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Theorizing the economy of traces: from audit society to surveillance capitalism

Power, Michael ORCID: 0000-0001-8148-3953 (2022) Theorizing the economy of traces: from audit society to surveillance capitalism. Organization Theory, 3 (3).

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Identification Number: 10.1177/26317877211052296


This essay is a conversation between Shoshana Zuboff’s theory of surveillance capitalism, Mikkel Flyverbom’s conceptualization of the hyper-visibility afforded by digital architectures, and my own ‘analog’ theory of accounting dynamics in the ‘audit society’. Drawing upon trends in accounting practice and research I develop a number of inflection points which define theoretical tensions between the concepts of audit society and surveillance capitalism. These tensions suggest that theoretical innovation is required in the face of: the accelerating constitution of organizations by platforms and their processes – ‘platformization’; the constitution of human agents as data-driven subjects of these data architectures – ‘cyborgization’; and the reconstruction of the social sciences by a pervasive data positivism in which accounting becomes ‘accountics’. The exploration of these three inflection points reveals the deep operational logic of surveillance capitalism as an ‘economy of traces’ and traceability. Zuboff’s challenge of a political dystopia governed by technology giants and Flyverbom’s image of a society ‘overlit’ by digital architectures necessitate a re-specification of the audit society dynamics that I have previously theorized. The re-specification that I propose in this essay is a form of a critical ‘traceology’ which takes as its focus the ongoing production of all manner of traces and how they make up organizations, people and forms of knowledge.

Item Type: Article
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 2022 The Author
Divisions: Accounting
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HF Commerce > HF5601 Accounting
Date Deposited: 01 Oct 2021 14:51
Last Modified: 13 Sep 2022 09:57

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