Accessibility navigation

Accounting as interpretive framing

Stenka, R. and Kokot, P. (2015) Accounting as interpretive framing. In: British Accounting and Finance Association (BAFA) Annual Conference, Monday 23 - Wednesday 25 March 2015, Manchester, UK.

Full text not archived in this repository.

It is advisable to refer to the publisher's version if you intend to cite from this work. See Guidance on citing.


The study furthers our understanding of the persuasive and constructive aspects of accounting information. We consider it as a process of ‘interpretive framing’ in the quest for legitimacy - an attempt to justify decisions and excuse mistakes. We base our theoretical discussion on the premise that the picture reported by accounting information is an example of institutional reality and thus mediated by the social contexts in which it is constructed and interpreted. Accounting information is a matter of ‘the interpretation of interpretations’ - the provision of accounting information, which is already a result of a competitive interplay among prior interpretations of certain aspects of our economic phenomena, undergoes further interpretation by the recipients of that information. This notion applies equally to narratives and numbers. We challenge notions of rigor, accuracy and objectivity assigned to quantification in accounting and posit that numbers can be an even more powerful rhetorical device due to their image of being rational and ‘rhetoric free’. We illustrate our theoretical propositions presenting explicit references to the constructive and rhetorical aspects of financial reporting from Pacioli and his times (late 15th century) to the recent regulatory developments of FASB/IASB in 2013, i.e. from the rhetoric of double entry book-keeping to the rhetoric of 'fair value’. We acknowledge, building on these theoretical foundations, the inherent subjectivity of accounting information (influenced by perceptions and interests) without entirely denying however its informative functions. We illustrate the practical implications of this, in a situation where “shared and socially accepted” perceptions may be the nearest we can get to anything resembling a faithful representation of economic reality. The paper contributes to a broader understanding of how accounting information can be viewed as a social and humanistic construction, and challenges taken-for-granted assumptions about impartiality, neutrality and rationality in regard to the process.

Item Type:Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)
Divisions:Henley Business School > Business Informatics, Systems and Accounting
ID Code:45491

University Staff: Request a correction | Centaur Editors: Update this record

Page navigation