Sociology of accounting and management tools


When I was a Professor at HEC School of Management (1994-2013), I was part of the Accounting and Control Department. 


My very first works in the 1990s sought to consider management control techniques among all the other forms of organizational control.

In the 2000s, I developed a reflection on the sociology of accounting categories as part of a broader discussion on the sociology of quantification. The implementation of IFRS at the European level, whose accounting principles and forms of standardization radically contrasted with French practices, offered me a privileged field of investigation. Financial accounting thus seems to me to occupy a quite singular place in the manufacture and reproduction of an economic order.

This approach, inspired by both the economics of conventions and the Studies of Science and Technology, was then extended to include an examination of the role of management tools in the functioning of firms and the economy.  The book "management tools" (with P. Gilbert, first French Edition 2013) proposes to use these socio-technical objects as starting points for investigation. The book also offers a first synthesis of the variety of works that have been done about the management tools and techniques, in sociology but also in the field of management science. The role of management instruments is constantly increasing with the development of digitalization and I think it is more important than ever to pay attention to their agency. Management tools, as well as accounting forms, are part of the reproduction and transformations of capitalism.


Since 2013, I have started a research project on financialization. My objective is to use the socio-technical view of management and valuation tools to work on financialized capitalism.

Sociology of accounting and quantification

Special issues
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2004 Chiapello E., Ramirez C. (eds) Comptabilité-Contrôle-Audit, « Sociologie de la comptabilité », Juin 2004, 11 articles

2011 Baker R., Chiapello E. (eds) Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal, Volume 24 issue 2 - Latest Issue, 2011, Special Issue: Cross cultural impacts: the influence of French philosophers and social theorists on accounting research,  7 articles

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2016 Bezes P., Chiapello E., Desmarez P. (eds) Sociologie du Travail, Dossier débats « Le gouvernement par les indicateurs », vol 58, novembre 2016, (4 contributions +  1 introduction)

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2005 Bourguignon A., Chiapello E., The role of criticism in the dynamics of performance evaluation systems, in : Critical perspectives on Accounting,  2005, vol 16, n°6, pp. 665-700


Drawing on the concept of “trial,” developed by French sociologists, this article analyzes the dynamics of employees’ performance evaluation systems, particularly those involving accounting performance measures. A case study is presented as an illustration of our proposal to consider these systems as one of the major trials in the business world, that is, social arrangements organizing the testing of people and resulting in ordering them, and further in consistent social goods allocation. This analysis emphasizes the role of criticism in the dynamics and evolution of performance evaluation systems and enables us to revisit concepts like controllability or objectivity which have been presented for decades as cornerstones of performance evaluation systems either in management control or in human resource management fields.

2007 Chiapello E., Accounting and the birth of the notion of capitalism, Critical Perspectives on Accounting, vol 13, n° 3, March 2007, 263-296,


The purpose of this paper is to cast a new light on the post-Sombartian debate. As we know, Sombart (Sombart W. Der moderne Kapitalismus. München, Leipzig: Duncker and Humbolt, 1916) thought that the invention of double-entry bookkeeping was essential to the birth of capitalism. Max Weber developed the same theme, but to a lesser extent. Accounting scholars have debated the idea quite extensively during the 20th century. All these previous works have in common the fact that they address the historical question by comparing accounting practices to business practices, some of which are interpreted as capitalist. In this paper, my aim is not so much to understand the birth of capitalism, but to contribute to some understanding of the birth of the concept of capitalism itself. The concept was forged during the 19th century. At that time, capitalism and a certain kind of double-entry bookkeeping practice that was able to highlight the circuit of capital were inextricably linked. It might be suggested that this historical situation greatly helped the scholars of the period to conceptualise what they called capitalism, and it is easy to show that the notion of capitalism itself is rooted in accounting notions. I will thus argue that the history of how the concept of capitalism was invented is an example of the influence of accounting ideas on economic and sociological thinking.

2008 Chiapello E., Accounting at the heart of the performativity of economics –Economic Sociology newsletter, november 2008, vol 10, N°1

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2009 Berland N., Chiapello E., Criticisms of Capitalism, Budgeting and the Double Enrolment: Budgetary Control Rhetoric and Social Reform in France in the 1930s and 1950s, Accounting, Organizations and Society, jan 2009, vol. 34, n° 1, pp. 28-57.


