Elgar Research Agendas
Edited by Barbara Czarniawska
Chapter 2: In search of what accounting is not: speculations on the future of valuing, transparency and a new aesth-etics for governing capitalism and democracy
It was back in 1985 when Anthony Hopwood, studying the intertwining of accounting and the social, demonstrated the importance of a historical approach for understanding how ‘accounting had become what it is now’ (Hopwood, 1985: 365). His call for a positive knowledge about the processes of accounting change must have sounded odd to the ears of those (mainly Anglo-American academics, I must add) who believed that accounting was a simple and neutral technique for profit measurement and managerial control. For them, accounting was contextless: an instrument of value measurement designed to serve shareholders’ interests on a trajectory towards greater transparency and accuracy of representation. So unusual was this call that in 1987 Hopwood had to reiterate it – this time in negative terms – when he stated that accounting ‘has the tendency to become what it was not’ (Hopwood, 1987: 207). Thinking of accounting in terms of what it is not was a revolutionary approach. It is on this turn towards what I label negativism that this chapter draws upon an image of what the future of accounting studies could look like, to envision the crossroads that academics and practitioners may be required to take in the next few years.
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