iBusiness, 2013, 5, 128-132
http://dx.doi.org/10.4236/ib.2013.53B027 Published Online September 2013 (http://www.scirp.org/journal/ib)
An Analysis of the Attribute of Accounting Discipline from
the Historical Process of Accounting Development
Wei Cong
Accounting Department, Jilin Business and Technology College, JLBTC, Chang Chun, China.
Email: xpxp333@163.com
Received July, 2013
Undeniably, in today all aspects of the social life are inseparable from the accounting, but the position of accounting
was unclear, and the academic circles debated ceaselessly. When we can not see the direction clearly, we can take a
look back at history. From the history of the development process of accounting, we can look for the clues of the attrib-
ute of accounting. The history would give us a new perspective of the researching.
Keywords: Accounting; Accounting History; Economics; Management; Discipline Attribute
1. Putting Forward the Problem
Today, with the development of economy, the impor-
tance of accounting w as prominent increasingly. There is
the participation of accounting not only in the family
who arranged the food, clothing, housing, transport en-
tertainment, education and other daily necessities, but
also in the government who made the monetary policy,
fiscal policy, industrial development planning. Account-
ing is closely related with all of the above. That is, the
economy is more developed, the accounting is more im-
portant, However, on the opposite of the status of ac-
counting is increasing in the real economic life, in the
academia, the localization of accounting is low, espe-
cially in China, at present, according to discipline and
professional catalogue to confer doctor’s and master's
degree and postgraduate training promulgated at 1997
and the undergraduate professional catalogue of college
and university issued at 1998, accounting vests in man-
agement, and is a branch of the enterprise management
discipline. In ad dition, the academia always argu ed about
that accounting is belong ing to which discipline. There is
not a conclusion, some one considers that accounting is
belonging to the economics; some one considers it is
belonging to management. In the practice of accounting
research and education, there are also contradictory
situation, on the one hand, accounting theory research
use the economics theory largely, this seems to show that
many scholars recognized that accounting is belonging to
economics; On the other hand, the higher education often
set up the accounting department in the business college,
this tell us seemly that the attribute of the accounting is
management. In the management practice of modern
enterprise, the accountants and the accountancies also
played the role of the generalist. On the one hand, ac-
counting serviced for the enterprise management, espe-
cially the chief accountant was regarded as enterprise's
senior manager, they participate in all major decision
making processes of the enterprise; On the other hand,
the accountants used the theory and method of econom-
ics to sort and process the data of enterprise operating,
and then analyzed the economic meaning of the data.
Thus, it can be seen, not on ly in the researching by the
academic, but also at the practical application, the disci-
plinary property of accounting is vague, this is the cur-
rent situation. When we can not see the future, we can
take a look back at history. From the development of the
accounting history, we can find the rule, identify the di-
2. The Historical Analysis of the
Development of Accounting
From the humans began to engage in production activi-
ties in a planned way, the accounting was created. From
the humans used the simple marks and intuitive drawing s
in the primitive society, though a long history, today the
accounting has rich and colorful theories and practices.
At each stage of development of the accounting, there
were the most representative accounting theory or the
method, thus we can not divide the history simply, and
we must analyze the history deeply.
2.1. Guan-Ting Accounting as a Representative
of Ancient Accounting
At first, accountin g just was an an cillary work of pro duc-
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An Analysis of the Attribute of Accounting Discipline from the Historical Process of Accounting Development 129
tion. Later, with the development of productive forces,
the surplus products emerged, at the same time, the so-
cialized production emerged, the division of labor
emerged, from now on, accounting becomes a independ-
ent work gradually, it becomes a separate management
function that is different with the production. In China,
the word "Kuai-Ji" that means accounting first appeared
in the western Zhou dynasty (the 11th century B.C. -- the
8th century B.C.). They mainly used the method that
called "day end closing, month end closing and year end
closing", i.e. they must submit accounting report in ac-
cordance with the different accounting period, and satisfy
the ruler’s need of recording and management the money
and foodstuff in their region. In China, into the feudal
society period, in order to consolidate the national domi-
nation further, strengthen the central economic centrali-
zation, the rulers of reformed the system of taxes, and
improved the official organization of public finance and
accounting, made a substantial progress than before, and
gradually formed the perfect "Guan-Ting Accounting",
i.e. government accounting . The same period in the
other countries of the world, such as Europe, India and
Japan also appeared similar situation. At this time, there
were a interdependent relationship between the public
finance and the accounting, the accounting work was
base on the public finance, the pu blic finance work relied
on the accounting, they had a coordinate and inseparable
relationship, so we can call it by a joint name, and to
show there had an integration of organizational work
relations in government financial revenue and expendi-
ture management. At the same time, the folk accounting
also had developed, but can not compare with Guan-Ting
accounting on both the organizations and the methods, so
it can not be the representative of the accounting devel-
opment in this period.
