The institutionalisation of commercialism in the audit profession: How auditors constitute the commercial self in a large Chinese audit firm

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Purpose: Previous literature on the commercialisation of the audit profession has focused on the coercive force of macro-institutional structures. The purpose of this paper is to focus on the agency of individual auditors and examine their active construction of the commercial self in a Big Four audit firm in China. Design/methodology/approach: This paper applied a qualitative research approach to data collection and analysis. A total of 17 interviews were conducted with senior auditors, managers, directors and partners to generate a rich narrative. Findings: This study analyses prevalent discourses identified in the Chinese organisational setting and finds that, within the “clan-like” structure of the audit engagement team, three recurring discourses (i.e. the client relationship, adding value and career) were powerful scripts in constructing individual subjectivity wherein the “professionalism” ideal was re-enacted to rationalise the incorporation of more commercialistic elements. Research limitations/implications: This study collected interviews representing various perspectives within a Big Four audit firm in China. Nonetheless, the scope of this study was limited to certain types of audit firms at certain times. Originality/value: This study demonstrates that the scripts are not just a matter of self-presentation, but important sources of self-formation and self-definition. Rather than being imposed externally, “commercial selves” are actively constructed by individual auditors, leading to the institutionalisation of commercialism in the audit profession at the micro level.


Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Business Administration


  • Audit profession, China, Commercialization, Identity
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Accounting in Emerging Economies
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 2019 Sep 5
Publication categoryResearch