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Publication Date

1997

Abstract

In recent years accounting historiography has been enriched by a considerable volume of debate surrounding the chronology and evolution of accounting theory and practice. By virtue of their attempts to explain the processes of change, accounting historians have become identified with a paradigm or world view that constitutes the theoretical context within which their research findings are couched. Scholars have either self-avowed their paradigmatic affiliations or have had their work so classified in the writings of others. Fleischman et al. [1996a], for example, trichotomized the field of industrial revolution cost accounting into three "schools": the Neoclassical (economic rationalist), the Foucauldian, and the Marxist (labor process). A dichotomized schemata might be employed to distinguish "critical" and "traditional" historians. Critical historians tend to question the objectivity of much primary source material, particularly accounting documents, which can serve the self-interest of those in positions of power. Traditionalists have more faith that surviving business records provide a less partisan approximation of some sort of objective reality. A distinction can likewise be made between the "new accounting history" and older approaches, typically with a narrower focus. The new genre casts a wider net, deploying a variety of contexts to coexist with those economic aspects traditionally privileged in much accounting historiography. Many new accounting historians attempt to amplify the voices of suppressed groups (women, the poor, the illiterate) which have not been heard in mainstream literature.

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