The Accounting Historians Journal
Vol. 22, No. 1
THE HISTORICAL CONTEXT OF
PROFESSIONAL IDEOLOGY AND
TENSION AND STRAIN IN THE
Abstract: A growing literature points to a crisis of confidence in the
accounting profession and a lack of commitment by its members to
the professional ideology. In this paper the approach developed by
MacIntyre is used to place professional ideology in an historical context.
The paper argues that the tension and strain in the profession
can be related to the changing character of both the contemporary
society and professional ideology itself. It concludes by highlighting
the need for the profession to develop an ideology to which its members
as well as society can relate.
Keywords: Professional Tension, Professional Ideology, Accounting
Professional activity has been the subject of public scrutiny
in recent years as many professions have been criticised for
their failure to live up to society's expectations which require
them to play an important part in the smooth functioning of
modern society. For example, Schon [1983, p. 4] states:
. . . not only have we witnessed well publicized scandals
in which highly esteemed professionals have misused
their autonomy — where doctors and lawyers for example
have used their position illegitimately for private
gain — but we also encounter visible failures of professional
The failures of professional action have resulted in a loss of
society's confidence in many professions leading to a crisis situation.
Symptoms of a crisis in the professions have been increasingly
visible since the 1950s. Studies carried out on many professions
have highlighted such symptoms. Eron [1955, pp.
Received November 1993
Revised October 1994
Accepted June 1995