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Translation and standardization: audit world-building in post-Soviet Russia

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Within the past thirty years or so, the government of social and economic life has occurred increasingly through international and non-governmental forms of rule and regulation. Yet little is known about the dynamics that international audit standardization projects create below the global level of economic and regulatory activity. This paper examines effects of global audit rule-setting on local organizational forms and practices through a detailed empirical investigation of the use and circulation of International Standards on Auditing (ISAs) within a large post-Soviet Russian audit firm. In the firm studied, much of the appeal of the ISAs was rooted in desires to develop an internationally-oriented business strategy as well as link up with Western audit markets. But the standards became embedded in locally partitioned hierarchies of expertise and credibility. On the one hand, the global aspirations of the firm continued to be couched in former socialist practices of command and control. On the other hand, the accomplishment of compliance with the international standards came to be highly dependent on the definitional powers of the West, represented by the big international audit firms and multilateral organisations, such as the World Bank or the EBRD. The ISAs turned out to be of lower status than the names of the international audit firms and their networks. Becoming defined as working in accordance with international standards became closely linked to the firm's ability to position itself, and the standards respectively, within one of these networks. The paper examines the transformations that the firm underwent in re-defining itself in terms of a globally-oriented business strategy and discusses the implications this had for the roles and relevance of the international auditing standards.

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