Paradigm and Postmodern Accounting Research: An Imaginary Dialogue

Eko Ganis Sukoharsono

presented on:
Accounting Research Training Series (ARTS) 6
Program Doktor Ilmu Akuntansi JAFEB Universitas Brawijaya


 The paper explicates a thought of postmodern accounting research. Its aim is to explore interests on accounting research methodology and methods. Some research agenda are drawn attention from accounting historiography to power and knowledge on accounting. The idea of postmodern comes from the philosophical assumptions of ontology, epistemology, axiology, rhetoric and methodology. The discussion on the difference between methodology and methods is also given. It is believed that postmodern enriches accounting research agenda ranging from individual experiences to autobiography.

Prologue: How … how … and how is Postmodernism?

Accounting has gone far away. Metaphorically, accounting is alike of a Formula One car racing. Ferrari, Mclaren, and Renault are speeding up in reaching the finish. Renault is now at the top, dropping a dominance of Ferrari in the previous years. Sebastian Vetel, a young German driver, has made a new history of the youngest Formula One driver ever and the fastest tuner in the history. Vetel with Renault inspired to speed up the movement of accounting today. Accounting is no longer dominated by a single paradigm. New paradigms enter in multi way corners. Similarly, In the Formula one, it was dominanted by Ferrari, turning to Mclaren and now it belongs to Renault. It is a big moment to accounting discipline, postmodern paradigm has taken place as a mode of a new accounting movement.

The paper is written to fulfill a request of the Accounting FEB UB workshop on Methodology and Method of Postmodern Accounting Research. For me, it is not easy to prepare a paper in a hectic time. Finally I had to spend after my trip from Denpasar for I-MHERE and also after attending the Appreciation Night, 3 December 2011, the night of the 50 Anniversary FEB UB. In the night at the same table Mr. Roy , Ms. Elia and an Unknown name, my mind was always thinking the day that I had to deliver the topic in the workshop. Ms. Elia said ‘see you on Wednesday’. It seemed to me hard to believe that I had to prepare a paper, not just a collection of slides. Klantink and Fariz RM inspired me to write a paper with the similar mode of when I prepared a paper of SNA XIV plenary session and Epistemology Debate in a dialogue. When I reached at home with still Sakura Nada Kasih and Barcelona Fariz RM’s yelp in my ears, I eager to write a mode of dialogue or  trialogue. Of course, it will be not in monologue or even not in quadalogue. Trialogue, to some extents, is an interchange and discussion of ideas among three persons and groups having different origins, philosophies, principles, or backgrounds. At an end, I decided to use a dialogue for this paper.

The dialogue is an imaginary thought. The dialogue is between two persons which are an accounting thinker and a research student. Both is engaged to share an accounting knowledge in particular of methodology and method in a postmodern accounting research. This is, for me, a big thought being a researcher knowing bit beyond a theory of accounting in practice, rather it is a philosophical thought in nature. I believe some accounting people ‘hate’ this, but some are enjoyed to journey a trip in a philosophy of accounting methodology. Both, of course, are in a different corner. One or some is (are) in a left continuum and others are in a right one. Of course, we are not possible to meet them in ‘shaking’ hands. Rather, both continuums put in a critical debate and sometimes in a dispute.

Well … enjoy yourself … La kum dinukum waliadin (Al kafirun: 6). This carries a meaning ‘you shall have your religion and I shall have my religion’. Entire to the paper, I define accounting is based on the Postmodern perspective which is as accountability processes of everyday economic, environment, social and spiritual activities involving either monetary and non-monetary values. The definition is moving beyond what has been understood as “the art of recording, classifying, and summarizing in a significant manner and in terms of money, transactions and events which are, in part at least, of financial character, and interpreting the results thereof (AICPA).

Accounting Thinker     :  Say … left and right continuum are the Allah blessing. Allah always gives to us a disputable range in our lives. If there is any positive, then there is any negative, if there is any man and of course woman is there too. If there are any pros and there are any cons as well. I do not mind any disputable thought, but we need an appreciation if there is any day, it is because of any night. It is a complimentary life.

Research Student         : Thinker, are we going to discuss a postmodern accounting research?

Accounting Thinker     : Yes … We are now and have already engaged in a postmodern accounting agenda! Since in this prologue, we have entered a postmodern accounting door.

