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Accounting for the city

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Purpose – This paper aims to identify the study of cities as an important and neglected focus for accounting researchers. Design/methodology/approach – The paper is based on a case study approach to visualizing and calculating the city. Findings – There is a major preoccupation with the study of cities from numerous disciplinary perspectives. The positioning of cities is reaffirmed as a key part of modes of governing. This reveals tensions between disciplinary approaches based on space and design with the financial imperative of cities managed within a world which is dominated by New Public Management ideas and in which finances have primacy. Research limitations/implications – The paper is based on one case study, and it demonstrates the need for longitudinal and interdisciplinary approaches to increase understanding of the twenty-first century city. Practical implications – The significance of accounting as a technology, which is embedded within the public management of cities is profound. This has major implications both for the design of financial information systems and their capacity for, and the manner of, their interactions with other disciplines in planning and managing cities. Originality/value – This study is distinct in the manner in which it studies and reveals the importance of accounting in the management of cities. There is an increasing trend to visualize the city and represent it in numbers. This study reveals that accounting provides the most important numbers in shaping and visualizing the city.

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