Control and cost accounting practices in the Spanish royal tobacco facfory

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The aim of this paper is to analyse the cost accounting system implemented in 1773 by a large Spanish tobacco company which operated as a monopolist. Drawing on data extracted from original archives, the paper examines the characteristics of the cost system within the broader context of a strict control system. The paper argues that there was a connection between the two systems. One of the main roles of the cost accounting system was to buttress a set of structural measures instituted in the RTF with the aim of minimising the scope for tobacco theft. Another aim was to impart visibility upon the various activities undertaken in the RTF. The paper also examines the role of the cost accounting practices as a disciplinary regime. A combination of physical measures, reflecting the rates and mixes of resource utilisation and monetary measures were developed to facilitate monitoring and surveillance of the activities of the factory employees. These measures were used to establish a powerful regime of calculability which rendered human accountability visible. Such calculability created an environment at the RTF in which management could compare, differentiate, hierarchaise, homogenise, and even exclude individuals.
Accounting history, Management accounting, Foucault, Spain
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