Accounting thinker is trying to convince the research student that since the beginning sentence, an aura of postmodern is felt. Then, the Thinker emphasized if it was there, postmodern was started to exist. Sometimes, it is hard to feel that Postmodern is there. Postmodern is, it seems to me, everywhere, or even anywhere.

The purpose of the paper is imaginarily dialogue between two accountants. One is an accounting thinker and another is an accounting research student. The dialogue is to explicate a methodology and method in postmodern accounting research. As a distinct continuum of paradigm, postmodern is placed in distinctive research mode where is anti foundational pragmatism and eclecticism in accounting. Postmodern is selecting what seems best of various styles or ideas, instead of following some single doctrine or style.

Postmodern in Nature

Accounting Thinker     : I remember when I read an article of Sukoharsono (2010) where …

“ Postmodernisme adalah ungkapan yang sangat kontroversial. Hadir dengan ungkapan-ungkapan yang serba penuh reaksioner. Sebut saja antara lain dekonstruksisme‘, nihilisme‘, lokalisme‘, dan spiritualisme‘. Kehadirannya mewarnai banyak disiplin ilmu dalam telaah mode intelektual dalam merubah paradigm berfikir tentang ontology, epistemology dan methodology. Sering pula difahami postmodernisme‘ melakukan usaha merubah tradisi intelektual yang sudah mapan.” (Sukoharsono, 2010:1)

Research Student         : Yes, Thinker, I have read too. It is controversial … but it enlightens the people’s thoughts on our accounting lives.

Accounting Thinker     : Not everyone has the same idea and … read this …

Intelektual yang secara tradisi mengedepankan rasionalitas dan objektivitas, mulai dirubah dengan melibatkan spiritualitas dan subjektivitas. Tradisi justifikasi signifikansi kebenaran dengan alat matematis dan statistika, diungkit dengan diskursus, partisipasi kontektual, naratif dan transendental. Satu lagi yaitu tradisi justifikasi generalisasi, dibantah dengan mengedepankan kearifan local (local wisdom)” (Sukoharsono, 2010:1).

Research Student         : Thinker, I confused to understand what is postmodernism?

Accounting Thinker     : Here is Postmodernism in a philosophy …

The above table is to draw a dichotomy between modern and postmodern. There are 5 (five) philosophical assumptions to place in distinct angles: (1) Ontological, Epistemological, Axiological, Rhetorical and Methodological Assumptions. Each assumption leads to an impact of accounting methodological choice. Of course, one to another has disputable in its essences. Ontologically, postmodern comes to an idea that reality is objective and singular, having distant from the researcher. The researcher is not embedded to an object of the research. It is so called postmodern is subjective and multiple and being embedded in a study.

Research Student         : Ehm … well it is beyond my mind, Thinker!

Accounting Thinker     : I haven’t finished yet explicating the Postmodern Philosophy … here is in terms of epistemology.

Epistemology is the branch of philosophy that studies on knowledge. It attempts to answer the basic question: what distinguishes true (adequate) knowledge from false (inadequate) knowledge? The questions translate into issues of scientific methodology: how can one develop theories or models that are better than competing theories? It also forms one of the pillars of the new sciences of cognition, which developed from the information processing approach to psychology, and from artificial intelligence, as an attempt to develop computer programs that mimic a human’s capacity to use knowledge in an intelligent way.

When we look at the history of epistemology, we can discern a clear trend, in spite of the confusion of many seemingly contradictory positions of what is postmodernism. The first theories of knowledge stressed its absolute, permanent character, whereas the later (Postmodernism) theories put the emphasis on its relativity or situation-dependence, its continuous development or evolution, and its active interference with the world and its subjects and objects. The whole trend moves from a static, passive view of knowledge towards a more and more adaptive and active one.

Accounting Thinker    : Well … put it this way … the dispute is alike of Surat Al Kafirun

(1)   Say, O unbelievers

(2)   I do not serve that which you serve

(3)   Nor do you serve Him Whom I serve

(4)   Nor am I going to serve that which you serve

(5)   Nor are you going to serve Him whom I serve

(6)   You shall have your religion and I shall have my religion (Al Kafirun: 1-5)

The Surah Al Kafirun inspires that modern and postmodern have their own contexts. It places in a particular position. Postmodern epistemologically places its position that a researcher is embedded and participate in its research object.

Postmodernism and Its Research Agenda

There are several scholars associated with the postmodernism. They are Lyotard (1984), Foucoult (1979), Baudrillard (19, Jameson (1992), and Derida. Each of them contributes to the development of postmodernism research agenda in different ways. The two prominent scholars will be explored here.

