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Luca Pacioli and the Role of Accounting and Business: Early Lessons in Social Responsibility

Research on Professional Responsibility and Ethics in Accounting

ISBN: 978-1-78754-973-9, eISBN: 978-1-78754-972-2

Publication date: 3 May 2018


The Franciscan Friar Luca Pacioli is considered the “father of accounting” because of his 1494 publication Summa de Arithmetrica, Geometrica, Proportioni et Proportionalita (Summa) which included a section double entry accounting. While accounting systems existed before Pacioli, he introduced double entry accounting as a more efficient means of keeping business records because that would lead to better business operation and profits. Subsequently, double entry accounting systems have contributed significantly to the rise of capitalism in Europe and the developed world.

Pacioli also advocated a moral and social role for accounting, business, and the successful business person whose actions help serve the public interest. This clearly indicated that Pacioli understood business was about more than bookkeeping and profitability.

Catholic Social Teaching (CST) has played a significant role in business ethics for at least a century. Starting with Rerum Novarum, 1891 and continuing through numerous Papal Encyclicals (e.g., Caritas in Veritate, 2009; Centesimus Annus, 1991), CST has carefully examined how businesspeople, labor, and capital can cooperate to build a more just and peaceful society that fulfills the entire person. CST thus predates and contributes to contemporary business ethics efforts.

Pacioli’s contributions reflect and underlay much of contemporary CST, which is why we believe it is important to examine his social responsibility teaching in the context of contemporary CST principles. The purpose of this chapter is to discuss Pacioli’s view of the moral roles of accounting, business, and businesspeople in the context of CST principles, particularly (1) purpose of accounting profits, (2) purpose of business in society, (3) ethical and efficient business practices as they relate to accounting, and (4) the undivided life.



Coate, C.J. and Mitschow, M.C. (2018), "Luca Pacioli and the Role of Accounting and Business: Early Lessons in Social Responsibility", Jefrey, C. (Ed.) Research on Professional Responsibility and Ethics in Accounting (Research on Professional Responsibility and Ethics in Accounting, Vol. 21), Emerald Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp. 1-16.



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