Back to the Future: New Potential for Structuration Theory in Management Accounting Research?
University of Birmingham
Loughborough University - Business School
March 23, 2009
Management Accounting Research, Forthcoming
For three decades, the use of structuration theory has made a distinctive contribution to management accounting research. A recent development of the theory by Stones (2005. Structuration Theory, Palgrave Macmillan, Basingstoke) advocates a move away from the relatively abstract concepts evident in the work of Giddens, towards providing more concrete constructs that give epistemological and methodological guidance to researchers in the field. In order to achieve this, he recommends deployment of the concept of position-practices, combined with use of a quadripartite model of structuration. The main purpose of this paper is to examine the potential of this development for management accounting research. We do so by setting it within our own skeletal model of the structuration process, and then using it to analyse a case study of management accounting practices in a privatised utility company. We conclude that investigation of position-practices focuses attention on the strategic conduct of agents, the importance of power in social interaction, and a plurality of structures and theories of action. But, whilst the quadripartite model highlights the phenomenology, hermeneutics and practices of agents, we note that it provides few direct insights into the processes of reproduction, learning and change in management accounting. We suggest this limitation can be overcome by using structuration theory in a flexible manner, drawing inspiration from other theoretical perspectives which ascribe central roles to path dependency, contradiction and praxis.
Keywords: Structuration theory, management accounting research
JEL Classification: M40, M46, D82Accepted Paper Series
Date posted: March 26, 2009
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