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|کد مقاله||سال انتشار||تعداد صفحات مقاله انگلیسی||ترجمه فارسی|
|10328||2003||20 صفحه PDF||سفارش دهید|
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Publisher : Elsevier - Science Direct (الزویر - ساینس دایرکت)
Journal : Scandinavian Journal of Management, Volume 19, Issue 2, June 2003, Pages 153–172
As accounting research is concerned with the accounting in firms, an endeavour realised essentially by human actors, it seems reasonable to assume that the “actors” should be included even in the accounting research context. We thus apply the holistic individual image as a yardstick to three research perspectives, to see how the human dimension is explicitly or implicitly addressed. Where we find that the actor receives limited attention only, we suggest some supplementary ideas inspired by this image. We believe that such an approach could make researchers more aware of the nature of the human actors with whom they are dealing in their research setting.
The decision-maker has long been a crucial focus for management studies (see e.g. Carr & Pihlanto 1998, pp. 88–89). In the present article the decision-maker or actor is addressed primarily from the point of view of accounting, but it is suggested that our examination also has potential relevance for other branches of management studies, since the human individual is basically the same in all organisational settings. In accounting research actors have been analysed in terms of different evaluation styles (e.g. Hopwood, 1976), or various styles of decision-making and learning (Belkaoui, 1980; Macintosh, 1985). Some accounting scholars, relying on Burrell and Morgan (1979), have viewed the actor in an objectivistic or subjectivistic way (see Cooper & Robson, 1989; Otley, 1984; Hopper & Powell, 1985; Chua, 1986; Laughlin, 1995). In feminist accounting Reiter (1994) has presented a feminist critique on the notion of ‘man’. In her view, economic man exists on an entirely abstract level, unmindful of either the social or physical bases of existence. Economic man as a rational utility maximiser has no individuality, no cognition and no personality, and operates without regard to any social, cultural or institutional context (Reiter 1994, pp. 170–171). This feminist critic is thus in line with our proposition that it would be potentially useful in an accounting research context to consider the three following dimensions of human existence simultaneously: consciousness (cognition and personality), situationality (social, cultural and institutional context) and corporeality (physical context). At best, only the cognitive dimension of the actor is addressed in the literature, and then usually in a mechanical way. In particular, the actor has not usually been considered explicitly in connection with research methodologies or approaches. The general aim of the present article is to consider the human actor explicitly in terms of different research perspectives. In this way we hope to gain new insight into such perspectives, and to acquire a new vocabulary and source of inspiration for discussing the problems that we now approach in this individual-oriented light. Before proceeding we need first a relevant view on the human actor, and secondly a framework for approaching research on a methodological level. With the first of these requirements in mind, a philosophical concept of the actor referred to as the holistic individual image (Rauhala, 1986) is suggested here. This defines the individual as realised in the three modes of existence mentioned above: consciousness, situationality and corporeality. The relevance of a philosophical concept in general stems from the total and basic nature of the discipline in question (Webster, 1989). For our second requirement, i.e. a way of approaching accounting research, we adopt the framework representing three alternative perspectives on accounting research as presented by Chua (1986). We have chosen Chua because, in terms of different ‘beliefs’ and in a useful manner, her framework defines the basic methodological alternatives of accounting research. Having made these two choices, the first aim of this article is then to apply the holistic individual image to three accounting research perspectives. We thus use this image as a kind of yardstick for exploring ways in which the human dimension may be present in each of the perspectives. Since we believe that a profound understanding of human nature must be potentially useful to researchers, the second aim of the article is to suggest some complementary ideas inspired by the holistic individual image to cases where the research perspective addresses the human actor in a restricted way only. It is true that to some extent the respective research interest determines the research perspective and perhaps too the concept of the human actor that are considered relevant to a particular researcher. However, one of our premises is that the notion of the holistic actor suggested here is a realistic alternative for almost any kind of accounting study. As to our own position vis-à-vis ontological and epistemological assumptions, our position is basically subjectivistic (cf. Pihlanto, 1994), since the holistic individual image is based on existential and phenomenological philosophy as well as on humanistic psychology. This has lead to choice of nominalistic ontology and anti-positivistic epistemology, and of voluntarism, in relation to human nature, and ideographic methodology (Burrell & Morgan, 1979). However, we also find it appropriate to address the mainstream perspective, which is clearly objectivistic in its nature. This can be motivated by the fact that the world studied by the mainstream researcher is in principle the same human-driven world in which the subjectivist is interested, and moreover that all researchers are human actors just as much as the actors in firms. The human actor always has a role in an accounting context. Sometimes, even, one key person's role may be decisive, for example for a change of accounting systems (Granlund, 1998). Both groups of researchers may thus gain from knowledge of the human actor's way of acting. The article is designed as follows. First the holistic individual image is defined as the focus for discussion. Next, the different research perspectives, and in particular the views on the notion of the human actor that they represent, are critically analysed in terms of this image. Finally, the results of the examination are discussed in concrete terms from the point of view of a practical research work. The idea is to provide the researcher with practical insights and understandings about the nature of the human actor that can be applied to the empirical research site.
