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The Rhetoric of Science and the Rhetoric of Revolt in the ''Story'' of Positive Accounting Theory

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Abstract:

Examines Watts and Zimmerman's Positive Accounting Theory as a literary narrative, as the "PAT story", in an effort to explain its success in light of the fact that it falls well short of their professed methodological standards. Their use of the rhetoric of science is examined, with special attention to their projection of a "scientific persona", their rhetorical construction of the legitimate" boundaries of accounting research, their use of metaphor and other literary devices, their rhetorical transport of "scientific authority" from other disciplines, and the circumstances that made their audience receptive to scientific rhetoric. Their use of conservative political rhetoric (the rhetoric of revolt against the interference of government in economic affairs) is also examined, with special attention given to the devices used to convey a normative message while maintaining a positive posture, and to the role of sociohistorical circumstances (the Reagan era) that encouraged their audience to overlook the story's lack of scientific substance.

Keywords: Accounting Research; Accounting Standards; Accounting Theory; Economics

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1108/09513579210019512

Publication date: April 1, 1992

mcb/059/1992/00000005/00000004/art00002
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