Accounting Thinker    : There are many actually, but the two postmodernist scholars I will explore them: Foucoult and Lyotard.

To summarise Foucault’s works would tantamount to a mutilation of a body of work that defies categorization. If such categorization were attempted, Foucault’s work would have to include two chronological stages: that of archaeology and that of genealogy. The first concerns the conditions for the emergence of the human sciences and the later with the strategic roles that knowledge played in fields of public administration and policy. Such strategies facilitate the maintenance of order and organization. Central in this strategy is the use of surveillance with its implications of hierarchical observance, normalizing judgement and examination (Stewart, 1992). The purpose of such a understanding and knowledge is to render the strange familiar and the familiar strange. Apart from this, the purpose of his work is to enlighten so that people would see things differently and enable people to perhaps think with a difference. The essential merit of a Foucauldian approach also lies in that it successfully bridges the divides between structural and phenomenological approachers (Dreyfus and Rabinow, 1982) between structural and historical analysis and between Marxist and Critical Theory (Smart, 1985; Poster, 1984). A key feature derived from Foucault’s works is that knowledge is also possible through the knowledge of the qualities and characteristics of opposites. Foucauldian epistemology would be based on the idea that things are also known by their differences or opposites. The second Foucauldian quality is that in the human sciences, including accounting, human beings are first the object of knowledge and later human beings are the subject of knowledge. Thus for Foucault, in Madness and Civilisation (1967), psychiatry and psychology as sciences in the human world are the result of a certain practice. The practice which confines, studies and classifies humans. In this way humans are the object of knowledge and at the same time, humans become the subject of and to this knowledge. Psychiatry and psychology, as forms of knowledge now creates a subject of the human which further confines and categorises humans. Thus in Foucauldian terms, knowledge and power are complementary. For Foucault, power leads to knowledge and knowledge to power.

“…we should admit…that power produces knowledge (and not simply by encouraging it because it serves power or by applying it because it is useful); that power and knowledge directly imply one another; that there is no power relation without the correlative constitution of a field of knowledge, nor any knowledge that does not presuppose and constitute at the same time power relations” (Foucault, 1977, p. 27).

Accounting Thinker    : Differently, Lyotard has contributed to the Postmodern research agenda in the following context …

Lyotard occupies a significant position in postmodern thinking primarily because his (1984) book The Postmodern Condition: A Report on Knowledge (first published in 1979) was for many British readers their first introduction to the links between education and the postmodern condition. Lyotard’s manifesto in that book has turned out to be uncannily accurate: education has been commodified; performativity (‘it works’) has come to replace scholarship (knowledge for its own sake); information has replaced knowledge; and the computer has become the major shaping force upon educational practices. Lyotard is famous particularly for his assault on ‘grand narratives’ of modernism (Darwinism, Freudianism, Marxism) which attempt to ‘totalise’, or explain and encompass reality. Lyotard calls rather for ‘local narratives’, ‘small’ stories that explore particulars in a historical and cultural context. The proliferation of local narratives gives weight to ‘difference’ over ‘sameness’, in which we actively encourage and respect plurality. Lyotard’s main influence on education research in the postmodern derives from his challenge to the authority of science at the expense of narrative knowing. Also, his work encourages us to get researchers to focus on ‘local’, contextualised projects, and to entertain and broadcast plural voices and identities, even within single subjects. His other main contribution is to challenge the modernist desire for democratic consensus at the expense of creative ‘dissensus’. He believes that we have not yet developed an adequate literacy for difference (which may look as if it is conflictual), and so we either descend into open hostility or seek low level (re)conciliation. Neither is fruitful. I will take up this issue of the value of dissensus in research in a later section discussing life history research.

Research Student        : Thinker, I found many terms for postmodern, there are postmodernism, postmodernist, postmodernity and postmodernisation … what are they actually concerned, Thinker?

Accounting Thinker    : Well … to some extents I will explicate them differently here … Postmodernism is referred to the intellectual study and theorising of postmodernity, whereas Postmodernists are those who are the theorists, researchers and pundits who work in the field of postmodernism.

Research Student        : How are about the other two, Postmodernity and Postmodernisation?

