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

Abstract

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.

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Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Business Administration

Keywords

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