audit society
A term coined by *Michael Power to denote allegedly pervasive and negative influences of auditing practices in modern life. Power has elaborated the concept in, among other writings, The Audit Society: Rituals of Verification (1997), and has offered further reflections in the essay "The audit society - second thoughts" (Power, 2000). The notion of the audit society has links to the polemical theories of the *critical accounting movement, and it is notable for disputing "official" justifications of the utility of auditing practices offered by the discipline’s *professional associations. The concept of the audit society is complex and multifaceted, and only a handful of characteristics are summarized here. Michael Power casts doubt on the theoretical validity of standard auditing philosophies, suggesting that auditing is more a social construct rather than a scientific practice: "Auditability cannot be defined; it is negotiated" (1997, 81). He is also suspicious of many of the claims made of the utility of auditing, like the Operational auditing notion of the *Three E’s of economy, efficiency, and effectiveness. He suggests instead that auditing is often more parasitical than useful: The "audit society is a symptom of the times, coincidentally a fin de siecle, in which a gulf has opened up between poorly rewarded ‘doing’ and highly rewarded ‘observing"‘ (1997, 147). Power also claims that auditing fails frequently to live up to its own promises, descending instead into a hollow, self-serving activity of limited value to organizations: "At worst auditing tends to become an organizational ritual, a dramaturgical performance" (1997,141). He also interprets the expansion of auditing as an indication of institutional and cultural decline, writing that the audit society "can be understood as a label for a loss of confidence in the central steering institutions of society, particularly politics. So it may be that a loss of faith in intellectual, political and economic leadership has led to the creation of industries of checking which satisfy a demand for signals of order" (2000, 188). Power’s depiction of the audit society is an articulate challenge to conventional wisdom of the utility of auditing, and it has been debated in great detail in the academic auditing literature. A special issue of the * International Journal of Auditing (Vol. 4, No. 1, 2000) was devoted to its analysis. For many, Power’s arguments explain some of the roots of external auditing’s *expectations gap. Further reading: Power (1994b); Power (1994c); Power (1997); Power (2000)

Auditor's dictionary. 2014.

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