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'Above the fray': Interests, discourse and legitimacy in the audit field

Whittle, A.; Carter, C.; Mueller, F.

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Authors

A. Whittle

C. Carter



Abstract

Legitimacy is a crucial concern for the institutional field of auditing, given its reliance on perceived legitimacy for its political mandate and license to practice, in addition to its wider credibility and trust amongst stakeholders such as clients, investors and the public. In this paper, we explore the role of interest-discourse in the discursive strategies of legitimization in the audit field. We develop an Ethnomethodologically informed Discourse Analysis (EDA) perspective that enables us to theorise how institutional actors account for interests as a means for de-legitimization and re-legitimization. We ask: how do institutional actors in the audit field establish who or what is ‘above the fray’ and who or what is ‘interested’? We illustrate our argument by examining how the ‘Big Four’ audit firms handled a ‘crisis of legitimacy’ in the accountancy profession following the recent financial crisis, focussing in particular on a Parliamentary inquiry into market concentration in the audit industry in the UK. First, we show how de-legitimization is achieved through the discursive strategies of stake attribution, stake interrogation and stake mis-alignment. Second, we show how re-legitimization is achieved through the discursive strategies of stake inoculation, stake confession, stake alignment and stake transcendence. We conclude by examining the implications of the discursive processes we have studied for the future of the audit field in the UK.

Citation

Whittle, A., Carter, C., & Mueller, F. (2014). 'Above the fray': Interests, discourse and legitimacy in the audit field. Critical Perspectives On Accounting, 25(8), 783-802. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cpa.2013.09.001

Journal Article Type Article
Online Publication Date Oct 5, 2013
Publication Date 2014-12
Deposit Date Jun 23, 2020
Publicly Available Date Jun 23, 2020
Journal Critical Perspectives On Accounting
Print ISSN 1045-2354
Publisher Elsevier
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 25
Issue 8
Pages 783-802
DOI https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cpa.2013.09.001
Public URL https://durham-repository.worktribe.com/output/1299472

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