Understanding accounting through conceptual metaphor: Accounting is an instrument?

J. Amernic, Russell Craig

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This paper extends the conversation about metaphors in accounting that were presented in this journal by McGoun et al. [McGoun EG, Bettner MS, Coyne MP. Pedagogic metaphors and the nature of accounting signification. Critical Perspectives on Accounting 2007a;18:213–30; McGoun EG, Bettner MS, Coyne MP. Money n’ motion—born to be wild. Critical Perspectives on Accounting;2007b;18:343–61.]. Our aim is to promote further critical conversations about how metaphor is implicated in accounting. We assemble and review some of the empirical evidence we have gathered from close readings of discourse about accounting over the past decade. Based on this empirical grounding, we propose that the fundamental conceptual metaphor, ACCOUNTING IS AN INSTRUMENT, has been deployed commonly to describe the essence of accounting. We contend that such deployment has insidious, distortive and confounding outcomes because it encourages belief that accounting is incapable of reporting other than with representational faithfulness; and that it confounds the (alleged) primary qualitative characteristics of accounting information (relevance and reliability) outlined in the Financial Accounting Standards Board's SFAC 2 Qualitative Characteristics of Accounting.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)875-883
Number of pages9
JournalCritical Perspectives On Accounting
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2009


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