Accounting for Elephants: The (Post)Politics of Carbon Omissions

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This paper explores the relationship between accounting, standardisation and politics through the case of a protest surrounding Manchester’s carbon accountability. Responding to critiques that literature on the relation between accounting and politics tends to overlook silences and fundamental disagreements surrounding the 'uncounted', this paper mobilises the political thinking of Jacques Rancière. In doing so, it joins an emerging body of literature considering accounting in relation to pluralism and difference. Rancière’s political thought provides a way to consider the limits of consensus on what should count, the subjectivity in how we count, who is able to make things count, and how particular regimes of counting are sustained and disrupted. Empirically, this paper considers the City of Manchester's carbon accounts and targets at the time of their 2010 Stakeholder Conference and an activist attempt to declare Manchester Airport as the 'elephant in the room'. It draws upon interviews with policymakers, activists, experts and accountants working in Manchester. Mobilising Rancière's notion of postdemocracy, I demonstrate how the consensus around standardisation is used to depoliticise disagreements on what emissions should 'count' and conclude by offering reflection on how repoliticisation might occur.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 27 Feb 2021


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