On the Eclipse of Professionalism in Accounting: An Essay*

Sajay Samuel, Mark A. Covaleski and Mark W. Dirsmith

in Accounting, Organizations, and Institutions

Published in print August 2009 | ISBN: 9780199546350
Published online February 2010 | e-ISBN: 9780191720048 | DOI:
On the Eclipse of Professionalism in Accounting: An Essay*

Show Summary Details


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

Chapter.  12448 words. 

Subjects: Organizational Theory and Behaviour

Full text: subscription required

How to subscribe Recommend to my Librarian

Buy this work at Oxford University Press »

Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content. Please, subscribe or login to access all content.