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The Changing Roles and Changing Discourse of the Management Accountant: 1980-2008

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  • Gudrun Baldvinsdottir, University of Dundee, United Kingdom
  • John Burns, University of Dundee, United Kingdom
  • Hanne Nørreklit
  • Robert W. Scapens, Manchester Business School, United Kingdom
  • Accounting Research Centre - ARC
  • Department of Business Studies
This paper explores the changing roles of management accountants over the last three decades drawing on a unique database of tape recordings of interviews with management accountants from the early 1980s to the present time. It uses discourse analysis to see more clearly the way in which the roles of management accountants have changed. Although it is generally acknowledged that the role of the management accountant has changed, there does not seem to have been any systematic analysis of these changes. Our analysis shows that over the last three decades the role of management accountant has continued to be concerned with enhancing the competitiveness and profitability of the business through a discourse of logical analysis and rational decision-making. However, the way in which this discourse is conceived has changed over the period we studied - from the presentation of relevant information in the 1980s, through working with managers to find the information they need in the 1990s, to disciplining the business through performance measurement systems in the 2000s. The use of discourse analysis enabled us to explore the relationship between the role of management accounting and the wider social praxis; with modernity in the 1980s, high modernity in the 1990s, and hyper modernity in the 2000s. Thus, discourse analysis has provided a more in-depth understanding of both the changing roles and changing discourse of the management accountant over the period 1980 to 2008.
Original languageEnglish
Publication year2008
Publication statusPublished - 2008
Event6th Conference on new directions in management accounting - Brussels, Belgium
Duration: 15 Dec 200817 Dec 2008


Conference6th Conference on new directions in management accounting

    Research areas

  • Management accounting change, management accounting discourse, management accountants, discourse analysis

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