Accounting Thinker    : Here we are … Postmodernity, which is a historical and cultural condition arising from the post-industrial process of postmodernisation, including changes in patterns of production and consumption, leisure and work, and the phenomenon of globalization, whereas Postmodernisation, which refers to the technologising of society over the past thirty years in particular, and the interest in technological futures (human-machine interactions, cyborgs, bioengineering, biotechnologies, the roles of computers, robotics, as well as accounting information system)

Accounting Thinker    : I have suggested that we already inhabit the condition of postmodernity, whether or not we subscribe to its theorising as postmodernism, most obviously since the development of personal computers and the Internet over the past decade in particular. Consider:

  • the phenomenon of globalisation and its resistance in the anti-capitalist movement
  • the emergence of information as a commodity in a post-industrial climate where consumption has expanded from goods and services to signs (information, advertising, fashion)
  • a related economic shift from production of goods and services to production of information, in which education plays a central role, and where ‘lifelong learning’ offers a central metaphor and practice
  • the emergence of computer access and literacy linked to an information culture underpinned by the World Wide Web
  • the emergence of interest in ‘difference’, with its paradoxical effect of multiculturalism and ethnic tolerance on the one hand, and return to nationalisms and warring ethnic identities on the other
  • a related interest in pluralism and tolerance of plural possibilities, rather than a search for explanatory ‘truths’
  • the decline in interest in formal religions, but a growth of interest in New Age spiritualities and return to fundamentalisms and evangelisms
  • the emergence of ‘socitalism’ (weak socialist/democratic capitalism) as the primary force in politics, in the wake of the transformation of the Eastern European political landscape
  • the tendency to turn many facets of life, including the educational and therapeutic, into entertainment (for example, game shows, confessional TV, soap operas, advertising as art and story). This is often referred to as ‘spectacularisation’ – the growth of the ‘society of the spectacle’ (Debord, 1983), where even war becomes a spectacle for media consumption. Jean Baudrillard made an infamous claim that ‘the Gulf War never happened’, by which he meant that the Gulf War was the first wholly ‘televised’ conflict, consisting mainly of film of night vision missile traces, and thoroughly biased, rehearsed, accounts of the conflict, turning the war into a wholly media-ted, virtual event, one of macabre ‘infotainment’
  • following from the above point, the arrival of the precession of the simulacrum – where the virtual precedes, and is preferred to, the real

Accounting Thinker    : Are you ok now …?

Accounting Thinker    : For more details, some accounting research agenda are …


Postmodern Agenda

Research Topics

1 Accounting Historiography i). Accounting Historiographyii). Archeology of Accountingiii). Genealogy of Accounting 
2 Metaphor and Accounting Rhetoric i). Simulacra and Hyper reality of Accountingii). Accounting and Business Sustainabilityiii). Contemporary Accounting Discourses
3 Ethic, Moral and Spiritual Accounting i). Relations between Accounting and Religionii). Culture and Religion in Accountingiii). Transformation on Ethic, Ethnic and Religion
4 Power and Knowledge on Accounting i). Power and Knowledge on Double Entryii). Power of University and Accounting Professioniii). Cultural Capital and Accountability
5 Deconstructing Accounting Phenomena i). Speculation Vs Investmentii). Going Concern Vs Liquidationiii). Agency Theory Vs Stakeholder Theory and Holistic


Methodology Versus Method

It is confusing to distinguish between the two: Methodology and Method. This word is seemingly interchangeable. Many research reports use it in the same or similar manner. It fact, it is different. Thinker and the Student are trying to understand clearly this manner. Many accounting research, mostly (if it is not all to say all), have a different meaning. Some used in explicitly methodology in a one chapter, some are with focus on the word of method.

Accounting Thinker    : When I lectured to do a research, I always remained all the participants of the class to distinguish between methodology and method.

Research Student        : but Thinker, I found many lecturers, even professors some did not understand clearly the difference between methodology and method.

Accounting Thinker    : Yes … surely … it is confusing, but when we look at closely then we could distinguish between them.

Accounting Thinker    : Methodology is a branch of the philosophy of science which concerns with methods and techniques of scientific inquiry, their composition and ability to yield valid knowledge. Although methodology is often confused with methods, their referents are related just as biology is related to living organisms or as sociology is related to society. The aim of methodology then is to describe and analyze not the objects or the products but the processes of scientific inquiry, to investigate the potentialities and limitations of particular techniques, to reveal their presuppositions and epistemological consequences, to suggest structural reasons for successes and failures, and to develop, test and offer generalizations about scientific procedures.

Accounting Thinker    : Is it clear for you?

