Objectivity, Relativism, and Truth in External Financial Reporting: What's Really at Stake in the Disputes?



Date of this version


Document Type



Accounting standard setting, conceptual framework, due process, critical discussion


This article argues that a consensus interpretation of epistemological objectivity and related principles of rationality make it possible to conduct a rational and objective debate about the merits of alternative financial reporting practices. Whereas previous studies have attributed many debates to fundamentally different ontological and epistemological presuppositions, here it is argued that instead many of the debates involve opposing normative commitments to financial reporting objectives. This conflict over objectives is explored by examining the normative assertions of three opposing perspectives (critical-interpretive, economic consequences, and external user). Implications for the institutional legitimacy of standard-setting bodies, the search for "generally accepted" international accounting standards, and accounting research are discussed.

Published in

Accounting, Organizations and Society

Citation/Other Information

PII: S0361-3682(96)00017-7

Accounting, Organizations and Society, 1997, vol. 22, pp. 165-185.