Interdisciplinarity and Tax Law: The Case of Legal Autopoiesis

Posted: 10 Jun 2012 Last revised: 13 Jan 2014

See all articles by Guilherme Vasconcelos Vilaça

Guilherme Vasconcelos Vilaça

Instituto Tecnológico Autónomo de México (ITAM) - Law School

Date Written: May 23, 2012


This paper critically evaluates interdisciplinary research in tax law. The strategy I follow runs at two levels of abstraction.

First, I examine a concrete example of interdisciplinary research in taxation. More precisely, I examine Hikaka and Prebble's (2010) recent paper where, applying Luhmannian autopoietic theory to tax law, they make a series of claims about the productivity of their research strategy as well as the consistency and coherence of Luhmann's interdisciplinary framework. Whereas my analytical and conceptual critique of Hikaka and Prebble's paper stands on its own, it should also be read as revealing the obstacles that lurk behind interdisciplinary research in using such a complex and idiosyncratic theory as Luhmann's autopoietic account of law and society. Accordingly, my analysis shows how autopoietic theory can indeed prove useful for tax and accounting reform as well as to connect tax theory and notions of public interest.

Second, I extrapolate from the analysis of Hikaka and Prebble's paper some general problems that current interdisciplinary tax research needs to give further consideration: (i) how to identify productive research questions and uses of interdisciplinary resources; (ii) the dubious added value of interdisciplinary research, given its tendency to adopt complex theoretical apparatuses in a cursory way with little comparison being made to existing research achievements; and (iii) the risk of using interdisciplinary research as an exercise of confirmatory investigation and/or an exercise of mere translation of one discipline's problems into another discipline's language.

Keywords: Public sector, Autopoiesis, Interdisciplinarity, Law, Tax, Jurisprudence

JEL Classification: K10, M40, H2, K34

Suggested Citation

Vilaça, Guilherme Vasconcelos, Interdisciplinarity and Tax Law: The Case of Legal Autopoiesis (May 23, 2012). Critical Perspectives on Accounting, 2012. Available at SSRN:

Guilherme Vasconcelos Vilaça (Contact Author)

Instituto Tecnológico Autónomo de México (ITAM) - Law School ( email )

Río Hondo No.1
Álvaro Obregón, Mexico City

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