"We are all managers now": Managerialism and Professional Engineering in U.K. Electricity Utilities

Frank Uwe Mueller, Christopher Carter

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    44 Citations (Scopus)


    This article investigates the institutional changes that took place in the British Electricity Supply Industry in the period following the sector's privatisation. The post-war nationalisations were underpinned by an ideology of technocracy - the rationale being that State owned industry should be run by State employed experts. In the case of the Electricity Supply Industry, overseeing the industry as a whole were Treasury utility economists, responsible for macro planning and the governance of the industry. The electricity boards themselves were dominated by professional engineers - who were charged with the internal functioning of the respective organizations. This meant a loose coupling between the two dominant groups, who as a result were able to inhabit semi-autonomous spheres. The establishment of the Regulatory structure following privatisation, however, marked a shift away from public treasury style economics. The economists were joined by management accountants in what amounted to a hybridisation of economics and management accounting. Whereas under nationalisation the dominant groups - economists and engineers - occupied semi-autonomous spheres, in the privatised context there was the interpenetration of accounting and economics into the sphere of engineering. This process saw the earlier extant dualism replaced by monism. It was actioned through the obligatory passage point of the regulatory review which ensured a tight coupling of the external industry environment and the internal work organisation. (c) 2006 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)181-195
    Number of pages15
    JournalAccounting, Organizations and Society
    Issue number1-2
    Publication statusPublished - Jan 2007




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