This article is a contribution to the study of the spread of management innovations, methods and rhetorics. It particularly concerns the influence of ideological and political factors, which have so far mostly escaped in-depth study. In particular, we seek to understand to what extent a critique of society developed by social reformers can be a source of inspiration for managers, leading them to change their practices and experiment with new devices. Relying on the framework of historical change in management practices developed by Boltanski and Chiapello [Boltanski, L., & Chiapello, E. (2005). The new spirit of capitalism. London: Verso (Translation of Le nouvel esprit du capitalisme, Paris: Gallimard, 1999)], we study the specific development of budgetary control in France, examined in the light of the general political and economic history of the 20th century. This framework simultaneously encompasses the dissemination of a new accounting practice, the transformation of capitalist institutions and mo des of regulation in a given period and country, and the programmatic discourses [Miller, P., & Rose, N. (1990). Governing economic life. Economy and Society, 19(1), 1–31] associated with the historical move.

More exactly, what interests us is a double enrolment process. The business world promoters of budgetary control use the rhetorics of social reformers to present budgetary control as a solution to the economic and social problems of their time; conversely, social reformers promote budgetary control as a realistic, efficient tool that can change the world. Ultimately, a degree of alliance is possible around this management tool, although the extent to which the meanings each group attributes to its action are shared may remain unclear. Based on an analysis of the writings of budgetary control promoters of the 1930s and the 1950s, we show the close links between their discourse and the reforming ideas of their time, and how we can trace through this corpus the evolution of this kind of political rationalities [Miller, P., & Rose, N. (1990). Governing economic life. Economy and Society, 19(1), 1–31] associated with governing and managing corporations we call the spirit of capitalism [Boltanski, L., & Chiapello, E. (2005). The new spirit of capitalism. London: Verso (Translation of Le nouvel esprit du capitalisme, Paris: Gallimard, 1999)].

2009 Chiapello E., Medjad K., An unprecedented privatisation of mandatory standard-setting: the case of European accounting policy, Critical perspectives on accounting, mai 2009, vol. 20, n° 4, pp. 448-468.


The EU-member States have long intended to harmonise their respective accounting rules in order to facilitate the comparison between European companies. This process was brutally accelerated by a 2002 regulation announcing that as of 2005, listed companies would be required to comply with the accounting standards enacted by the IASB (International Accounting Standards Board), a private body which, until then, had no public mandate.

After having tried to harmonise internally the respective standards of its members, the EU has thus decided to resort to private subcontracting, an even more puzzling decision when one realizes that at the time, the EU had simply no statutory control means on the IASB.

Building on this striking episode of privatisation of the regulatory process, we first examine the structure and governance of the IASB, and the process leading to the transplantation of its norms into EU law. In a second part, we argue that while diverse, the reasons behind such relinquishment of public authority lie primarily within the EU itself. In a third part, we show that in the area of accounting, such transfer of competences went well beyond known forms of delegation to private sector. In a final part, we discuss the subsequent—and so far successful attempt of the EU to reassert its authority as well as its agenda in this area.

2011 Baker R., Chiapello E., The introduction of French Theory into English language accounting research, p. 140-160, vol. 24, n°2, 2011, Accounting, Auditing, Accountability Journal,



This purpose of this paper is to investigate the introduction of French theory into English language accounting research and to assess the impact of the work of French social theorists on the accounting research domain.


The paper presents a citation analysis of articles appearing in selected English language accounting research journals for a sample of French authors, during the periods from the inception of the journals to mid‐2009. In performing this citation analysis, 39 French authors who are well known as social theorists, philosophers, economists or sociologists were included. The accounting research journals chosen for analysis included the top four journals listed in many league tables for accounting research along with several journals that regularly publish research in accounting history or that focus on alternative research paradigms.


The citation analysis identified the following French authors as being the most frequently cited: Michel Foucault, followed by Bruno Latour and Pierre Bourdieu. The citation analysis also identified the English language accounting research journals in which French social theorists have been most often cited. The two most significant journals have been Critical Perspectives on Accounting and Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal, followed by Accounting Organizations and Society, Management Accounting Research and European Accounting Review. The analysis also shows the effects of mimeticism, which seems to have produced a sort of isomorphism in the styles of publication. Accounting, Organizations and Society, appears to be the standard‐setter of the critical‐interpretive field of accounting research.


