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Twentieth century accounting research in the German language area

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This paper consists of two parts. Part I, dealing with the first half of the twentieth century, begins with some introductory words on the pre-eminence of German accounting research during the first half of the twentieth century, and offers a survey of the most important theories of accounts classes that prevailed during the first two decades or longer. Following World War I, the issue of hyperinflation in Austria and Germany stimulated a considerable amount of original accounting research. Afterwards, a series of competing Bilanztheorien (accounting or balance sheet theories), discussed in the text, dominated the scene. Separate sections or sub-sections are devoted to charts and master-charts of accounts in German accounting theory, as well as to cost accounting and the writing of accounting history. Part II offers a survey of the second half of the twentieth century (occasionally with comparisons to research in the English language literature). Dynamic accounting, developed during the first half of the twentieth century, became the basis of a pagatoric (cash-based) accounting theory. In the 1970s and early 1980s relatively little attention was paid to inflation accounting, apart from research in capital maintenance. Accounting theories shifted towards the present value approach, and empirical studies began in the early 1960s and gathered momentum in the last two decades of the century. German accounting legislation was strongly influenced by the dominance of codified law, and by the standardization attempts within the European Economic Community. Consolidated statement presentation and auditing research also became prominent, while cost and managerial accounting continued to be major research areas. Competing costing approaches dominated the field, often based on production theoretical concepts. Marginal costing (occasionally together with mathematical programming) was further developed and a closer connection between cost accounting and investment theory was established. The introduction of information theory (and the closely related agency theory) into the German literature greatly influenced recent German accounting research. Historical research was, in contrast to the first half of the century, of minor importance.

Keywords: Austria; Germany; Switzerland; accounting research; twentieth century

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: Institut für Produktionswirtschaft und Controlling, Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München, Munich, Germany 2: Sauder School of Business, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada

Publication date: 2005-11-01

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