2.2. Financial Report Accounting as a
Representative of Recent Accounting
From the 14th to 16th century, the capitalist economic
relations and budded and developed in the Europe, vari-
ous company, such as commercial companies, banks and
industrial companies emerged with a new attitude in the
social economic life, consequently, the financial account-
ing whose main goal is to prepare accounting statement,
emerged with a new gesture. The development of the
company economic and the evolution of the company
created a new milestone in the history of the accounting.
By its push, the ancient accounting stepped into the re-
cent development stage of the accounting, and the de-
velopment of financial accounting gradually exceeded
more than government accounting, and started to become
the dominant position in the world accounting history. In
this stage, the important development is mainly embod-
ied in the two accounting statements, namely balance
sheet and income statement appeared and applied. With
the expansion of the company, the need for capital was
increasingly strong. In order to solve this problem, the
enterprise may choose to borrow a loan or seek new in-
vestors. In order to get loans, enterprise need to prove the
debt paying ability and the ability to pay; In order to at-
tract more investors, they need to prove the business
performance and the ability to make a profit. Under this
situation, the appearance and development of the balance
sheet and the income statement also was the historically
inevitable. In order to meet the requirements of the ex-
ternal information users, the accounting developed
gradually from a simple internal accounting into a finan-
cial statement accounting whose main works was that
submit accounting statements for outside, this model has
become the development trend of the recent accounting,
and has gotten the government approval and confirma-
tion by the laws and regulations.
2.3. Management Accounting as a
Representative of Modern Accounting
After the 1950s, the world economy development entered
into a new period, the capitalist economic developed
rapidly, the ever-changing technology had applied in
production extensively, capital had concentrated further,
thus the scale of enterprise expanded gradually, the group
company, multinational companies emerged largely, and
the production and business operation had been becom-
ing increasingly complicated. The external market changed
at every moment, and the competition was more intense.
All of the above not only were the new requirements to
the enterprise management modernization, but also pro-
moted the enterprise management modernization objec-
tively. The past productive management mode that the
production was the center, had been adjusted into the
business decision-making management mode whose cen-
tre was developing market, mobilizing the enthusiasm of
each respect, and getting the maximum possible eco-
nomic benefits. Then the virtuous circle could be realized
under the condition of market economy. From now on
the world steps into the new stage of the modern eco-
nomic management. At this stage, in order to adapt to the
requirements of the modern economic management, the
scholars improved the theories and practices of the plan
and control accounting, and gradually enriched the fore-
cast decision accounting and responsibility accounting.
The new system of modern management accounting that
the forecast decision accounting was major supplemented
by the plan-control accounting and responsibility ac-
counting was formed. At this time, though prep aration of
financial statements for the outside still was the major
piece of work to the accountants, but was not the final
request of enterprise, also not the ultimate goal of the
accounting work. Servicing for enterprise management
Copyright © 2013 SciRes. IB
An Analysis of the Attribute of Accounting Discipline from the Historical Process of Accounting Development
and improving the competitiveness of enterprises in the
market has become the first target of the accounting, and
leads the development direction of the accounting works
and accounting organizatio ns.
3. The Historical Evolution of Accounting
Discipline Classificati on
3.1. Guan-Ting Accounting Belongs to Public
In absolute society, in order to consolidating and main-
tenance centralized rule, the ruler must implement eco-
nomic centralization. Centralized economic must depend
upon the security of economic organization building,
financial and accounting organization construction is the
most fundamental ways. Th e stanchion of the implemen-
tation of the national administrative power is in the pub-
lic finance, and the control of the public financial power
relies on the accounting, if there are not details of the
accounting information provided by accounting wor k, the
public financial work can't proceed. In order to formulate
and implement fiscal policy, the tax authorities, account
division, and national treasury three specific organization
coordinate each other; the joint work is supportive to
national finance. As the most representative in this ac-
counting phase of development, both the working content
and organization form of the Guan-Ting accounting ser-
viced for national finance work, and is a branch of public
financial work. The accounting work of Guan-Ting ac-
counting period, fully embodied the goal of Guan-Ting
accounting at that time is to safeguard centralization of
state power. For example, the tang dynasty (7th century
AD) implemented a kind of administration system called
San-Sheng-Liu-Bu-Zhi, i.e. three ministries and six de-
partments in the central government. The Hu-Bu under
the Shang-Sh u-Sheng, one of the three ministries, was in
charge of financial revenue and expenditure work of the
government. The position of the Hu-Bu ranked only
second to the Li-Bu that was in charge of government
officials. The Hu-Bu was in charge of registering the
fields and population nationwide, levying tax and ac-
counting. The Hu-Bu had four divisions, the Hu-Bu divi-
sion was in charge of registering the fields and popula-
tion nationwide, drawing up tax names, levying tax, and
so on; the Du-Zhi-Bu division was in charge of making
budget, and nationwide accounting that include the gov-
ernment office from the central to the local must report
the accounting results and balance of properties; the
Jin-Bu division was in charge of examining and verifying
of the receiving and paying of money and silks in the
Treasury, and the Tai-Fu-Si set additional was engaged
in giving out the money and silks; the Cang-Bu division
was in charge of examining and verifying of the receiv-
ing and paying of grain nationwide, and the Si-Nong-Si
set additional was engaged in giving out the grain. From
the administrative system of Tang dynasty, we can see,
the Du-Zhi-Bu division charged of accounting work was
belonging to the Hu-Bu charged of financial work.
