How accounting ends: Self-undermining repetition in accounting life cycles
Publication typeFT ranked journal article
JournalContemporary Accounting Research
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AbstractThis study develops a process model of how accounting may come to an end. Grounded in a longitudinal study of a risk culture survey, this model focuses on the dynamics that underpin the repetition of accounting practices, and sheds light on two boundary conditions of successful repetition and continuation, which are in tension with each other. On the one hand, there are pressures for repetition that preserves continuity and comparability. On the other hand, there is the ongoing organizational need to adjust accounting practices. Iterating between the case study findings, social studies of accounting, and the sociology of replication in scientific practice, the model shows how moving too close to either boundary increases the risk that repetition undermines the accounting practice being repeated: “perfect repetition” may be perceived as uninteresting and decision-irrelevant; very “imperfect repetition” may be perceived as something too different and idiosyncratic, and hence also decision-irrelevant. As a result, the analysis extends a rich literature that has examined empirical instances of failure of the conditions that sustain the repeatability of accounting practices. Via the theory of “self-undermining repetition,” this study shows how the possibilities for accounting's ending are paradoxically inherent in the very act of repetition. This notion of “self-undermining repetition” is deepened by a discussion of how it may be affected by four contingencies: task ambiguity, organizational politics, organizational actors' reflexivity, and external networks of support. Overall, the analysis of the self-undermining dynamics of repetition and related contingencies contrasts with research that foregrounds the constitutive nature of repeated uses of accountings. It shows how repetition may also undermine, rather than cumulatively consolidate, accounting practices.
Knowledge Domain/IndustryAccounting & Finance
Special Industries : Financial Services Management