The Debate Between Postmodernism and Historiography: An Accounting Historian's Manifesto

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Conference Proceeding

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Garry Carnegie (2014, p. 728) recently concluded that, “the key development in accounting historiography between 1983 and 2012 has been the advent of new accounting history.” We agree, and believe the debate in accounting reflects a greater debate between postmodern and traditional historians – one which questions both the nature of historiography and the historian’s role in society. As a participant in this debate, Michael Gaffikin (2011, p. 237) criticized traditionalists [in accounting] for failing to assess developments in the general history literature. This paper responds to Gaffikin’s critique. We initially describe the key issues in the debate between postmodern and traditional historians. We review the current general history literature and then recount how the debate played out in three distinct episodes in accounting historiography in which the authors directly participated. We conclude by assessing the current state of accounting historiography.


Presented at the American Accounting Association Annual Meeting in New York, New York on August 8, 2016.

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