Accounting as an Instrument of Social Justice


This article builds upon calls for a shift in the paradigm of the accounting discipline, away from preparing or certifying financial reporting of management activities aimed at maximizing share-holder wealth toward recognition that businesses must also be accountable to other stakeholders and indeed the community at large. If individuals in business apply a sound moral compass to their activities and decisions, we believe that commerce can shift toward outcomes that may not only satisfy shareholders but also contribute to the common good. In this article, we are concerned with the role of accounting and business education. We enumerate recommendations toward achieving this paradigm shift from profit maximization to social justice. In some cases, the instructor may implement changes in their pedagogy at their discretion, while in other cases the change may require approval at the department or at higher levels of the university administration. We begin with a discussion of recent accounting and financial reporting failures as well as the global financial crisis. The dangers created by risky practices of financial institutions “too big to fail” and the systemic risk of a global marketplace have not been resolved. We articulate the need for ethics in the accounting and business curricula, a need that is hardly satisfied by the one course typically offered by universities at the graduate level. We propose that businesses and the accounting profession can realize change by redefining accounting as an instrument of accountability. To accomplish this change, each university must critically examine its curricula and reflect topics and material most important to ethical and moral behavior, including borrowing from the liberal arts disciplines. Finally, this article shows how an interfaith approach grounded in social justice to infuse ethical and moral behavior within the accounting curriculum can work.

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Henry, T. , Murtuza, A. and Weiss, R. (2015) Accounting as an Instrument of Social Justice. Open Journal of Social Sciences, 3, 66-81. doi: 10.4236/jss.2015.31009.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.


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