Challenging economic sustainability and the business case

Perhaps the most important feature of interpretivism is the desire to understand key relationships in communities. For critical theorists, interpretation reveals the impact of market reforms on communities. This provides another avenue to define interpretivism as challenging those economic approaches which tend to ignore people’s identities. The accountability theorist, Anthony Hopwood, argued that market’s defined people within a rhetorical representation of the self. This representation was generally framed by the accounting, legal or capital market regulator (Hopwood, 1994, p. 249). Interpreters challenge this view and offer more complex interpretations. They explain identity as part of a complex and dialogic process. This process situates humanity in various realities. No one perspective on reality holds sway.

Recent environmental and social accounting developments: interstitial accounts

This section aims to integrate business and social ecological values into the public sphere. Here the work of Gray, Brennan & Malpas (2014) has been influential in developing a unique approach to social accounting. In their recent work, a more philosophically robust perspective involves the creation

Markets, the business case, and interpretiuism 45 of interstitial8 social transformations which emanates from the work of E.O. Wright (Gray, Brennan & Malpas, 2014).9 This unique approach to social and environmental accounting has been offered by Gray, Brennan & Malpas (2014) who develop arguments for interstitial social transformations. They define interstitial accounting as involving:

‘Interstitial’ is a term used by Wright to refer to new institutions that are built ‘in the niches of capitalism’. This notion derives from the obvious recognition that hegemony is never complete and that, equally, a capitalist society is never completely capitalist. There always exists within capitalism many non-capitalist forms whether these be part of the public sector, part of civil society or in family, religious or grass roots initiatives. His personal agenda for change relies upon the building of non-capitalist forms within the niches of capitalism and he illustrates what he means by reference to four examples: participatory city budgeting, Wikipedia, the Mondragon worker cooperatives and unconditional basic income.

(Wright, 2010 cited in Gray, Brennan & Malpas, 2014, p. 259)

The issue that follows from interstitial accounting is whether corporations can create and develop opportunities for ‘counter-hegemony’ to reflect on humanity’s unsustainable practices.10 This optimism in counter-hegemonic strategies has been eroded over the years by various critics and the search is on for new interstitial accounts (see, for example, Gray, Brennan, & Malpas, 2014). The merit of developing interstitial environmental and social accounting ‘is to confront organisations with the truth of their unsustainability whilst facilitating cooperation with institutions engaged in sustainable transformation are compelling’ (Thomson, 2007, p. 275). However, they argue that there is still value in developing symbiotic social accounts that can be easily and quickly embedded in organisational practices.

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