This paper is the first known to provide a comprehensive analysis of the introduction of French theory into English language accounting research.

2013. Hommage à Alain Desrosières, Revue Française de Socio-Economie, 2013/1, n°11, p. 5-7 ;

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2016 Bezes P., Chiapello E., Desmarez P.,  Introduction : la tension savoirs-pouvoirs à l’épreuve du gouvernement par les indicateurs de performance, Sociologie du Travail, vol 58, pp. 347-359

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2017 Chiapello E., Critical accounting research and neoliberalism, Critical Perspectives on Accounting, Special Anniversary Issue, - 2017 (43), 47-64,


This article reflects on the way critical accounting research has addressed the question of liberalism. I show that the rise of this theme has been accompanied by a broadening of the issues addressed, but fairly little enlargement of the geographical spaces concerned. Three different approaches to neoliberalism are identified (as a phase of capitalism, as a discourse and as governmentality): while dialogue may exist between them, they are still disjointed and built on different inquiries. I seek to outline the contributions and limitations of each one. A second section studies the various roles critical authors have attributed to accounting and its actors in the neoliberal phenomenon and the way accounting is seen in their research (as an instrument, a project or an object). This mapping leads to proposal of an analysis framework that can be used for a broader conception of accounting's role in economic and social changes, based on a study of the conventions embedded in accounting devices and the distributive effects of the tests or trials they equip. Avenues for research are opened up throughout the article, with a view to enriching work on neoliberalism and delineating the specific contribution made by accounting researchers to its criticism.

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2006 Chiapello E. Desrosières A., La quantification de l’économie et la recherche en sciences sociales : paradoxes, contradictions et omissions. Le cas exemplaire de la « Positive accounting theory , in : Eymard-Duvernay F. (ed.)   L’économie des conventions. méthodes et résultats, Tome 1. Débats , La Découverte,p. 297-310

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2006 Chiapello E., Comptabilité et fraude,  in : Fraude, Contrefaçon et contrebande, de l’antiquité à nos jours, G. Beaur, H. Bonin, C. Lemercier (eds), 2006, Genève : Droz, pp. 423-427,

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2008 Chiapello E., La construction comptable de l’économie, in Idées, n°152, juin 2008, pp. 26-34.

2009 Chiapello E. Desrosières A., Les paradoxes de la métrologie économique : le cas étrange de la Positive Accounting Theory, in :  Breviglieri M., Lafaye C. et Trom D. (eds), Sens de la justice, sens critique, Paris, Economica, 2009, p. 187-200

2009 Chiapello E., Die Konstruktion des Wirtschaft durch das Rechnungswesen, 2009. in: “Dizskurs und Ökonomie. Diskursanalytische Perspektiven auf Märkte und Organisationen”, Diaz-Bone Rainer, Krell Gertraude (eds)., Wiesbaden: Verlag für Sozialwissenschaften (VS-Verlag),  125-149 (réédition en 2014)

 English version : The accounting construction of economy

2012 Chiapello E., La construction comptable de l’économie, in : La comptabilité, la société et le politique. Mélanges en l’honneur du Professeur Bernard Colasse. Marc Nikitin, Chrystelle Richard (eds), Economica, 2012,  pp. 128-135

Communications and working papers (not published)

2004 Chiapello E., Ding Y., Le T., The link between accounting and capitalism : preliminary findings based on the example of the economic transition process in China and Vietnam », European Accounting Association, 27th Annual Congress, Prague, Czech Republic, 1-3 april 2004, 16 pages

2005 Chiapello E., Ding Y., “Searching for the accounting features of capitalism: an illustration with the economic process in China”, Cahier de Recherche du Groupe HEC, n° 817/2005

Interviews and conferences

2012 Pourquoi ne change-t-on pas plus vite d’indicateurs, Projet, n°331, déc 2012, p. 64, N° spécial « Qui décide de ce qui compte ? »

