The Accountancy profession

Authored by: Alan Richardson

The Routledge Companion to Critical Accounting

Print publication date:  September  2017
Online publication date:  September  2017

Print ISBN: 9781138025257
eBook ISBN: 9781315775203
Adobe ISBN:


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During the Industrial Revolution new products, technologies and modes of organisation emerged that allowed markets to expand significantly, while new institutions such as the Limited Liability Corporation and stock exchanges developed to facilitate the exploitation of those markets. As product and capital markets expanded, new occupational specialties also emerged (Stigler, 1951) including financial accounting, cost accounting and auditing (Chandler and Daems, 1979). These occupational specialties resulted in the emergence of the world’s largest professional service firms and high-profile professional associations that have existed for almost 200 years (Richardson, 2008). The ways that these occupational specialties were organised was not preordained or immutable; rather the professional form adopted by auditors and later financial and management accountants (for convenience, all of these specialists will be referred to hereafter as ‘accountants’) reflected a culturally and historically specific institution; that is, a distinctive feature of UK society in the mid to late 1800s, which had profound effects on the way that accounting and auditing was practised. The critical accounting literature begins with the basic premise that the professionalisation of accounting was a strategic choice embedded within a particular social and historical context and has explored the emergence of the professional model, the implications of this model for society and practitioners, and its effective 1 abandonment in the late twentieth century.

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