Foucault News

News and resources on French thinker Michel Foucault (1926-1984)

Antonelli, V., Bigoni, M., Cafaro, E.M., D’Alessio, R.
Railway systems and the ‘Universal Good of the State’: Technologies of government in the nineteenth-century Papal State (2020) Accounting History, 25 (3), pp. 375-402.

DOI: 10.1177/1032373219862615

Informed by Foucault’s concept of governmentality, the article focuses on the nineteenth-century General Commissariat for the Railroad Industry in the Papal State. Unlike in liberal States, where government intervention in the affairs of railway companies was limited, the pressing need to reinforce the Pope’s pastoral power, strengthen the bond between the believers and the Holy See and ensure equity and the efficiency of the new infrastructure meant that the Commissariat acted as a governmental centre of calculation. Accounting technologies in the form of budgets, cost accounting systems and penetrating audits enabled the government to intervene in the operations of private railway companies. The study analyses the role of accounting and auditing practices in the pursuit of non-liberal goals in an industry which is traditionally perceived as critical to the development of a liberal economy, and when accounting was traditionally used to maintain investors’ confidence in the capitalist system. © The Author(s) 2019.

Author Keywords
calculative devices; centre of calculation; governmentality; nineteenth century; Papal State; railroad industry

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