The accountant's social background and stereotype in popular culture: The novels of Alexander Clark Smith



Evans L (2012) The accountant's social background and stereotype in popular culture: The novels of Alexander Clark Smith. Accounting, Auditing and Accountability Journal, 25 (6), pp. 964-1000.

Purpose – The paper aims to explore the social origins of Scottish chartered accountants and the accounting stereotype as portrayed in popular fiction. Design/methodology/approach – The detective novels of the Scottish chartered accountant Alexander Clark Smith are used as a lens through which to explore the social origins of accountants and the changing popular representations of the accountant. Findings – The novels contribute to our understanding of the construction of accounting stereotypes and of the social origins of Scottish accountants. They suggest that, while working class access to the profession was a reality, so was class division within it. In addition, Smith was ahead of contemporary professional discourse in creating a protagonist who combines the positive aspects of the traditional stereotype with qualities of a private-eye action-hero, and who uses accounting skills to uncover corruption and address (social) wrongs. However, this unconventional portrayal may have been incongruent with the image the profession wished to portray. The public image (or stereotype) portrayed by its members would have been as important in signalling and maintaining the profession's collective status as the recruitment of its leadership from social elites. Originality/value – Smith's portrayal of accountants in personal and societal settings at a time of profound social change, as well as his background in the Scottish profession, provide a rich source for the study of social origins of Scottish chartered accountancy during the first half of the twentieth century. Further, Smith's novels are of a popular genre, and innovative in the construction of their hero and of accounting itself; as such they merit attention because of their potential to influence the construction of the accounting stereotype(s) within the popular imagination.

Accountants, Accounting, Fiction, Novels, Profession, Recruitment, Social class, Stereotype

Accounting, Auditing and Accountability Journal: Volume 25, Issue 6

Publication date31/12/2012
PublisherEmerald Group Publishing

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Professor Lisa Evans

Professor Lisa Evans

Professor of Accounting, Accounting & Finance