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By Trevor Gambling

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Social organisations are formed for mutual support against the uncertainties of nature, and so seem to require both explanations of cause-andeffect and procedures for establishing some sort of working relationships between its members. In a useful extension of some ideas of Ashby and Simon, Tinker (1975) has suggested that an entity exists where a number of parties have some common interests, and the purpose of accounting is to provide them with data about those interests. The purpose of the entity is to achieve satisfaction for the participants through the resolution of conflict about their common interests and the contention of this chapter is that entities are often more interested in confidence-building and conflict-avoidance than in objective reporting of facts.

The machinery of enlightened self-interest requires that business-people are expected to contribute to the public good in this way-and are seen to be doing it. To take part in fund-raising and community activity of this kind is taken by investors and others as a sign that the corporation and the men have finally reached 'the Big League'. A forthright statement of this view is presented in Mr David Linowes' proposals for a Socio-Economic Operating Statement (1968), which seeks to strike a balance between what a corporation did not do but which the law required them to do, and what they did that they were not required to do.

To summarise the remainder of the argument briefly, I shall also suggest that the traditional accounting methodology was based upon formal assumptions about such things as the structure of enterprises and the nature of market prices which were not much more justified in the past than they are today. It could be that our ancestors thought they did work in that way, but it is unlikely that simple-minded faith in the demonstrably untrue would alone enable a system to survive for so long. The Necrosis of the Central Information System 47 It is more reasonable to hypothesise the existence of some alternative source of information which was available to our ancestors but is not available to their descendants.

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