نتیجه گیری انگلیسی
In this article, the holistic individual image has been applied to the accounting research context by analysing the way in which the human dimension can potentially be displayed in three research perspectives. The quest for a human emphasis in accounting research has been motivated by the central position assumed for human activity in an accounting context. What, then, is the concrete message that the holistic individual image offers to accounting scholars? Since a very mechanical view of the actor has been adopted in mainstream thinking, the possible benefit from this idea may be limited to increasing the researchers’ understanding of the diverse nature of human individuals acting within the concrete accounting systems, on which these researchers usually focus. It is suggested that they could usefully apply this insight, for instance by constructing hypotheses and interpreting their empirical findings from the human actor's point of view. Since the interpretive and critical perspectives are closer to the ideas represented by the holistic individual image, we concentrate below on the idea of conducting ideographic research, i.e. case or field studies. We thus discuss how such researchers might benefit in a concrete sense from ideas about the consciousness, situationality and corporeality of their respondents. As may already have become evident above, the idea of personal situationality in particular is new to these two perspectives, while the concepts of consciousness and corporeality have certain insights of their own to offer as well. Let us start with the notion of consciousness. An ideographic scholar can usefully note that all relevant aspects and things that affect an interviewee, and an interviewer too, in their situations, are conveyed to them in terms of meanings arising in their consciousness. There is no other way for an actor to understand the different phenomena in a situation. No information, knowledge or data is acquired or possessed by an actor except in terms of subjective meanings, which are then accumulated within the individual worldview. Meanings vary in kind: implicit knowledge, tacit knowledge, feeling, emotion, intuition, values, beliefs, the will to do something, etc. Recognition of this great variety in the notion of meaning can also help the researcher to understand that interviewing people is not a question of dealing with objective truths only. Rather, the research objects consist of accounting phenomena in the everyday world of an individual respondent as he or she lives with and understands these in terms of varying combinations of different kinds of subjective meanings, for instance a mixture of knowledge and feelings. The personal worldview of the interviewee—the cumulative “stock” of earlier understanding in the shape of meanings—crucially affects this act of understanding. Before interviewees can understand anything, they “instinctively” reflect all impulses arising from the situation (e.g. from an interviewer and from the work situation studied) against the background of their worldviews. Only after this reflection is a new meaning born and an answer to a question becomes possible. Thus whatever knowledge, values, beliefs, hopes or fears become activated in the worldview at that moment may be reflected in the interviewee's reactions and answers. This means in concrete terms that it is a question not just of the unproblematic exchange of pure “facts” but of more or less subjective and historically based combinations of subjective meanings. For instance, the word “interpretation”, as used by interpretive scholars, touches this phenomenon on the surface only. And the interviewer is in no “better” position than the interviewee, but is a prisoner of the individual worldview in just the same way as the interviewee, however objective they try to be. This insight into the nature of consciousness may promote a more knowledgeable attitude in the open-minded researcher towards this complicated act of co-operation between the parties to an interview, in which “everything may affect everything” and misunderstandings are likely. Even if the worldview of the interviewee is predominantly hidden from the researcher, the latter may still be able to draw some conclusions about it from the work history, education, age and other similar external factors pertaining to the interviewee. However, even more important than these particular details is the idea of the worldview: i.e. the researcher's awareness regarding the nature of the functioning of human actors. Actors think and act on a basis not only of the visible and concrete information available, but of their larger personal life history and attitudes stored in their worldview in the form of meanings. Accounting literature does not recognise such a notion, and management literature is almost as sparse in its treatment. Second, the idea of situationality provides another angle on the same problem area as consciousness. It stresses that the individual actors encountered by an interpretive or critical researcher at