We congratulate Anton Borell on a successful dissertation

Anton Borell defended his thesis In Between Competing Ideals: On the Relationships among Accounting, NPM and Welfare on November 5th.

Anton did his bachelor and master in accounting at Stockholm Business School. He has previously worked with accounting and auditing, and did also teach accounting and finance before starting his PhD.

Anton Borell Photo: Maria Stoetzer
Anton Borell with his thesis In Between Competing Ideals: On the Relationships among Accounting, NPM and Welfare.

Three questions to Anton:

How did you choose your subject for the dissertation?

The topic was selected due to several aspects. It was partly a result of my interest in economic reasoning in public sector settings, but also a consequence of previous research and the various sayings and doings of respondents during fieldwork.

I believe it is important be open for new experiences out in the field and to balance such openness with a desire to develop knowledge that previously were untold or marginally explored. The topic therefore evolved throughout my research process, rather than being something selected prior to the collection of material.

Can you tell us something about the conclusions you made in your dissertation?

In contrast to much of earlier research, which has drawn attention to how accounting operates as a mechanism to manifest NPM demands, and thereby serve as a threat to the continuation of welfarian agendas, the dissertation shows that there is much more to accounting and public sector control than previously thought.

By studying the use of accounting in a Swedish compulsory school context, the study shows that actors recurrently engaged in accounting as a means for achieving hybridity and coordination: a style of governance that resided on paradoxical grounds. Steering could be informed by a willingness to adopt calculations, problems, and solutions offered by NPMs efficiency agenda, but mainly through incorporating elements external to efficiency when evaluating the outcomes and consequences of accounting use.

An interesting paradox was therefore that the expansion of NPM was seldom enough to secure its own smooth functioning, as it had to hybridize with welfarian concerns in order to work. Overall, the dissertation contributes to current knowledge on public sector governance in general, and more specifically about the relationships among accounting, NPM, and welfare, in terms of their entanglement, disentanglement, interdependencies, and modes of reproduction in public sector life.

What has been easy or difficult in the work on the dissertation?

To write a dissertation is a challenging task. As a PhD student, one is expected to know how to balance between various aspects. It is for instance important to stay open for critique in order to improve your work, but also to be independent in order to develop new and novel research.

Another aspect is to select a topic that is not only theoretical relevant but also relevant to practitioners or societies. Furthermore, it can be difficult to write coherently about an inconsistent and plural world – well, I could go on forever. However, I have always felt a gratitude, excitement and passion for what I do despite these challenges. So, what has been the easiest part in doing a PhD? Keeping up the passion, I suppose!

Read more about the thesis In Between Competing Ideals: On the Relationships among Accounting, NPM and Welfare