Accounting Thinker     : Again … put is this way …

  • Methodology

–        Is a study of principles in a way of learning any discipline to accept or reject knowledge

–        Its roots in the schools of both the philosophy of science and sociology of knowledge

–        It is involved with the process of thinking and formulating research agendas

–        Examining methods

–        Formulating and examining the process of knowledge and theorizing

Whereas, method is

–        the techniques or tools by which data is gathered and analysed

–        the way in which the following tools can be conducted

–        eg., interviewing, documenting, observing, recording, note taking, acting, writing and the use of statistics

Accounting Thinker    : Here is detail of research views under postmodernism …

Methods and No Method

Postmodernism believes on explicit methods, implicit methods and or no method. It is confusing, but when we are adopting postmodernism research in nature, it comes to an end that research is not always with a method and the key is language. Conducting research in accounting agenda, phenomena constructed by society are understood by language.

Accounting Thinker    : Please do not be confused with these … There are three established streams of thought within postmodernism. One (deconstructive postmodernism) argues that there is a radical rupture between modernity and postmodernity, based on the ‘linguistic turn’. They argue that ‘reality’ is grounded in language and that the ‘natural’ world, taken for granted by empirical science as an object for study, is in fact the object of construction through language and discourse (the effects of language embodied in social practices and material artefacts). This phenomenon is generally referred to as the ‘crisis of representation’. The world is never known directly, but is constructed, or given meaning, through discourse. Such meanings are historically and culturally contingent, dependent upon the legitimation processes of dominant discourses embodied in differing communities of practice.

Accounting Thinker    :  In essence, the first is a method which is explicitly carried out to a research. The second stream of postmodernism is interested less in language and more in general cultural and historical phenomena such as art, politics, religion, science studies, ecology and as well as accounting. This school (for example, Jencks, 1992) draws heavily on the ideas of ‘new science’ such as complexity and chaos theory, emergence of form, and principles of uncertainty and indeterminacy.

The second does not see a single rupture between modernism and postmodernism, but a ‘double coding’ (Jencks, 1992, 1995), in which both rupture and continuity coincide. They see deconstruction not as a form of postmodernism at all, but as part of the avant garde of modernism. They disagree with Lyotard’s definition of postmodernism as ‘incredulity towards grand narratives’, seeing rather the emergence of a new, inclusive grand narrative that is holistic, based on convergence of science, the humanities, the ecology movement, radical feminisms, and new religious movements. They see ‘tolerance of difference’ and pluralism as core values in such an emergent grand narrative, that borrows from new science the notions of ambiguity, paradox, indeterminacy and uncertainty and see these as basic features of postmodernity. Within this grand narrative epistemology, local narratives are explicitly honoured. Charles Jencks, the main spokesperson for this view calls for a return to public concerns, to postmodernism as a return to a ‘messy democracy’, in which populism replaces elitism, and tolerance of difference is the major virtue.

Accounting Thinker    : The second one believes on implicit method which is holistic in nature. The third is no method. Even though, this no method is rare to be used it in a research agenda, but it inspires a research to conduct a research with no method. He/ she goes as they like. Finally it comes to an end as a research report.

Scheurich (1997) offers three informing guidelines for research in the postmodern. It must be stressed that turning such guidelines into principles, a prescriptive manifesto, or fundamental truths, is resisted by the postmodern sensibility. The guidelines are:

  • Research in the postmodern attempts to erase the distinction between research practices and the subjectivity of the researcher. It is recognised that the two are intertwined. Research practices, like all social practices, come to construct identities, of which ‘researcher’ is one. Moulding this identity, as an aesthetic and ethical project, is what Foucault (see Bernauer and Rasmussen, 1994) refers to as a ‘practice of the self’. Thus, what happens to the researcher in the social practices of research is considered to be as important as what happens to the subjects or objects (usually ‘texts’) of the research.
  • Research in the postmodern notes, reflexively, that modernist research is ‘disciplined’ by practices of reason, and wishes to subvert this while accepting its particular value. A paradigm case here is Derrida’s (1990) challenge to Foucault’s (1971) Madness and Civilization: A History of Insanity in the Age of Reason. Derrida claimed that one cannot write an account of the irrational (madness) from the point of view of reason.
  • Research in the postmodern notes the ‘crisis of representation’ of the ‘real’, as noted earlier. Following from the point above, Foucault represents ‘madness’ in his account, but this is not an account of the mad. Indeed, the account passes through several layers of representation. Foucault takes historical texts that already offer representations of ‘lost’ voices, and then re-represents these in his own research voice. Further, research accounts of the supposed ‘real’ (even through direct report: naïve or transparent representation) are not seen to uncover a constitutive reality waiting to be described, but to constitute that reality through the acts and conversations of research itself. Scheurich (1997: 175) suggests, provocatively, that ‘realist research will not survive postmodernism, not the philosophy but the era.’

