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What is accounting? The “being” and “be-ings” of the accounting phenomenon and its critical appreciation

Nihel Chabrak (College of Business and Economics, United Arab Emirates University, Al Ain, United Arab Emirates)
Jim Haslam (Management School, University of Sheffield, Sheffield, UK)
Helen Oakes (Keele University, Keele, UK)

Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal

ISSN: 0951-3574

Article publication date: 8 August 2019

Issue publication date: 8 August 2019




The purpose of this paper is to reflect a critical perspective drawing from phenomenology, especially informed by a reading of Heidegger, to enhance and extend appreciation of the need to question accounting’s meaning or delineation and how research might be undertaken into the accounting phenomenon and related areas.


To illustrate and clarify argumentation in terms of accounting mobilization and the domain of accounting research, the mainstream and strongly positivistic accounting perspective adopted in the USA is critically assessed. At the same time, the authors elaborate how much of interpretive research (including much of that labeled critical) is also lacking in terms of the perspective articulated here.


The paper stresses the case for questioning the taken-for-granted and conventional. It promotes reflexivity, cautious pragmatism, attentiveness to the value of the existing, responsibility to difference and otherness and openness to new possibilities as part of a deeper critical orientation.


The paper draws from phenomenology, especially in Heideggerian terms to open-up new conversational domain to debate accounting.



The authors would like to acknowledge the valuable feedback received from Glen Lehman, Lee Parker, Werner Erhard, philosophy department seminars of UAEU, 2011, 2016, attendees of a research seminar at the University of South Australia, 2010, participants to the Alternative Accounts Conference, Ottawa, 2016 and finally the anonymous reviewers of AAAJ.


Chabrak, N., Haslam, J. and Oakes, H. (2019), "What is accounting? The “being” and “be-ings” of the accounting phenomenon and its critical appreciation", Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal, Vol. 32 No. 5, pp. 1414-1436.



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