‘Accountants are constructors of reality’

by Bassam Maali and Osama Jaara — in International Journal of Accounting and Financial Reporting


Economic reality is a social construct that is affected by many cultural factors. Many accounting researchers (e.g. Hines 1988 and 1991; Morgan 1988; Tinker, 1991; Lukka, 1990 and 2010) have challenged the view of external realism. They argue for a socially constructed accounting presentation, some of them arguing that accounting does not present any reality, rather, it constructs reality. Morgan (1988) argues:
‘Accountants often see themselves as engaged in an objective, value-free, technical enterprise, representing reality “as is”. But in fact they are subjective “constructors of reality”: presenting the situations in limited and one sided ways.’ (p.477).


Studying accounting as a social construct provides a better understanding of the fundamental characteristics of the concepts accounting uses (Lukka, 1990, p.245) and leads to a better understanding of the roles accounting plays. Financial reporting is akin to mapping; it is shaped by political, recreational, religious, economic, technical and other interests (Tinker, 1991; Napier, 1993). Economic reality is part of social reality, which could not be understood in isolation; accounting presents socially constructed reality and in turn participates in creating reality (Hines, 1988; Morgan, 1988; Shapiro, 1997). It is believed, following Alexander and Archer (2003), that objects of accounting are part of an economic reality that is socially (intersubjectively) constructed. Social reality, with economic reality as part of it, exists, but not independently of peoples‘ beliefs and attitudes (Shapiro, 1997, p.168). The use of traditional research method, that are based on the constructionist view may not be suitable to capture the economic reality. Such methods seek primarily to discover law-like regularities that are testable with empirical data sets—and ignores unique phenomena which are regarded as uninteresting noise (Lukka, 2010, p.112).

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Posted in Ideas and Papers.

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