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This paper proposes a conceptual framework for teaching management accounting. The framework is rooted in distinguishing organizations from markets and draws on the fast-developing field of “organizational economics.” Market clearing prices, infinitely divisible commodities, and regime of private property rights are three aspects that can theoretically characterize market transactions. This paper argues for conceptualizing the subject matter of management accounting as a response to the relative absence of these aspects of market transactions within organizations. Specifically, management accounting procedures can be classified as instruments that: coordinate the demand and supply of resources in the absence of prices; measure resource consumption given indivisibilities in the cost function; and control resource use when the ownership of assets is separated from its control. This conceptual framework not only lends intellectual coherence to the subject matter of management accounting but also permits its diverse topics to be arranged in a logically articulated manner.
This paper proposes a conceptual framework for teaching management accounting. About twenty years ago, Vangermeersch (1997, p. 45) complained that “management accounting seems to be a free-standing phenomenon without a deep philosophical basis (that) would facilitate the teaching of cost/management accounting.” Responding to his call, there have been many attempts over the intervening years to specify frameworks for and redefinitions of management accounting. This ongoing effort to think through the foundations of management accounting is also linked to renewed attempts to professionalize the field. Section 1 of this paper surveys the relevant scholarly and professional literature to show how the proposed conceptual framework offers a meaningful contribution to it.
This paper presented a conceptual framework for management accounting that is theoretically grounded in the organizational economics literature and that offers a logically articulated grouping of topics (see Fig. 1). The framework does not justify the subject of management accounting by such catchall phrases as information for decision-making, accounting for planning and control, and enterprise performance management. Instead, it deduces the need for coordinating resources, for controlling performance, and for measuring resource consumption from the absence inside an organization of prices, property rights, and perfectly divisible inputs respectively. The link between the three distinguishing features of an organization and the toolkit of management accounting allows most if not all of the topics usually covered in management accounting to be thereby theoretically grounded and logically grouped.