Ownership changes, accounting practice and the redefinition of the corporation

Wendy Nelson Espeland*, Paul M. Hirsch

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

62 Scopus citations


This paper examines the role of accounting in facilitating and legitimating the conglomerate movement in American business during the 1960s. We argue that the profileration of conglomerate mergers contributed to a reconceptualization of the corporation that emphasized its financial rather than its productive capacities. This conception of the firm has now been institutionalized; its logic motivates the takeovers and restructuring that characterize contemporary business. Our case illustrates the rhetorical power of accounting as a symbolic system for legitimating new corporate forms and practices.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)77-96
Number of pages20
JournalAccounting, Organizations and Society
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - 1990

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Accounting
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Organizational Behavior and Human Resource Management
  • Information Systems and Management


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