Validity and Reliability in Postmodernism

It is the intention of this paper to highlight some of the issues surrounding the use and nature of the term ‘validity’ and to establish that ‘validity’ is not a single, fixed or universal concept, but rather a contingent construct, inescapably grounded in the processes and intentions of particular research methodologies and projects. One of the most recurring features in critical discussions of ‘validity’ is the combination of ‘validity’ with the term ‘reliability’.

Research Student        : Thinker, now I come to the difficulties seeing Postmodenism in the form of accounting research whether there is any validity and reliability. Could you explicate what are they?

Accounting Thinker    : Why is it not? A much cited definition of ‘validity’ is that of Hammersley’s (1987: 69) “An account is valid or true if it represents accurately those features of the phenomena, that it is intended to describe, explain or theorise.” Although this would seem to be an all-encompassing and reasonable description, many other definitions fail to envisage such a ‘realist approach’ (Denzin and Lincoln, 1998: 282). The fact that there are so many possible definitions and replacement terms for ‘validity’ suggests that it is a concept entirely relative to the person and belief system from which it stems.

The exact nature of ‘validity’ is a highly debated topic in both educational and social research since there exists no single or common definition of the term. Therefore, in order to understand something of the range of meanings attached to ‘validity’, it is essential to review a selection of the range of definitions given by leading authors.

Accounting Thinker    : Hammersley (1987) reviews the extent to which ‘reliability’ and ‘validity’ are defined by a selection of different authors writing from different methodological positions. I will avoid merely repeating those definitions verbatim and instead offer a few key words summarising each definition.

Within the postmodern paradigm, interpretation of validity and reliability is typically viewed as an inextricable (and, indeed, unavoidable) element of data collection. On these grounds, Maxwell’s segregation of description and interpretation is not only a false distinction, but effectively impossible. Interpretation is essentially couched within the rhetorics that the researcher uses to describe a situation and is mutually constructed between researchers and subjects.

Some postmodernism researchers have argued that the term validity is not applicable to postmodernism research and have at the same time realised the need for some kind of qualifying check or measure for their research. As a result many researchers have espoused their own theories of ‘validity’ and have often adopted what they consider to be more appropriate terms, such as ‘trustworthiness’, ‘worthy’, ‘relevant’, ‘plausible’, ‘confirmable’, ‘credible’ or ‘representative’ (Denzin and Lincoln, 1998; Guba and Lincoln, 1989; Hammersley, 1987; Mishler, 1990; Wolcott, 1990). Other qualitative researchers have rejected the notion of ‘validity’, in any form, as entirely inappropriate to their work.

Accounting Thinker    : Ehm at last here is its reasons: Postmodernism always remains a matter of interpretation. As there is no hard data provided through discourse analysis, the reliability and the validity of one’s research/findings depends on the force and logic of one’s arguments. Even the best constructed arguments are subject to their own deconstructive reading and counter-interpretations. The validity of postmodernism analysis is, therefore, dependent on the quality of the rhetoric and framing the ruptures  of events and history. Despite this fact, well-founded arguments remain authoritative over time and have concrete meanings.

How to Start A Postmodern Accounting Research

To start an accounting research project, there is a certain way to follow. It depends on the research paradigm concerned.

Research Student        : Thinker, I am now thinking to do a research, but I did not know how to begin?

Accounting Thinker    : Postmodern places a research start which is ‘easy’. You could begin by nowhere, anywhere and somewhere.

Examples of Postmodern Accounting Research

Accounting Thinker    : It would beneficial if you could read examples of accounting research claimed as with the frame of Postmodernism paradigm.

Sukoharsono, Eko Ganis and Gaffikin, MJR. 1993. Power and Knowledge in Accounting: Some Analyses and Thoughts on Social, Political and Economic Forces in Accounting and Profession in Indonesia (1800-1950). Working Papers. University of Wollongong. Australia.

