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From Cadbury to Kay: Discourse, intertextuality and the evolution of UK corporate governance

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Mike Price, Professor Charles Harvey, Professor Mairi Maclean



This is the authors' accepted manuscript of an article that has been published in its final definitive form by Emerald Publishing Limited, 2018.

For re-use rights please refer to the publisher's terms and conditions.


Purpose – We aim to answer two main research question. First, we ask to what degree the UK corporate governance code has changed in response to systemic perturbations and subsequent enquiries established to recommend solutions to perceived shortcomings. Second, we ask how the solutions proposed in these landmark governance texts might be explained.Methodology – We take a critical discourse approach to develop and apply a discourse model of corporate governance reform. We draw together data on popular, corporate-political and technocratic discourses on corporate governance in the UK and analyze these data using content analysis and the discourse-historical approach.Findings – The UK corporate governance code has changed little despite periodic crises and the enquiries set up to investigate and recommend improvements. Institutional stasis, we find, is the product of discourse capture and control by elite corporate actors aided by political allies who inhabit the same elite habitus. Review group members draw intertextually on prior technocratic discourse to create new canonical texts that bear the hallmarks of their predecessors. Light touch regulation by corporate insiders thus remains the UK approach. Originality/value – This is one of the first applications of critical discourse analysis in the accounting literature and the first to have conducted a discursive analysis of corporate governance reports in the UK. We present an original model of discourse transitions to explain how systemic challenges are dissipated.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Price M, Harvey C, Maclean M, Campbell D

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal

Year: 2018

Volume: 31

Issue: 5

Pages: 1542-1562

Online publication date: 18/06/2018

Acceptance date: 10/10/2017

Date deposited: 11/10/2017

ISSN (print): 1368-0668

ISSN (electronic): 1758-4205

Publisher: Emerald Publishing Limited


DOI: 10.1108/AAAJ-01-2015-1955

Notes: The lead author, Michael Price, is a Research Associate in NUBS working for REWP.


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