The Conceptual Underwear of Financial Reporting

25 Pages Posted: 5 Jan 2004

See all articles by Michael Page

Michael Page

Portsmouth Business School

Laura F. Spira

Oxford Brookes University


The paper examines the role of metaphor in debates about conceptual frameworks for financial reporting and accounting standard setting. It takes the form of a dialogue between a standard setter and an academic. The paper demonstrates the power of metaphor by substituting a different, unfamiliar metaphor in place of the cliche-d framework for describing a set of accounting principles. The effect of the replacement is examined in the context of UK Accounting Standards Board's (ASB's) draft Statement of Principles. Underlying the apparent engineering parsimony of the framework metaphor, a mutable and inconsistent set of principles is discovered.

The substitution of metaphors suggest that conceptual frameworks serve multiple purposes, such as marketing standards to preparers and users. The use of metaphors inevitably entails the importation of baggage into analysis, so that metaphors need to be chosen with care and baggage needs to be examined.

Keywords: Accounting standards, Financial reporting, Metaphors

Suggested Citation

Page, Michael James and Spira, Laura F., The Conceptual Underwear of Financial Reporting. Accounting, Auditing and Accountability Journal, Vol. 12, No. 4, pp. 489-501, 1999, Available at SSRN:

Michael James Page

Portsmouth Business School ( email )

Richmond Building
Portland Street
Portsmouth, PO1 3DEJF
United Kingdom
(+44) 02392 844 148 (Phone)
(+44) 02392 844 037 (Fax)

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Laura F. Spira (Contact Author)

Oxford Brookes University ( email )

Business School
United Kingdom

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