ABSTRACT

The “Accounting Identity,” Assets = Liabilities + Equity, is emblematic of the quest for a concise and universal conceptual framework for the discipline of accounting. This essentially idealistic aspiration stands in opposition to more context-sensitive perspectives, such as socio-historical and postmodern schools of accounting thought. We examine these competing paradigms on both the macro level of standards setting and on the more intimate level of professional identity. In this paper, we argue that the practice of accounting finds stronger support and commonality with context-sensitive intellectual traditions than with idealist approaches. We advocate a vision for the “identity of accountants” grounded in appreciation of our own intellectual heritage and accounting's distinctive role in society.

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