The Accounting Historians Journal Vol. 10, No. 1 Spring 1983
Michel W. E. Glautier
SEARCHING FOR ACCOUNTING PARADIGMS
Abstract: The paper seeks to explore the origins of the paradigm on which mod-ern accounting rests. It suggests that explanations which look to the relative con-centration and dilution of the central political power may be relevant to discussing paradigms which were available in the past and may be available in the future.
The historical experience affords useful insights into current prob-lems in three significant ways. First, it reveals the uniqueness which characterizes man's efforts to solve the difficulties with which he is confronted. This uniqueness is a synthesis of complex behavioral elements uneasily constrained by closely reasoned judgment. Sec-ond, it illustrates the ephemeral nature of those human problems which stem from the insecurity attaching to life, from the shortages created by human needs and from the mismanagement often evi-denced in human affairs. Third, it identifies the accumulation of knowledge as the significant factor by which successive generations may be differentiated.
The historical experience is significant because it offers para-digms which are not only useful, but which enshrine fundamental convictions held by mankind. In this sense, it has particular impor-tance in enlarging the perception of the current crisis in account-ing. This crisis is not simply a prosaic inability to deal with a host of purely technical problems, such as inflation and valuation, but more fundamentally relates to the absence of a stable definition of accounting and a supportive theory of accounting.
The purpose of this paper is to explore the historical experience from which modern accounting has emerged, and to identify the central elements of the paradigm on which it is founded. It will be suggested that this analysis may be helpful in removing some mis-conceptions in the debate about current accounting developments.
Paradigm and Crisis
An analysis of the historical process by which the extant account-ing paradigm has been forged reveals neither constancy of belief