2013. Hommage à Alain Desrosières, Revue Française de Socio-Economie, 2013/1, n°11, p. 5-7

2015. À propos de l’emprise du chiffre, Entreprises et histoire, 2015/2 (n° 79) « La magie du chiffre », pp. 174-187, Débat avec C. Eyraud, P. Lorino, A. Supiot, Animé par  È. Lamendour et Y. Lemarchand,

2017. Enjeux et histoire des normes comptables, Entretien avec Edouard Jourdain, Conventions. Réguler la mondialisation,, publié en ligne le 12 septembre 2017

2018. Normes comptables : question de valeurs.  Projet, N° 366, octobre 2018, pp. 26-27. Extraits de l’entretien avec E. Jourdain publié dans Conventions en 2017.

IFRS- EU accounting policy


2005 Chiapello E., Les normes comptables comme institution du capitalisme. Une analyse du passage aux IFRS en Europe à partir de 2005, Sociologie du travail, Juillet-Septembre 2005, vol 47, n°3, pp. 362-382,

Tournant le dos à ses efforts antérieurs d'harmonisation des comptabilités européennes, l'Union européenne décidait en 2002 de recourir à la sous-traitance et d'imposer aux sociétés cotées européennes l'adoption d'un référentiel comptable produit par un organisme de droit privé, l'IASB (International Accounting Standards Board), basé à Londres et dénué jusque-là de tout mandat public. La décision est d'autant plus marquante que l'UE ne dispose d'aucun moyen de contrôle institutionnel sur l'IASB alors même qu'elle constitue le premier ensemble géographique à avoir décidé d'imposer à ses entreprises ce jeu de normes. Ce dernier est en outre ancré dans la tradition anglo-saxonne de normalisation pour les marchés financiers et promeut une représentation de la firme qui s'éloigne des traditions comptables du capitalisme continental. Cet article montre en quoi les nouvelles normes transforment la conception de l'entreprise et explicite le faisceau de facteurs qui a abouti à cette transformation institutionnelle majeure pour le capitalisme européen. — Numéro spécial : Les nouveaux formats de l'institution.

2007 Chiapello E., Medjad K., Une privatisation inédite de la norme: le cas de la politique comptable européenne, Sociologie du travail, vol 49, 2007, pp. 46-64 (republished  in :  Chantiri R. et Colasse B. (dir.) Normaliser les comptabilités des entreprises. Enjeux socio-organisationnels et jeux d’acteurs. Paris : EMS Management et Société, pp. 97)


2005   Capron M., Chiapello E., Les transformations institutionnelles : l’Europe recule, l’IASB s’impose, in : Les normes comptables internationales, instruments du capitalisme financier, M. Capron (eds), La découverte, 2005, pp. 49-88

2005  Chiapello E., Transformation des conventions comptables, transformation de la représentation de l’entreprise, in : Les normes comptables internationales, instruments du capitalisme financier, M. Capron (eds), La découverte, 2005, pp. 121-150

2008 Chiapello E., Les normes comptables internationales, in Le management - fondements et renouvellements, G. Schmidt, Ed. Sciences Humaines, Paris, 2008, pp. 201-209.

2011 Chiapello E., Medjad L., La privatisation des normes comptables européennes, entre succès et remords, in :  Droit et régulations des activités économiques. Approches sociologiques et institutionnalistes,  C. Bessy, T. Delpeuch et J.Pélisse (Eds), Droit et Société, Recherches et Travaux, n°24, LGDJ, 2011, pp. 293-308

2016  Chiapello E., How IFRS contribute to financialisation of capitalism, in: IFRS in a Global World, Bensadon D., Praquin N (eds), Springler, pp. 71-84


Sociology of management tools

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2013 Chiapello E., Gilbert P., Sociologie des outils de gestion. Introduction à l’analyse sociale de l’instrumentation de gestion, Paris : La découverte 2013 ;Prix du meilleur ouvrage de recherche remis en 2015 par la FNEGE, traduit et complété en espagnol et anglais.

  • 2019. Chiapello E., Gilbert P., Sociologia de las hierramientas de gestion. Santiago de Chile : uah/Ediciones, (traduction de Sociologie des outils de gestion, augmentée d’un chapitre par rapport à la version française

  • 2019 Chiapello E., Gilbert P., Management Tools: A Social Sciences Perspective, Cambridge University Press partial translation from the French “Sociologie des Outils de gestion”, adaptation with a new third part.


