Professional service firms, globalisation and the new imperialism

Mehdi Boussebaa

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

57 Citations (SciVal)
203 Downloads (Pure)


– This paper draws on critical accounting research to ground the study of globalising professional service firms (GPSFs) more firmly in the history and actuality of imperialism. In so doing, the paper also helps in forging a stronger connection between accounting scholarship and interdisciplinary GPSF-focused debates in the wider field of management and organisation studies (MOS).

– This is a desk-based study, analysing the globalisation of professional service firms through the lens of imperialism via an exploration of relevant research on the accounting profession.

– The analysis sheds light on the link between GPSFs and contemporary imperialism. In particular, it shows how the organisation of GPSFs (re)produces core-periphery relations in the modern world economy and how this is facilitated and reinforced by universalisation efforts on the part of the firms’ core offices. The paper also highlights the role of local professionals in both enabling and resisting GPSF domination.

Research limitations/implications
– One main implication of this paper is that the organisational nature and societal impact of GPSFs (and the professions more generally) are further illuminated. The paper deepens understanding of GPSFs’ role in (re)producing global inequalities and colonial-style power relations in a supposedly post-imperial world and calls for a reconceptualisation of these firms as agents of imperialism. In so doing, the paper also opens new avenues for future research on the organisation of GPSFs and on their impact on societies worldwide.

– This is the first attempt to draw together critical accounting studies of globalisation with research GPSFs in the generalist field of MOS. In so doing, it contributes to a cross-fertilisation of the two fields and helps in making the former more central to ongoing debates in the latter. The paper also contributes to the emerging body of post-colonial theorising in MOS by shedding light on the crucial role of professional service firms in (re)producing imperialism in the modern world economy.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1217-1233
Number of pages17
JournalAccounting, Auditing and Accountability Journal
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 2015


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