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Theories for Theorists? or Theories for Practice?

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Theories for theorists or theories for practise? Liberating academic accounting research?

        In 1980s, the study called for detailed explanatory case studies of accounting in action has made what could easily be termed an “empirical revolution”. This empirical work challenged the normative theory which had dominated academic accounting. But this focus on empirics as “what is happening” has excluded work on “what might happen” or “what should happen”. As a result, there has been little reflective or critical study in exploring how far the links between accounting and managerialism are contingent to enable effectiveness in raising public interest. The researchers should now reconnect with accounting as a practice and be prepared to present theories for practice rather than restricting their research to theories about practice. In other words, theories are just like an instructions manual for accounting practice. It described those real –world structures which define and constrain human agency, and “point the way” on new directions which arise from “conditions of possibility” in the world.

        Accounting is a legitimising institution because it supports many real structural relations. Humphrey and Scapens make reference to the potential of case studies in generating new accounting theories. On the other hand, the agents have theorised their world by referring their actions. The researchers’ initial theories were then revised and reformulated by substituting observation for hermeneutics which allows researchers to understand and cope with the world where it will be tested. The theoretical gloss of the researchers can illuminate the practical consciousness of agents to pursue their tasks. For this to be achieved, researchers should be prepared to debate how accounting could become more enabling discourse by focusing on accountings which could inform resource allocations and distribution of benefits in society. In order to work towards this, accounting researchers need to involved with practitioners in critically appraising these insights in order to work towards more enabling or liberating accounting practices.

        As a nutshell, both theoretical development and practical interventions are necessary to liberate accounting. It is the responsibility of accounting researchers and academic accounting to give clearer definitions of public interest by establishing closer links with public policy, and rethink accounting as a technique which can enhance distributional equity.



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