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The Audit Society

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The Audit Society

Rituals of Verification

Oxford UP,

15 min read
10 take-aways
Text available

What's inside?

What is auditing? And why is everybody doing it? Find out why the world is constantly checking on itself.

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Why are individuals willing to live in an “audit society” where almost everything is checked? Perhaps they accept such monitoring because few folks would want to live under the opposite conditions, where nothing is checked. People want to know that their planes can fly, their banks won’t fail and their food is safe. Thus, auditing has become ubiquitous – but does it exist only for its own sake, or does it have intrinsic value? Does it help, hurt or control society? In this reprint of his original 1997 work, accounting lecturer Michael Power explains how auditing has come to permeate the social, political, corporate and economic worlds. His short text is often a hard, dense read, but he’ll broaden your understanding of auditing beyond the numbers in a ledger: Auditing, he teaches, underpins many facets of society and involves crucial questions of trust. getAbstract believes accountants, auditors and those who hire them will find this work particularly relevant, but those seeking deeper knowledge of professional practices and of how society works also will be intrigued.


“The Audit Explosion”

You may not realize that you live in an “audit society,” but you do. For example, parents perform an audit every time they check to make sure their child’s safety belt is fastened. However, in the course of your daily life, you also exercise a certain amount of trust. If you lend money to a friend, you probably don’t demand assurance on paper that your pal will reimburse you.

Thus, though auditing is a fixture of a functioning society, people would not want to live in an environment without trust, an atmosphere that required constant checking. Since the late 1980s and early 1990s, auditing has become ubiquitous. This trend sparked an audit explosion, which continues still in fields such as business, education and medicine.

Beyond vague statements that hint at auditing’s possibilities, experts do not agree on exactly how to describe it. They widely define financial auditing as the “independent examination of, and expression of opinion on, the financial statements of an enterprise.” Authorities do agree that an audit can occur only when auditors have independence from the body they are checking, experience collecting data, the ability to form...

About the Author

Former Coopers and Lybrand auditor Michael Power teaches accounting at the London School of Economics.

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