The paper provides some preliminary analyses and thoughts on longterm

qualitative research project investigating the power-knowledge relations of the emergence, existence, and penetration of accounting in the social context. This first analysis is to explicate accounting and its relation to the Foucauldian power-knowledge concept. The second analysis is that the historical understanding of the development – up to 1950s condition of accounting practice and profession in Indonesia has been moulded heavily by the issues of colonialism’s legacy. It was the fact that the Dutch accounting practices have dominated even after the independence of Indonesia. The third and fourth analyses has been stressed on some innovations of accounting knowledge through the development of the capital markets, industrialisation, and the new power of the university elite.

Sukoharsono, Eko Ganis. 2000. Bookkeeping to Professional Accounting: A University Power in Indonesia. The International Journal of Accounting and Business Society. Volume 8. Number 1. August.

The paper is historical. It explores the development of accounting from the mode of ‘bookkeeping’ knowledge to a ‘new’ disciplinary power of accounting in Indonesia. It argues that after the independence of the Republic of Indonesia, 17 August 1945, a radical change of an accounting education discipline from the Dutch political administration to the indigenous Indonesian management was the main issue to a ‘new’ university system. The university became a ‘powerful’ system to transform bookkeeping tradition to accounting profession.

Macintosh, Norman B., Shearer, T., Thornton, Daniel B.  and Welker, Michael. 2000. Accounting as simulacrum and hyperreality: Perspectives on Income and Capital. Accounting, Organizations and Society 25.  pp.13-50

This paper draws on two independent strands of literature-Baudrillard’s orders-of-simulacra theoretic and financial accounting theory – to investigate the ontological status of information in accounting reports. It draws on Baudrillard’s concepts of simulacra, hyperreality and implosion to trace the historical transformations of the accounting signs of income and capital from Sumerian times to the present. It posits that accounting today no longer refers to any objective reality but instead circulates in a “hyperreality” of self-referential models. The paper then examines this conclusion from the viewpoint of recent clean surplus model research and argues that the distinction between income and capital is arbitrary and irrelevant provided the measurement process satisfies the clean surplus relation. Although accounting is arbitrary and hyper reality, it does impart a sense of exogeniety and predictability, particularly through the income calculation. Therefore, it can be relied on for decisions that do have real, material and social consequences. The paper ends with some implications of Baudrillard’s theoretic for accounting, reflections on accounting’s implications for Baudrillard’s theoretic and suggestions for future research.

Baker, C. Richard. 2004. Accounting In The Bosom Of Abraham: A Genealogical Investigation Of Wealth. Fourth Asia Pacific Interdisciplinary Research in Accounting Conference. Singapore. 4 to 6 July.

Archeological investigations indicate that the search for wealth, and the related practice of accounting for wealth, has been an integral part of human history from the earliest recorded periods. Whether revealed in accounting records inscribed on Mesopotamian clay tablets, or reflected in archives like the Code of Hammurabi, or Biblical accounts of the life of Abraham, the concept of wealth has been a persistent theme in human history. Archeological investigations search for physical evidence, the interpretation of which can lead us to a better understanding of human activity in cultures previous to our own. Michel Foucault (1970, 1972) introduced us to another type of archeology in which the objective is to “outline particular configurations in order to reveal relations between discursive formations and nondiscursive domains” (Foucault, 1972, p. 157; Hopwood, 1987, p. 230). Beyond Foucault’s well known archeologies of human practices, he delineated a genealogical methodology,

“which concerns itself with ruptures and transitions whereby words, categories, practices and institutions adopt new meanings and significances as they become intertwined with new purposes and new wills” (Hopwood, 1987, p. 230). This essay marshals evidence from traditional archeological investigations and employs Foucaultian methods of archeological and genealogical interpretation to develop a genealogy of wealth. As Foucault would suggest, the ways in which wealth has been understood have changed markedly through time; there have been ruptures and transitions in the understanding of wealth and its role in human history. To illuminate these ruptures and transitions, the essay metaphorically examines the life of Abraham as he is depicted in the Hebrew and Christian Bibles and the Qur’an, thereby demonstrating that the concept of wealth has been of central concern throughout human history.

Sukoharsono, Eko and Qudzi, Novrida. 2008.  Accounting in the Golden Age of Singosari Kingdom: A Foucauldian Perspective. Presented at the Simposium Nasional Akuntansi XI, Pontianak

The aim of this study is to explore the history of accounting in Indonesia. In this case, a particular period of Indonesia history – the form and the existence of the accounting system in the Singosari Kingdom era – is the focus of the investigation. In the context of this study, accounting is not simply a method of calculation, but it is a discipline with complex phenomena in which it nfluences the individual, organizational, and social orders. In addition, the range of its aspects is from social, political and economic point of view.

