Accounting
Supervisor: Mennicken, Andrea and Miller, Peter

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