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Changes in Accounting Research over the Last 30 Years

In: Business and Management

Submitted By bowlermitchell
Words 1874
Pages 8
The time where Henderson and Pierson (1978)left us in the 1970’s was a time where there was an emergence of new research directions around the organizational and social aspects of accounting. During this time the accountancy profession was rapidly growing and moving into many new areas, there was a new standard-setting process, greater use of accounting controls in both private and public-sector enterprises, new forms of social accounting, intervention by government in the inflation accounting debate and calls on accounting to change in diverse directions. All of these rapid changes were forcing accounting academics to analysis the changing world of accounting more closely. (p454 30 years of historical accounting research)
One of the changes in accounting analysis was a move towards accounting history. Hopwood (1976)called for historical studies in terms that would later be labelled as “traditional”, despite the label it would receive in the future, it still represented an awareness that historical studies would soon be an important source of understanding of the roles of accounting in organizations and society (reference 30 years of historical accounting research). Historical research was slow to emerge, as was highlighted in the Accounting, Organizations and Society journal where between 1976 and 1985 only 13 historical papers were published. Historical research came to the fore during the period from 1986 and 1990 where 22 historical papers were published in the journal Accounting, Organizations and Society, this period was also the time where there was the development of the Foucault –influenced perspective, early contribution using labour process theory and early work on the accounting’s professionalization project. More recently, historical accounting research has come to represent about 20% of the content in the Accounting, Organizations and Society journal, of which most of the papers have been intended by their authors to advance our understanding of the changing nature of the accountant as a professional or simply as a worker and the diverse and changing roles of accounting in society. (Reference 30 years of historical accounting research)

The pedagogic approach is good for teachers to use so that they don’t confuse students with old and new methods instead of the single “correct answer”. By applying this approach to accounting helps to sustain and recreate accountants who paradoxically are exhorted to embrace change while learning a craft that appears to be “present-timeless” (hacking, 1995 get reference, found on endnote). With this view accountants can be regarded to be similar to those in other vocational disciplines such as engineering and medicine. However there is a key difference in that engineering aims at making things better and that medicine aims at making people better, while recent accounting research has recently lost touch with notions of technical improvement in accounting practice. This is due to there being a shift in focus towards “analytical, experimental or archival-empirical approaches” and a view that the role of “scientific” research in accounting is limited to explaining and predicting accounting practice (not sure how to do it reference anonymous 1988). Due to these factors researches have been directed away from improving practices and towards sophistication of research methods, and stressed understanding of accounting as a “present – timeless” phenomenon. (Reference) (30 years of historical accounting research)

