Aux sources de la théorie positive : Contribution à une analyse institutionnelle des changements de paradigmes dans la recherche comptable [Back to the Sources of Positive Accounting theory: an institutitional analysis of paradigm changes in Accounting R


Comptabilité Contrôle Audit

December 2008, n°2/2008 (Tome 14), pp.5-26

Departments: Accounting & Management Control

Keywords: Théorie comptable, Histoire de la recherche comptable, Théories normatives, Théories positives

In this article, we analyze factors that explain the success of the « positive approaches » (PA) in accounting research. In less than ten years, between 1960 and 1967-1968, PA became dominant in the main accounting journals and the so-called « normative theories » disappeared from academic outlets. The reasons of this success are not clearly established. The propagators of PA (Ball and Brown 1968 ; Watts and Zimmerman 1986) advocate the fertility of their approach, while others (e.g. : Whittington 1987 ; Mouck 1988 ; Williams 1990 ; Mattessich 1995) denounce them as ostracizing and systematically denigrating rival approaches. Both proponents and opponents of PA consider the emergence of positive theories as a radical severance. However, we suggest that the move from normative to positive theories occurred in fact gradually. Even if they took advantage of the reform of the U.S. business schools during the 50's, the proponents of PA also benefited from a decoupling between the academic world and accounting practice initiated by their predecessors