This study is conducted by using a Foucauldian concept of the relation between the power and knowledge. The historical accounting researchers use the Foucauldian approach to show the accounting complexity of the power and knowledge structures within a society. This approach shows the accounting system as a valuable social science for disciplining the society and manifesting a comprehensive political power within the society. Then the major concern of the methodological analyses in the accounting research is to disclose how accounting becomes a disciplinary power and constitutive activity of knowledge.

The kingdom of Singosari (1222-1292) was historically closely related to the foundation of Majapahit kingdom, particularly in the field of public finance and administrative accountability. There was a fact that during Singosari and Majapahit kingdom, state-craft stressed the importance of a full treasury for successful governmental activities. Both kingdoms evolved a regular system of taxation. The taxation system, in some extent, was a complex system in which it provided the tax for merchandise in various tariffs and different types of levies based on the commodities and the problems occurred. The complex system of the taxation would not be possible without involving the accounting in term of calculability. One of the particular developments of the accounting system in form of writing during the Singosari kingdom was related to the mechanism in which writing was used for the purpose of administration and accountability of the tax collection in the royal court of the Singosari kingdom. The records of tax collection were reflected in simple forms. For instance, the Inscription of Turyyan mentions that the earning of the society in a year was equal to 1 kati and 3 gold swarna. Then it can be concluded that the development of accounting in Indonesia is not an instant process, but it emerged through a long and complex process of the history. The kingdom of Singosari used accounting as a technique to discipline the subjects under the kingdom‟s territory. Through this study, it is clear that accounting had a significant role as a supporting means of the Singosari kingdom development. It did not merely provide the technical calculation, but also the diverse roles in social, economic, and political life

Sukoharsono, Eko Ganis. 2011. Green Accounting To Be A Serious Business of Accounting Discipline: An Imaginary Neo-Postmodernist Dialogue. Presented at the Plenary Session of the Grand Opening of the Accounting National Symposium (Simposium Nasional Akuntansi – SNA) XIV ACEH, INDONESIA 20–23 July.

This paper is an imaginary neo-postmodernist dialogue between two spiritual persons. They are „Kyai‟ and „Santri‟. „Kyai‟ is representing a senior accounting academician and „Santri‟ is as a a junior public accountant. Both are curious to have a dialogue on green concern. It is relatively new of both engaging on green accounting. Using a neo-postmodernist perspective, both enlighten accounting discipline to have a better position on the growing concern of environmental accounting to be a specific discipline as a new public accounting specialist.

Sukoharsono, Eko Ganis. 2011. Luca Pacioli’s Inspiration to Response “Lho, Mana Akuntansinya (Where is Its Accounting)?”: An Imaginary Spiritual Dialogue. presented at the Epistemology Debate: Lho, Mana Akuntansinya? At the Postgraduate Program, the Department of Accounting, the Faculty of Economics and Business, University of Brawijaya, Friday, 28 October.

The paper is an imaginary spiritual dialogue. The dialogue is between two spiritual persons indicated as Luca Baru and Luca Lama, both are accounting students at FEB UB. Luca Pacioli claimed as the founding father of accounting was trying to explore what was meant by accounting in 1494, whereas Luca Lama is a doctoral student who is seeking a new identity what is the current accounting meant, whereas Luca Baru just started knowing a „glossy‟ accounting. Spirituality is used to transcend the imaginary dialogue of the two. There is no hurt between the two (Tidak ada luka diantara kedua nya).

Epilogue: Go with Postmodern

Accounting Thinker    : Postmodern Accounting Research has rich of ideas and thoughts.  It provides distinct truths on its findings. A range of accounting research can be drawn from ancient accounting histories to future predictions. Interestingly, postmodern accounting research could start from individual experiences, theoretical development to construct and reconstruct a phenomenon.

Research Student        : Thinker, could we explore individual biography of an accountant to be a research topic under postmodernism?

Accounting Thinker    : Of course, we could do it. Individual biography or even autobiography is possible to be an accounting research agenda.

Accounting Thinker    : Finally, postmodernism opens new ideas and challenges to any accounting scholars who interest to explore new colors of accounting.


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