1996 Chiapello E., Les typologies des modes de contrôle et leurs facteurs de contingence - un essai d'organisation de la littérature, Comptabilité - Contrôle - Audit, septembre 1996, vol. 2, n° 2, pp. 51-74.

2012 Chiapello E., Gilbert P., Les outils de gestion : producteurs ou régulateurs de la violence psychique au travail ?, Le travail Humain, N° 1, vol. 75, Mars 2012, pp.1-18,


2008 Chiapello E., Etudier des actes de gestion en les reliant aux caractéristiques institutionnelles des systèmes économiques, in Gestion et sociétés – regards sociologiques, J. L. Metzger, M. Benedetto-Meyer, L'Harmattan, 2008, chapitre 5.

2009 Chiapello E., Gilbert P., La gestion comme technologie économique, in : P. Steiner et F. Vatin (eds), 2009, Traité de sociologie économique, PUF-2009, pp. 325-365,

2012 Chiapello E., La critique des instruments de gestion comme critique du capitalisme, In : Thomas Heller, Romain Huët, Bénédicte Vidaillet eds, Communication et organisation : perspectives critiques. Lille : Presses du Septentrion, 2013, pp. 67-80

2014 Chiapello E., Gilbert P., Instrumentation de gestion : in : Dictionnaire des risques psycho-sociaux, P. Zawieja, F. Guarnieri (eds), Le Seuil, Paris, 2014, pp. 401-405

2016 Chiapello E., Gilbert P., « L’agence » des outils de gestion , in : Théories des organisations. Nouveaux tournants, François-Xavier de Vaujany, Anthony Hussenot, Jean-François Chanlat  Eds,, Paris : Economica, 2016, pp. 177-198.

2016 Chiapello E. Financiarisation : Financiarisation et outils de gestion In : Philippe Batifoulier, Franck Bessis, Ariane Ghirardello et al.(eds)  Dictionnaire des conventions : Autour des travaux d’Olivier Favereau. Villeneuve d'Ascq : Presses universitaires du Septentrion, 2016

Interviews and conferences

2019. Conférence. 14 février 2019. Academic All Star (Paris Saclay) Conférence E. Chiapello et N. Fabbe-Costes.

2019 « Analyser les changements du capitalisme à partir des systèmes de calcul et des instruments de gestion », Conférence Internationale pour les 50 ans de Paris Dauphine. « Regards Croisés sur les Sciences des Organisations et de la Décision », 24 mai 2019 (

Quantification and financialization


2015 Baud C., Chiapello E., Comment les firmes se financiarisent : sous le marché, les règles ? Le cas de la financiarisation du crédit bancaire, Revue Française de Sociologie, 2015, vol. 56, N°3, pp. 439-468

L’étude de la mise en œuvre, dans une petite banque mutualiste, des Accords de « Bâle II » permet de documenter certains processus de financiarisation des entreprises. Ces derniers ne passent pas nécessairement par l’entrée dans le capital des entreprises d’investisseurs institutionnels orientés vers la création de valeur pour l’actionnaire. Dans le cas étudié, ce sont les choix réglementaires faits tant par l’Union européenne que par le superviseur bancaire français qui ont conduit cette banque à transformer totalement son organisation et ses méthodes de travail, adoptant ainsi des pratiques informées par la théorie financière dominante. Ces transformations se répercutent ensuite sur sa clientèle de petites et moyennes entreprises, qui se trouvent soumises, par l’intermédiaire des nouvelles procédures d’attribution de crédit, à une nouvelle discipline financière.

