The paper analyzes the discordant reactions of labor to the introduction of uniform costing in the British printing industry during the early 20th century. The paper reveals that trade unions assisted employers in the quest for a costing-based solution to the inveterate problem of excessive price competition in the printing sector. At the same time, rank-and-file unionists were fearful of the exploitative potential of one element of the prescribed costing solution — time recording. It is shown that labor hostility was sited at the point where costing converged with scientific management in the organization. Evidence is presented which confirms the pertinence of economic-rationalist, labor-process, and Foucauldian approaches to the study of cost accounting history. It is suggested that different paradigms have particular relevance to the analysis of accounting discourses conducted both at the strategic macro-level and at the micro-level of the shop floor.

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