Emerging streams of intitutional theory in accounting research: current status and future directions

E Aleksandrov, Daniela Argento, G Bourmistrov, Giuseppe Grossi

Forskningsoutput: KonferensbidragSammanfattning


More than 30 years have passed since first calls to see accounting as social and institutional practice (Burchell et al., 1980; Hopwood, 1987; Hopwood & Miller, 1994). During these years, a significant number of theories have been striving to extend and challenge the hegemony of particular ways of seeing accounting (Jacobs, 2012) with acknowledging the need for inter-disciplinary approach and theoretical pluralism in contemporary studies. Within this theoretical pluralism, the institutional theory was recognized as one of the dominating theories in accounting research during last decades (Jacobs, 2012; Lounsbury, 2008; Modell, 2015).

However, despite acknowledging the paradigmatic developments of institutional theory into several streams in organisational science (DiMaggio, 1988; Lawrence et al., 2009, 2011; Oliver, 1991; Thornton et al., 2012), few attempts were done to make a separate review of these  streams and their value for accounting literature (Modell, 2009). Here, influential work of Lounsbury (2008) rather reflected organizational science literature with seeing accounting as a context which can give crucial insights into institutional and practice theories rather than vice versa. Jacobs (2012) in his study of theoretical pluralism in accounting research during 1992-2008 acknowledged the institutional theory domination but made few reflections on its progressions and implications for seeing accounting as social and institutional practice. And finally, more recent studies of Modell and his colleagues (Modell, 2015; Modell et al., 2017) made overviews of two streams of institutional theory (e.g. logic and work) and institutional theory combination possibility with other theories. While giving the valuable insights into understanding of issues related to theories combinations in accounting, these studies hardly review the accounting literature related to institutional theory streams which were criticised for apolitical nature but at the same time acknowledged as self-sufficient.

Therefore, it seems that current studies rather ignore or criticize specific institutional theory streams, jumping into possible theory combinations agenda without revealing the value of these streams for accounting research. Such tendency may potentially lead to marginalization of accounting knowledge (Jacobs, 2016; Jacobs & Cuganesan, 2014) with the use of these streams under the quest for contribution to the interdisciplinary literature.

In this regard, this paper aims to reflect upon the emerging streams of institutional theory, their application and influence on the accounting research of the last decade. Specifically, the paper’s ambition is to review and understand the role of institutional logics (IL), institutional entrepreneurship (IE) and institutional work (IW) in accounting research. These streams of institutional theory become increasingly valuable in accounting research for their explanatory capacities. But at the same time, but their application, especially in a combined form,  can also raise criticalities within theoretical pluralism agenda. Therefore, we construct our research questions as:

  • How have the emerging stream of institutional theory (IL, IE and IW) been used by accounting scholars?
  • How have these streams influenced accounting research?
  • What could be done in the future accounting research using emerging streams  of institutional theory?

In order to answer these research questions, we compile a structured literature review (Massaro et al., 2016) of articles published in scientific journals in the accounting field (levels 4 and 3 in ABS list). As a frame for analysis of the paper, we use conceptual clarification and analytical framework proposed by Lukka and Vinnari (2014) who made a distinction between domain theory and method theory in order to capture the relations between common knowledge about accounting as a social practice and the theories used to extend this knowledge. Applying to our paper, domain theory refers particularly to a set of knowledge about accounting as social and institutional practice. Method theory (i.e. IL, IE, IW) is a meta-level conceptual system, which can offer alternative perspectives and add new understanding/insights into domain theory. Following this analytical distinction, we examine the way how current accounting literature utilizes the selected institutional streams in domain-method dimension, how the theory or their combination (if any) are justified and used in a flow of argument for understanding of accounting practice.


StatusPublicerad - 2018
Evenemang14th Workshop on the new intitutionalism in organization theory, Milan 16-17 mars 2018 -
Varaktighet: 1980-jan-01 → …


Konferens14th Workshop on the new intitutionalism in organization theory, Milan 16-17 mars 2018
Period80-01-01 → …

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  • Ekonomi och näringsliv (502)


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