Legitimacy and identity in Germanic management accounting research

M. MESSNER, C. Binder, U. Schäffer, A. Becker

European Accounting Review

mai 2008, vol. 17, n°1, pp.129-159

Départements : Comptabilité et Contrôle de Gestion

The notion of 'Controlling', as it is commonly used in German-speaking countries, may be regarded as an equivalent term for management accounting. At the same time, there have been considerable efforts to establish Controlling as a discipline on its own, rather than to regard it simply as the German synonym of management accounting. This is reflected in many writings on Controlling which have tried to identify a possible 'core' or 'essence' of the subject. In this paper, we argue that this identity discourse may be interpreted as a strategy of Controlling researchers to achieve cognitive and sociopolitical legitimacy of their discipline. Drawing on interview material as well as publication and citation analyses, we show how various institutional pressures and constraints not only influenced the institutionalization of Controlling as an academic discipline but also impacted the form and substance of Controlling research. This raises some important questions for our understanding of academic disciplines more generally, some of which we address in this paper