Accountants are increasingly calling themselves social scientists, this has come with the view that saying it is a mere coincidence that there is an environmental change and an accounting change doesn’t equate to an adequate explanation of the accounting change: put simply scholars have the idea that it is not enough to claim that “A caused B”, without explaining “why A caused B”. There is a possibility that accounting scholars are beginning to behave as other socially-oriented researchers who are influenced by contemporary views of the method of science. (megill p 241 done on endnote). The method of science views explanation as adequate only if individual events could be shown to be the consequence of general “laws”, and viewed observed phenomena as merely surface traces of some deep reality, if this occurred then the general laws that were used to explain accounting were economic ones. (30 years of historical accounting research p 451)
Traditional views of accounting may concede that the environment may be effected by particular accounting numbers, ideas and methods; it is more accurate to say that the predominant direction of influence is from the environment to accounting. The two categories “accounting” and “environment” need to be observed as being mutually exclusive entities: accounting is viewed as a well defined and limited set of practices, leading to particular documents and actions, with everything else forming the environment (30 years of historical accounting research p 456). However within the accounting research community in the recent years there has been recognition that accounting is not just reflective but is also constitutive: accounting isn’t merely a passive effect of its environment but works in ways that shape this environment. The constitutive power of accounting arises not just in the context of the individual organization, but also in a wider social context. (30 years of historical accounting research p 456)
After a period of time up untill the 1970’s there was a strong focus on the research in financial accounting and auding while management accounting was in a period of stagnation with regard to the German literature (Busse von Colbe (1996,422) from 200 years of research). After this period of time more focus was paid to more practical aspects of management accounting and after the publication of Johnson and Kaplan’s (1987) Relevance lost: the rise and fall of management accounting there was a revival in management accounting research. Some of the research completed in this time gave rise to a shift inmethodology towards the revival or revision of the case method which was first introduced by the Harvard Business School. This new version of methodology was called the ‘clinical and field-based research’ was expected to help overcum the loss of relevance, and improve industrial productivity in the short run. However the new trend of management accounting was aimed at replacing traditional overhead allocation procedures with new ones. (200 years of accounting research p
According to (reference Accounting research in the English language area p 192) the inflationary tendencies in (America and some Commonwealth countries find what coutries) during the 1970’s have boosted research and publications in current value and general price-level adjustments. An important anthology on capital maintenance, edited by Sterling and Lemke (1982) appeared. Due to revitalised interest in Edwards and Bell (1961) various current price-level legislations were implemented of which (FASB 1975) from USA is a very prominent example. On the most important changes in this time was that various countries introduced proposals, quasi-legislations or guidelines to make one of the two versions of supplementary current value accounting compulsory for financial statement presentation (Accounting research in the English language area p 192). However, in the early years of the 1980’s inflation ebbed away which caused interest in such experiments to evaporate, although, most of these institutions recommended replacement value accounting remain as a voluntary supplement in financial statements.
In the 1980’s the amount of English language academic accounting journals more than trebled and went into many different directions that it had never ventured into before, this was due to the fact that in the past there has not been a lot of knowledge in modern mathematics, statistics, probability and investment theory however in the 1980’s accounting scholars were much better trained in these areas. By the 1990’s these well trained scholars began to understand that no applied science can be restricted to the Procrustes bed of mere formalization and statistical testing, this meant there was a shift away from purely mathematical or statistical ‘model building” and towards empirical accounting research. (Statistical empirical accounting and positive accounting theory p 197)
In watts and Zimmerman (1990) the authors set out what their theory has revealed along with explanations, the first point was the bonus plan hypotheses where the probability is higher that management selects an accounting method which reports a relatively higher earnings figure, secondly the dept/equity hypothesis where management is more likely to select such an income increasing method the higher a firms debt/equity ratio is and finally the political cost hypothesis where management is likely to select the other method, the income decreasing one if the firm is relatively large (Reference watts and Zimmerman 1990).
Empirical accounting research asserted that security prices provide a measure of information content for such events as changes in accounting regulations, earnings announcements and statement presentation. The statement on accounting theory and theory acceptance (SATTA) attempted to summarise the new empirical accounting research, this included earning research, dealing with such topics as the relationship between share prices and ‘abnormal earnings’ and second research in earnings forecasts as well as the information content of such forecasts (Givoly and lakonishok 1979 from two hundred years of accounting research p 194). The major result of this empirical studies is the earnings announcements bear information content, the market appears to rely on the firm’s earnings forecast, other financial data of the financial statements are not highly associated with unexpected returns, there seems to be no major correlations between changes in accounting methods on a voluntary basis and unexpected returns, and lastly the market appears to see through ‘cosmetic changes’ in financial statements, and FASB regulations seem not to affect stockholders’ wealth or earning power (two hundred years of accounting research p 194).
Arthur Levitt, former chairman of the Securities and Exchange committee, defines corporate governance as ‘the relationship between the investor, the management team and the board of directors of a company” (levitt, 2002 p 209. Found in the evolution of corporate governance and its impact on modern corporate America). Before the lapses in financial reporting in the early 2000’s there was a voluntary-compliance approach to using corporate governance, however after the lapses in financial reporting the was a drop in critical investor confidence in the function of the corporate control market in the U.S so in 2002 the Sarbanes-Oxley Act (SOX)was installed. Once this was implemented the U.S is now following a distinct and mandatory “rules-based’ approach in its corporate governance regime, which implies a much higher emphasis on regulatory enforcement (broshko and li 2006).
As the modern trends gained momentum, the so-called priori approach in general was subject to growing criticism through several papers. Agency information research on one side and empirical accounting research on the other dominated academic accounting research and assumed the character of normal science in the 1970’s. Many English speaking countries began to quickly adopt empirical statistical accounting; however in non English speaking countries the uptake was much slower. Towards the end of the 1970’s positive accounting theory took shape as a radical methodology for empirical research that is above all, a political-contractual approach (jeanjean 2005 from statistical empirical accounting and positive accounting theory). Although there were numerous publications that opposed the positive accounting policy and by the mid 1980’s it was clear to see the direct influence of positive accounting policy had fallen short of its expectations.…...

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