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Accounting, Organizations, and InstitutionsEssays in Honour of Anthony Hopwood$
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Christopher S. Chapman, David J. Cooper, and Peter Miller

Print publication date: 2009

Print ISBN-13: 9780199546350

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: February 2010

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199546350.001.0001

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On the Eclipse of Professionalism in Accounting: An Essay *

On the Eclipse of Professionalism in Accounting: An Essay *

Chapter:
(p.367) 17 On the Eclipse of Professionalism in Accounting: An Essay*
Source:
Accounting, Organizations, and Institutions
Author(s):

Sajay Samuel

Mark A. Covaleski

Mark W. Dirsmith

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199546350.003.0017

The credibility of what accountants do and say depends, ultimately, on their professionalism. This chapter explores the idea of professionalism in three movements. First, it documents the centrality of this notion, usually exposed in moments of crisis. Second, the chapter offers an historical reading of the ‘professional ideal’ to emphasize that three discursive practices circumscribe professionalism: selfless service, collegial self-regulation, and learned expertise. These dimensions of professionalism are historical events and some evidence is offered for ‘professionalism’ as an idea whose time may have passed, enabled paradoxically by accounting practices that enfeeble professionalism while simultaneously invoking it. Third, the chapter explores a consequence of the eclipse of professionalism. The debility of professionalism raises a disquieting political question: if technologically advanced societies demand the rule of experts, and these experts are not professionals, then by what principle is their rule legitimized?

Keywords:   professionalism, sociology of professions, experts, legitimacy, accounting

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