TSElosophers meeting on 28.2.2024. Participants: Albrecht Becker, Behnam Pourahmadi, Erkki Lassila, Kari Lukka, Mia Salo, Milla Unkila, Otto Rosendahl


Bigoni, M., & Mohammed, S. (2023). Critique is unsustainable: A polemic. Critical Perspectives on Accounting, 102555.

Husillos, J. (2023). Is critique sustainable? A commentary on Bigoni and Mohammed. Critical Perspectives on Accounting, 102603.

Tweedie, J. (2023). If critique is unsustainable, what is Left? A commentary on Bigoni and Mohammed. Critical Perspectives on Accounting, 102597.


The target for our discussion was a recent debate in Critical Perspectives on Accounting, commenced by the polemic piece by Michele Bigoni & Sideeq Mohammed. They present a clear, strongly formulated argument as for how capitalism has the capacity to accommodate all critique as part of its own agenda of seeking profits and constant economic growth, thereby running an indefinite exploitation of all production factors. Hence critique concerning, for instance, ecological sustainability will eventually be always ineffective. Bigoni & Mohammed argue their reasoning is based on the works of Marx and Deleuze & Guattari. In the same issue of Critical Perspectives on Accounting, Javier Husillos and Jonny Tweedie comment on the piece by Bigoni & Mohammed, making the set of readings an exciting set as a whole.


TSElosophers developed a most lively and many-sided discussion based on this debate forum. Even though we had certain issues regarding each of the three pieces, we generally very much welcomed this kind of strongly formulated texts, focusing on the extremely serious issues that the Anthropocene has caused on the life on planet Earth. While the three pieces were formally framed in the context of critical accounting research, we took all of them as bearing relevance regarding critical social studies research overall.

As for Bigoni & Mohammed, one of the most significant worries relates to their peculiar reading of Marx. For Bigoni & Mohammed, capitalism presents the ‘galvanized’ end state of affairs, while for Marx this was only an intermediate condition, to be eventually followed by communism. Another issue related to the question whether the economic arrangement, be that capitalism or communism or whatever, really is the root cause for our serious troubles relating to sustainability. The 20th century counter model of capitalism, ‘communism’ or rather ‘actually existing socialism’, has also led to serious, ruthless exploitation of all production factors, not least nature. TSElosophers controversially discussed if the root cause rather is an inherent way of human life, especially our strong tendency for opportunism, making it difficult to find effective routes for the needed major turnaround that would be urgently needed.

Regarding the piece by Javier Husillos, it was a pity it was nearly completely decoupled from the key messages of Bigoni & Mohammed. Husillos only contests (on the second page) whether capitalism really is such a perfectly functioning (in its own terms) ‘machine’ after all. Otherwise, Husillos turns his piece to commenting how the disadvantaged and indigenous people play too little role in critical accounting research and suggest some ways out through a set of questions. This is a most fair concern as such, but confuses the discussion kicked off by Bigoni & Mohammed: The theme was supposed to be primarily ecological sustainability, not social sustainability. In addition, we may wonder whether it is more like a romantic dream that the disadvantaged parties would have better knowledge or attitudes regarding sustainability than the privileged ones. This may be the case, but where is the evidence?

Turning to the commentary by Jonny Tweedie, TSElosophers found it going to the very point of the debate as kicked off by Bigoni & Mohammed. Like Husillos, Tweedie asks whether we should take the working of capitalism like this ’perfect machine’, as argued by Bigoni & Mohammed. But Tweedie goes further, suggesting that capitalism should not be viewed as the only option, but rather a contingent thing, a condition with history. Things could be otherwise and so they have also been for long time periods in the past. In this way, Tweedie seems to be able to suggest a way out from the gloomiest dead-end which Bigoni & Mohammed depicted for the project of critical research. However, we may wonder whether it is realistic to assume the capitalist condition may, or will be, transformed to something else that were much more sustainable. At least, there is very little grounding for believing communism would be of help. What would be the economic arrangement that could form the major turnaround that would now be urgently needed? And eventually, is the root cause, after all, any economic arrangement at all?

Another theme of discussion pertained to the level of hope dashed or inspired by the articles. Where Bigoni & Mohammed viewed the capitalist machine almost predeterminedly invincible, thus promoting certain hopelessness, Tweedie’s point about the constructed nature of social systems leaves an opening. This, however, leads to the dilemma of instigating the required system level change within the timeframe of our planetary systems still upholding our current societies. It seems that in order to promote the necessary change, we need to both work within the current capitalist system, harnessing its mechanisms where possible, while at the same time acknowledging the fundamental problems of the system and working towards creating something new. If, like Bigoni & Mohammed pointed out, the majority of sustainable business research focuses on transitional changes within the system, maybe we can view that as a necessary way of buying us more time in which the critical research led, or at least inspired, efforts of transforming the overall game have time to mature.