In the feudal regime, the accounting department at-
tached to the financial department engaged in the na-
tional economic statistics, it reflected the combining of
accounting and statistics, and the accounting work be-
longs to finance work. The subordination relation re-
flected the accounting work at that time had public fi-
nance attribute, at the same time, in the process of the
development of history, it didn't disappear, but gradually
formed an important branch of the accountancy, financial
master budget accounting, and it still used today, and
played an important role in fiscal budget and implemen-
tation in each country's of the world.
3.2. Accounting of Financial Statements Belongs
to Economics
Started from the human planned production work, the
accounting work of reporting production cost and results
appeared, along with productivity development, simple
family unit of small-scale peasant economy production
mode, gradually gave the place to socialized production
mode on the basis of division of labor in society. The
trading on the leverage brought the banking industry
prosperity; Partnership led to the development of capital
markets. At the same time it also brought a huge problem,
namely there were a degree of information asymmetry
between the operators and the creditors and investors,
because of the separation of ownership and management
power. The interested parties outside the enterprise ur-
gent need to understand the real operating condition of
business enterprise, but they can not go directly into en-
terprise to understand, thus the goal of accounting work
had changed. The original enterprise accounting only
serviced for the enterprise operator, who was also the
owner, the accountants reported cost and profit, property
and debt of the enterprise, etc to the operator. With the
development of social economy, external stakeholder
became more and more, their requirement to the ac-
counting work also became more and more complicated,
this requirement impelled the accountants to provide a
series of documents that can highly summarize the busi-
ness management and easily understand. These docu-
ments were the accounting statements that we all know
very well today. In order to expand the scope of opera-
tion, if the enterprise relied on their own accumulation,
the effects were very limited; o nly thr ough borr owing the
debt or attracting new investors, the enterprise could
achieve the fast development. In order to know the safety
of the loan, the creditors need to know the details of the
debt scale, asset scale, and the payment ability, etc. of the
enterprise; in order to realize the maintaining and in-
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An Analysis of the Attribute of Accounting Discipline from the Historical Process of Accounting Development 131
creasing of capital, the investors need to understand the
operating results, profitability, and dividend policy, etc.
of the enterprise. All these required the accounting work
can provide detailed, professional accounting statements
for the external, so far, mainly including the balance
sheet which reflected the assets, liabilities and owner’s
equity of the enterprise; the income statement which re-
flected the profitability of the enterprise; and the cash
flow statement which reflected the ability of acquiring
the cash and cash equivalents that could guarantee pay-
ment of the enterprise; etc. Preparing the accounting
statement, the accountants would use of a large number
theory of economics, such as the theory of product cost
structure used the labor value theory of economics, and
the relationship between assets and income, the analysis
of the accounting statements are massively used the eco-
nomic theory. This embodies the economics attributes of
external statements accounting. This adapted to the goal
of the external statements accounting, external statements
accounting provided the economic data reflecting the
operating and management of the enterprise, made the
financial analysis by the economics theory, so that the
external information users can make the investment and
credits decisions. From the emergence to the develop-
ment so far, accounting statements constantly improve,
and are confirmed through making enterprise accounting
standards by the national legislative method. It has be-
come an important branch of the accounting, financial
accounting, and is widely available in the social eco-
nomic practices, and plays a role to ensure the national
economy operation healthily and smoothly.
