Academic Empathy Dialogue: “Theory and theorizing in accounting”

Posted by GIOVANNA MICHELON - Jan 17, 2023

The EAA Virtual Activities Committee is pleased to announce a new Academic Empathy Dialogue on the topic of “theory and theorizing in accounting” hosting Alfred Wagenhofer (University of Graz) and David Cooper (University of Alberta), mediated by Eija Vinnari (Tampere University). The event will take place on Zoom on March 14th at 5:00pm Brussels time.

The recording is available here.

The notions of theory and theorizing continue to spark debate among accounting scholars. One persistent topic concerns the extent to which accounting can be said to have its own theories. At one extreme are scholars who address theoretical accounting questions using theories based in, for instance, economics, psychology, or sociology. The other extreme is represented by researchers who regard accounting as a distinct domain with its own theories. A second topic of debate focuses on theories imported from other disciplines, with some claiming that the adoption of economics as the primary discipline underlying accounting studies would be most beneficial for theory building, whereas others defend the application of theories drawn from social sciences, media studies, linguistics and so forth. A third debate revolves around the so called “theory is king” thesis, according to which researchers need to constantly strive to make a theoretical contribution to prior research in their conceptual as well as empirical work. Concerns have increasingly been raised about researchers placing too much emphasis on theory development, leading to overly complex theorizing and the neglect of societal and practical considerations.

Such debates represent key tensions for the development of our field of study, as well as for enhancing the practical and societal contributions of accounting research. Accordingly, this EAA academic empathy conversation will explore questions such as:

  • What is theory – or what is it not?
  • What is meant by ‘theorizing’?
  • Does accounting have its own theories and if so, what are they?
  • How do theories originating in other disciplines help us understand accounting phenomena?
  • To what extent does the ‘theory is king’ thesis hold in accounting research? Is there any cause for concern?
  • What is the role of theoretical contributions in relation to a study’s practical and societal implications?
  • Which phenomena, if any, are under-theorized in accounting research?

Background readings

Abend, G. 2008. The meaning of ‘theory’. Sociological Theory, 26(2), 173-199.

Sutton, R.I. & Staw, B.M. 1995. What theory is not. Administrative Science Quarterly, 40(3), 371-384.



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