Since the late 1970s, research in accounting has been colonized by positive accounting theory (PAT) despite strong claims that it is fundamentally flawed in terms of epistemology and methodology. This paper aims to offer new insights to PAT by critically examining its basic tenets.
The paper subjects the language of the Rochester School to a deconstruction that is a transformational reading. This uncovers rhetorical operations and unveils hidden associations with other texts and ideas.
A new interpretation of the Rochester School discourse is provided. To afford scientific credibility to deregulation within the accounting field, Watts and Zimmerman used supplements and missing links to enhance the authority of PAT. They placed supplements inside their texts to provide a misleading image of PAT. These supplements rest on von Hayek's long‐term shaping blueprint to defeat apostles of the welfare state. Yet, to set PAT apart from normative theories that Watts and Zimmerman claimed were contaminated by value judgments, they made no reference in their text to the tight links between the Rochester School and the libertarian project initiated by von Hayek.
Any reading of PAT cannot present the infinite play of meaning that is possible within a text. Deconstruction involves a commitment to on‐going, eternal questioning.
The paper provides evidence of the relation between PAT and the neoliberal (libertarian) project of von Hayek. PAT is viewed as part of the institutional infrastructure and ideological apparatus that legitimates the hegemony of markets.
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