3.3. Management Accounting belongs to
Since enter the 20th century, the enterprise was faced
with unprecedented challenges, the shortage of the re-
sources day by day and the rapid development of the
science and technology brought the unprecedented fierce
external market competition; The limited market limited
the enterprise increase sales to obtain development through
the developing new markets, the relative fixed channels
of financing also limited the source of the capital. Faced
with this trouble, the enterprise wanted to develop, the
only way was digging into the internal potential. If the
enterprise can not increase the profits by increasing the
sales, they must reduce the costs to realize the profits
increase. Under this challenge, the enterprise accounting
work must adapt to the challenge and make great change,
the simple recording mode of cost accounting have not
adapted to the requirement of fierce market competition,
and the standard cost method and budget control aro se at
the historic moment, the simple cost accounting began to
change into the management accounting that serviced for
the enterprise management. Since the 1950s, in order to
adapt to the needs of modern enterprise management, the
management accounting improved the planning & con-
trol accounting, the forecast & decision accounting and
the responsibility accounting etc. further, basically formed
the new management accounting system based on the
forecast-and-decision accounting and supplemented by
the planning-and-control accounting and the responsibil-
ity accounting. After 1980s, management accounting
theory combined further with the reality that the com-
puter technology gained vigorous development, in order
to adapt to n ew things such as the just-in-time pr oduction
system, the total quality control (TQC) etc., the JIT
non-cumulative costing and the activity-based costing
emerged. At this time, although the management ac-
counting still used a lot of economic method, but the goal
of the management accounting mainly was helping the
enterprise managers forecast and decide, control and
evaluate on the enterprise's management, by using of
financial accounting information, and realizing the gen-
eral strategy of the enterprise development. Its essence
has been separated from the economics, and become a
part of the management discipline; this was adapted to
the goal of the management accounting. This shows, the
management accounting, as a representative of the mod-
ern accounting, although still had some degree of eco-
nomics attribute, but its essence has been separated from
the economics, and become another important branch of
the accounting, to improve management, enhance effi-
ciency and realize the overall strategic for the enterprises.
At the same time, the theory and method of management
accounting, not only applied to the enterprise, its theories
of the cost management, forecast decision and control
evaluation etc. also applied to other organizations, and
even extended to the whole society.
4. The Prospects of Subject Classification of
Throughout the history, the accounting emerged, devel-
oped, and formed a series of comparatively perfect the-
ory and method; it has taken a long and tortuous process.
When it was born, the accounting is an accessory part of
the production.
In the feudal society, in order to conform to the ruler’s
needs of maintenance of the centralized economic, the
accounting gradually became the Guan-Ting accounting
that had tight organization structure and fixed the work
mode, because of the restrictions of the service object
and work target, Guan-Ting accounting belonged to sub-
ordinate part of public financial work, from the point of
view of modern subject classification, the period of
Guan-Ting accounting sh all belo ng to pub lic fin ance, and
the public finance is a branch of applied economics, so,
at this time, the accounting was only a tool to service for
national finance. Today, public finance budgetary ac-
Copyright © 2013 SciRes. IB
An Analysis of the Attribute of Accounting Discipline from the Historical Process of Accounting Development
Copyright © 2013 SciRes. IB
counting followed the same trace of the Guan-Ting ac-
counting, still existed as an important part of the formu-
lation and implementation process of the national fiscal
With the outbreak of the industrial revolution, social
production turned into an unprecedented and striding
development stage, in order to adapt to this demand, the
unknown folk accounting obtained rapid development, as
a real science accounting was born, the accounting theory
developed, the accounting practice perfected further, and
the financial accounting that prepared accounting state-
ments finally formed. Financial accounting mainly used
the theory and methods of economics, prepared the ac-
counting statements that reflect the enterprise economic
information comprehensively, and serviced for the ex-
ternal information users’ needs of investment and lending
decisions. From the point of view of modern subject
classification, financial accounting does not belong to the
public finance category, but belongs to the economics
category directly; its status had the further promotion.
Enter the 20th century, the theory and method of mod-
ern management accounting obtained full development;
to this day, it still is the hot spot of the accounting de-
velopment. Management accounting is different from the
traditional financial accounting , it is not only a branch of
economics category, but also makes use of the theory of
emerging management. The object that it services for
transforms from the external information users into the
enterprise internal, it reforms the original cost accounting
which emphasizes recording primarily, it engages in
management by the currency's vision, or services for the
management, it helps enterprise managers to forecast,
decisive, control and evaluate. From the point of view of
modern subject classification, the management account-
ing has separated from his economics mother's arms, and
become a part of the burgeoning management discipline,
and it helps to build the direct relationship between the
management and the economics by using the unique
monetary eyes of the accounting.
Today, the accounting goal is not simply servicing for
production, also is not purely servicing for management;
is not only servicing for the country, also is not only ser-
vicing for the enterprise. Accounting has become an es-
sential indispensab le knowledge towards the country, the
enterprise and the family, the production, the business
operation and the management. Every cell in the social
life, as long as, it takes part in economic life and ex-
change with other subject, it can not be without help of
the accounting. The value measurement concept of ac-
counting faithfully reflects the reality of the social life
from a unique perspective, she and we are closely related,
and her status also should get a positive. With th e devel-
opment of social economy, the cognition of accounting
will continue to deepen, and there will be more account-
ing theory appeared and added to accounting science
system, accounting will certainly become an independent
discipline, and become an important branch of the whole
society science.
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