The need to get real: Accounting and its role in constructing reality

David CARTER, Marion Tauschek

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Abstract

Accounting is in crisis. It is a crisis of legitimacy. If the leaders of Enron perceived themselves to be “the smartest guys in the room” (McLean Elkind, 2004), the problem for accounting is that it is the enabler of these crises that attack the fundamental core of what is accounting itself. In part, this is because there is no answer to this question; there is no fundamental core to the thing itself. Rhetorically, it is an open book that is free to be authored in any direction that the authors (the accountants) want to take the discussion. This is the enabler of crisis. Sadly, but unsurprisingly, the first decade of the twenty-first Century is a story of epic accounting failures: from the income manipulations of Enron, WorldCom, Xerox and the multitude of other leading US companies in the early 2000s, to the role of fair value accounting for derivatives in relation to the financial crisis (then banking crisis, then sovereign debt crisis) that affects us today. Accounting is akin to an empty signifier, allowing authors of the accounting discourse to construct accounting in ways that mislead, confuse, and obfuscate the public. In association with this is that society seems to forget that accountants do this, or worse still, are lead to believe that these accounting failures are merely the work of a few ‘bad apples’ rather than recognising that the entire system is set up to mislead, confuse and obfuscate.
Original languageSpanish
Title of host publicationO profissional da contabilidade | Desenvolvimento de carreira, percepções e seu papel social
EditorsRenato Ferreira Leitao Azevedo
Place of PublicationSao Paulo
PublisherEditora SENAC
Pages73-106
Number of pages34
ISBN (Print)9788539607358
Publication statusPublished - 2014

Cite this

CARTER, D., & Tauschek, M. (2014). The need to get real: Accounting and its role in constructing reality. In R. F. L. Azevedo (Ed.), O profissional da contabilidade | Desenvolvimento de carreira, percepções e seu papel social (pp. 73-106). Editora SENAC.