2015  Baud C., Chiapello E., How the Financialization of Firms Occurs: The Role of Regulation and Management Tools. The Case of Bank Credit, Revue Française de Sociologie, 2015, vol. 56, N°3, pp. 439-468  [English translation of the French article on line]

2015 Chiapello E., Financialisation of valuation, Human Studies, 2015, vol 38, n°1  pp. 13-35,


This article shows that forms of analysis and calculation specific to finance are spreading, and changing valuation processes in various social settings. This perspective is used to contribute to the study of the recent transformations of capitalism, as financialisation is usually seen as marking the past three decades. After defining what is meant by “financialised valuation,” different examples are discussed. Recent developments concerning the valuation of assets in accounting standards and credit risk in banking regulations are used to suggest that colonisation of financial activities by financialised valuations is taking place. Other changes, concerning the valuation of social or cultural activities and environmental issues are also highlighted in order to support the hypothesis of a parallel colonisation of non-financial activities by financialised valuations. Specifically, the language of finance appears to gradually being incorporated into public policies, especially in Europe—and this trend seems to have gathered pace since the 2000s. Some interpretations are proposed to understand why public policies are seemingly increasingly reliant on financialised valuations.

2016 Chiapello E., Walter C., The three ages of financial quantification: a conventionalist approach to the financiers’ metrology, Historical Social Research /Historische Sozialforschung, R. Diaz-Bone, E. Didier (eds), Special Issue « Conventions and quantification in economy, politics and statistics - historical perspectives” , vol 41, N° 2, pp. 155-177


This article presents a conventionalist interpretation of the financialization of the economy. We define three periods, each one associated with conventional calculation systems that may shape investment decisions. Each of these periods begins with the adoption by financial practitioners of a new “convention” to make investment decisions: the actuarial convention at the end of the 19th century, the mean-variance convention during the 1970s, and the market-consistent convention since the 1990s. These conventions are rooted in finance theory developments and are associated with different financing circuits for economic activity. When a new convention arises, it does not mean the disap-pearance of the old one, which can still be used by some practitioners for certain given matters, but it can also redefine some financial professions by fragmenting them according to the convention followed, and it can finally also give rise to new professions.

2017 Chiapello E., Godefroy G., The Dual Function of Judgment Devices. Why Does the Plurality of Market Classifications Matter?  Historical Social Research /Historische Sozialforschung, K. Krenn (ed.), Special Issue « Market classification” 2017 (42) N°1, pp. 152-188.


This article aims to advance understanding of the dual function of judgment devices (Karpik 2010) in markets. First, these devices support the construction of markets and their segmentation into classes of products, each segment being associated with different procedures for judging the quality or value of goods. Second, they organize classifications and a ranking of the things traded in the same market segment. The fragmentation of markets, understood as the cohabitation of several types of judgment devices, each one associated with different configurations of actors and practices, can then be seen as a welcome source of diversity, preventing the standardizing effects that would result from over-similar judgment devices. This article studies the classification operations that accompany changes in the French market that provides funding for social-sector organizations through financial and banking channels. We observe the arrival on this market of impact investing, the name given since the end of the 2000s to a set of venture capitalism-inspired financing methods that originated in the USA and the UK. We study these classification operations at three levels: the boundary-building work needed to create the idea of a new financing market (the impact investing (II) market), the fragmentation of the existing market for financing social organizations into sub-spaces governed by different assessment and classification regimes, and the effect of these classifications on the organizations being judged.


2018 Chiapello E., Optimisation in Context of Financialisation, in: Lost in Perfection.’ Impacts of Optimisation on Culture and Psyche Vera King, Benigna Gerisch, Hartmut Rosa (eds.), London and New York, Routledge, pp. 13-23


Management and Organizational control 


1990 Chiapello E., L'image du contrôle de gestion et des contrôleurs en France, Revue Echanges, 4ème trimestre 1990, n° 92, pp. 13-31.


1990 Chiapello E., Contrôleurs de gestion, comment concevez-vous votre fonction ?, Revue Echanges, 4ème trimestre 1990, n° 92, pp. 7-11.

1994 Chiapello E., Delmond M-H., "Les tableaux de bord gestion, outils d'introduction du changement", Revue Française de Gestion, janvier-février 1994, n° 97, pp. 49-58.

1996 Chiapello E., Les typologies des modes de contrôle et leurs facteurs de contingence - un essai d'organisation de la littérature, Comptabilité - Contrôle - Audit, septembre 1996, vol. 2, n° 2, pp. 51-74.


1991 Chiapello E., Profils et fonctions des contrôleurs de gestion in Compétence financière dans l'entreprise, R. Maeder (Ed.), CEPP, Paris, 1991, n° 9.