Purpose – This paper explores the role that the control system – understood as a set of financial and nonfinancial mechanisms – introduced by the Ministerial Decree of 15th February 1860 played in promoting the ethical tolerance of prostitution in the Kingdom of Italy. Design/methodology/approach – A qualitative research method was adopted. Specifically, this study draws on literature on accounting and deviant behaviors and on Suchman’s theories of legitimation (1995) to interpret empirical evidence collected from archival primary sources as well as secondary sources. Findings – The paper highlights how the accounting mechanisms introduced by the law were molded to limit the serious consequences of prostitution from a public health standpoint and to demonstrate that the State neither profited from prostitution nor used public money to fund it. This should have stimulated ethical tolerance of the law itself and, consequently, of the prostitution that was regulated. Originality/value – This paper opens a new research avenue in the field of accounting history by exploring the connection between accounting and prostitution. Moreover, unlike the extant literature on accounting and deviant behaviors, this study delves into the role played by accounting mechanisms to promote ethical tolerance rather than to activate normalization processes.
Accounting to promote ethical tolerance: the case of the Italian prostitution model (1860) / Gatti, Marco; Poli, Simone. - In: ACCOUNTING, AUDITING & ACCOUNTABILITY JOURNAL. - ISSN 1368-0668. - ELETTRONICO. - 39:9(2023), pp. 309-339. [10.1108/AAAJ-08-2022-5956]