the research site enjoy unique relations with people, things and ideas—with everything in their own total situations, and—what is essential—all this may have an effect on the reactions and replies they give. Even if the different interviewees were dealing with precisely the same task in their organisation, their unique situational relationships (in addition to their worldview) would tend to make them see the reality in question in a situationally related and therefore a different way. The situations of the individual respondents comprise much more than is usually taken into consideration. In other words, it is not only a question of the systems, practices and so on that are usually studied by the researcher, but of literally everything touching on the respondents in relation to their workplace and to the world outside it. Any one or more of these situational components in a variety of possible and constantly changing combinations may then have an effect on their behaviour and on the answers they provide. A researcher cannot, of course, be aware of these influences in detail: even the individual respondents may not realise in full what actually drives them. However, by recognising the existence of these potential situational influences, if only theoretically at first, researchers may at best attain a mature and broad human perspective on their task. To put it briefly, the world is by no means the same for everybody, even if it is often assumed that it is, but is always individually coloured. Finally, the corporeality of the interviewee is the most visible dimension, which means that the interviewer may “read” it and adjust to it appropriately. For the most part, however, corporeality is not considered at all in a research setting, even though in practice it is an important dimension of the human actor. As well as highlighting these three modes of existence of the human actor, the holistic individual image offers a crucial lesson in the shape of its totality. Some features of the three modes of existence may be recognised separately in the literature, but very rarely or perhaps never are they included as a totality within the same framework. Rauhala (1973) uses the term “regulative situational circuit” in referring to this totality, indicating that the various modes of existence are invariably present in a mutual relationship with each other in such a way that when something occurs in one mode, a counter-effect immediately occurs in the other two. For instance, an impulse from situationality, such as a question from the interviewer, has an effect on consciousness: it yields new meanings in the consciousness of the interviewee (a question is understood). The further meanings (an answer) arising from these meanings are then conveyed to the situation of the interviewer in the form of speech. At the same time, however, interviewee's corporeality may also be affected, perhaps because the new meanings are understood as uncomfortable or threatening. Even bodily stress symptoms are apt to appear. This again may set further “thinking processes” in motion in the consciousness, and the further meanings thus resulting may cause the interviewee to view the present situation slightly differently at least, perhaps more pessimistically than before, and so on. The emergence of a string of new meanings does not always originate from the interviewee's situation, however, but may emerge from consciousness as some idea (i.e. a meaning) surfaces from the worldview, or from corporeality as a bodily symptom perhaps creates a meaning associated with pain. Finally, situationality is also affected as the interviewee conveys the result of the above process to the interviewer, or changes his or her attitude in relation to the interviewer, or because of some other component in the situation. These are just some simple examples of the way the regulative situational circuit operates. However, with their help researchers may achieve a better understanding of something basic about their interviewees and also about themselves, and then be able to utilise this insight in various research settings and situations by concentrating simultaneously on each one of the three modes of existence. In the literature the three modes may at best be addressed separately from each other and from any individual actor. Similarly, the individual manager in a firm could come to see other people and their own selves in terms of the regulative situational circuit and, as a result, could adjust better to their communications with other people. Finally, since the human actor is understood here as a unique person, we may ask whether concepts such as group, organisation, society of “science” are applicable to such an individual? The answer is in the affirmative, because individuals have to negotiate the common view, their shared reality, in order to be able to act together. This occurs in mutual co-operation within a social and organisational context, and all three modes of existence pertaining to each separate individual involved are affected in this process.