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Accounting for profitable prevention—The case of social investments

Artikel i vetenskaplig tidskrift
Författare Cristian Lagström
Emma Ek Österberg
Publicerad i Financial Accountability and Management
Volym 36
Nummer/häfte 2
Sidor 117-133
ISSN 0267-4424
Publiceringsår 2020
Publicerad vid Förvaltningshögskolan
Sidor 117-133
Språk en
Länkar https://doi.org/10.1111/faam.12230
Ämnesord calculative practices, economization, new public management, pub- licness, social investments, wicked issues
Ämneskategorier Företagsekonomi, Studier av offentlig förvaltning


Contemporary developments in public administration imply an increasingly multifaceted and intangible context for public service delivery. Yet, there is a continued emphasis on calculative devices in this changing public landscape which urge for a broadened perspective, beyond that of New Public Management (NPM), on the role and consequences of accounting in the attainment of public goals, in particular, in relation till wicked problems. This article reports an in-depth study of social investments, a governing model which aims to make visible the value of long-term effects of preventive social work. The article focuses on microlevel dynamics and activities undertaken by key actors during the implementation process, using an institutional work perspective, in particular, the concepts of political, technical, and cultural work. The analysis shows that the ambition to calculate the profit of preventive social work was largely underpinned and facilitated by a problematization of NPM features. This supports recent calls for further research on public sector accounting that explores, rather than presumes, the logics and rationales to which accounting techniques are connected. The study also complements literature on wicked problems by linking the use and perceived usefulness of calculative practices with the attempts of attaining complex goals in the public arena.

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