Opening up the politics of standard setting through discourse theory: the case of IFRS for SMEs

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Abstract

Purpose: The purpose of this paper is to investigate an element of the internal politics of standard setting by reference to the International Accounting Standards Board’s (IASB) movement to the International Financial Reporting Standard for Small and Medium-Sized Entities (IFRS for SMEs). The authors examine the politics of the IASB’s expertise in technocratic governance by focussing on how the IASB defined SMEs, gave the standard a title and issued a guide for micro-entities. Design/methodology/approach: The narrative case study focusses on central “moments” in the development of IFRS for SMEs. The authors employ Laclau and Mouffe’s condensation, displacement and overdetermination to illustrate embedded politics in articulating IFRS for SMEs. Findings: The authors extend literature on the internal politics of standard setting, such as agenda setting, by examining the condensing of disagreements between experts and political pressures and processes into central decision moments in IFRS for SMEs. The authors illustrate these moments as overdetermined, manifesting in an act of displacement through the production of a micro-entity guide. This form of politics is hidden due to the IASB’s attempt to protect their technocratic neutrality through fixing meaning. Originality/value: The authors make three contributions: first, overdetermination through condensation and displacement illustrates the embedded nature of politics in regulatory settings, such as the IASB. Second, the authors provide a theoretical explanation of the IASB’s movement from listed entities to IFRS for SMEs, drawing on Laclau and Mouffe. Third, the authors reinforce the necessity of interrogating the internal politics of standard setting to challenge claims of technocracy.

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Warren, R., Carter, D. B., & Napier, C. J. (2020). Opening up the politics of standard setting through discourse theory: the case of IFRS for SMEs. Accounting, Auditing and Accountability Journal, 33(1), 124–151. https://doi.org/10.1108/AAAJ-04-2018-3464

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