Academic journal article The Accounting Historians Journal

Critique of Accounting: Examination of the Foundations and Normative Structure of an Applied Discipline

Academic journal article The Accounting Historians Journal

Critique of Accounting: Examination of the Foundations and Normative Structure of an Applied Discipline

Article excerpt

Richard V. Mattessich, Critique of Accounting: Examination of the Foundations and Normative Structure of an Applied Discipline (Westport, CT: Quorum Books, 1995, 304 pp., $65).

Reviewed by

Thomas N. Tyson

St. John Fisher College

Critique of Accounting is intended for scholars who are intrigued by the roots of their discipline and its interface with the other social sciences. The author, Richard Mattessich, attempts to integrate the historical, methodological, and moral aspects of accounting and describes the book's purpose as "a trumpet call to battle rather than a hymn of victory; it should incite academics to clarify the hierarchy of objectives and variety of means to achieve them" [p. xviii]. He is largely successful in these objectives.

Mattessich discusses the cultural significance of accounting and challenges his readers to broaden their perspective about our discipline's colorful tradition and substantial impact on society. He explains convincingly that the origins of accounting go back to prehistoric times and actually precede the invention of writing. In a fascinating story, he describes how hollow clay tokens were transferred in and out of a clay envelope. This practice originated over 8,000 years ago and evinces a form of double-entry recording.

The range of Mattessich's interests is truly impressive. They include ancient history, post-Kuhnian philosophy, measurement theory, information economics, current value models, and critical theory. The vast breadth of discourse may be discomforting to those readers who prefer more traditional accounting themes. Many others, however, will appreciate the opportunity to select topics that align with their particular interest. For the latter, thirty pages of over 500 bibliographic references will direct them to current and relevant literature.

On a practical level, the book can function as a helpful resource for instructors of graduate-level accounting theory courses or doctoral seminars on accounting history or current academic issues. …

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