Social Norms Versus Standards of Accounting

GENERAL ACCOUNTING THEORY: TOWARDS BALANCED DEVELOPMENT, M. Dobija, Susan Martin, eds., Cracow, Poland: Cracow University of Economics, pp. 157-177, 2005

Posted: 26 Oct 2005

See all articles by Shyam Sunder

Shyam Sunder

Yale University - School of Management; Yale University - Cowles Foundation

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Abstract

Historically, norms of accounting played an important role in corporate financial reporting. Starting with the federal regulation of securities, accounting norms have been progressively replaced by written standards. While social norms are maintained through an informal process of social as well as internal sanctions, standards require more formal enforcement mechanisms, often supported by implicit or explicit power of the state to impose punishment. The spate of accounting and auditing failures of the recent years raise questions about the wisdom of this transition from norms to standards. Many aspects of family, local, professional, social, national and international behaviors continue to be governed by mechanisms in which norms play an important role. It is possible that the pendulum of standardization in accounting may have swung too far, and it may be time to allow for a greater role for social norms in the practice of corporate financial reporting.

Keywords: Accounting standards, social norms, enforcement, financial reporting

JEL Classification: M41, M44

Suggested Citation

Sunder, Shyam, Social Norms Versus Standards of Accounting. GENERAL ACCOUNTING THEORY: TOWARDS BALANCED DEVELOPMENT, M. Dobija, Susan Martin, eds., Cracow, Poland: Cracow University of Economics, pp. 157-177, 2005. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=827549

Shyam Sunder (Contact Author)

Yale University - School of Management ( email )

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HOME PAGE: http://www.som.yale.edu/faculty/sunder/

Yale University - Cowles Foundation

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