By James Alfred Aho

Double-entry bookkeeping (DEB), sleek capitalism's at the beginning calculative know-how, was once "invented" throughout the center a long time whilst revenue making used to be morally stigmatized. James Aho examines the frustrating of profitable and gives an explanatory figuring out of the paradoxical coupling of revenue looking and morality by means of situating DEB within the spiritual conditions from which it emerged, particularly the newly instituted sacrament of penance, that's, confession.
Confession impacted the consciences of medieval businessmen either via its sacramental shape and during its ethical teachings. the shape of confession produced common behavior of ethical scrupulosity (leading to compulsive list keeping); the content material of confession taught that trade itself was once morally suspect. Scrupulous businessmen have been hence pushed to justify their affairs to church, commune, and themselves. via DEB, profitable was once "Christianized" and Christianity was once made extra amenable to the pursuit of wealth. even though DEB is usually considered completely as a scientifically impartial account of the circulation of cash via a company, it is still because it was once initially devised, a rhetorical argument.

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Extra resources for Confession and Bookkeeping: The Religious, Moral, and Rhetorical Roots of Modern Accounting

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It is in this context that the moral—psychological significance of double-entry bookkeeping is best understood. This page intentionally left blank. CHAPTER 4 Business Scruples Medieval Double-entry Bookkeeping Double-entry bookkeeping (DEB) first appeared in several Italian cities simultaneously (Raymond de Roover, 1955; Florence de Roover, 1956; Chatfield, 1974: 13–16). Its first documented use is in the Massari accounts of Genoa (Melis, 1950: 527). ) The Massari books—so named after the word for city treasury officials—date from 1327 when, according to its devisors, a new system was introduced “after the mode of banks,” perhaps to avert fraud.

Each sin in turn is divided into its “children” or “species,” and each of these graded in terms of their seriousness. This system is found virtually unchanged in penitential handbooks down to our time. Dissemination In the decades after 1215 few didactic devices were ignored by the Church in her attempt to instill in the lay soul a sense of the new sacrament, each adapted to the inclinations, needs, and abilities of the audience (Delumeau, 1990: 198–211). First came a spate of Dominican summa pastoralis, confessorum, and casibus (casuistry) (Michaud-Quantin, 1962: 15–43).

After all, even DEB is no guarantee against financial calamity. Tommaso Portinari, a branch manager for the Medici’s (which kept its books in double-entry), was responsible for bankrupting the entire enterprise by extending imprudent loans to extravagant spenders and by his own unauthorized investments in galleys and residences. He was saved from Veckinhusen’s fate only by virtue of his status as a diplomat. Hans Memgling’s triptych, “The Last Judgement,” pictures Portinari sitting naked and smug in the scales of divine justice held by Michael the Archangel (Raymond de Roover, 1963: 338–57).

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