Summary by Eileen Z. Taylor
Ph.D. Program in Accounting
University of South Florida, Spring 2004
This is part of a discussion of seven related articles. See below for links to the other six summaries. Hopwood writes this paper as a response to the criticisms bestowed by Zimmerman (2001) on the value-based management perspective framework put forth by Ittner and Larcker (2001). Essentially, Hopwood agrees with some of Zimmerman’s criticisms, however, he questions Zimmerman’s credentials and biases.
Specifically, Hopwood recognizes the need for frameworks that categorize past research. He also sees the need for open, honest criticism of academic work. Hopwood accuses Ittner and Larcker of preparing a “…management framework that is more reflective of prevailing fashions in management consultancy rather than the accumulation of research wisdom and experience.” In short, he states that their approach is as ‘faddish’ as some of the research they review.
Hopwood uses the rest of the paper to critique Zimmerman. First, he claims that Zimmerman lacks the background to judge a review of managerial research. As a result, Hopwood feels that Zimmerman changes the focus from commenting on the framework, to commenting on academic accounting journals in general. According to Zimmerman, the best research is published within “mainstream, American journals.” Here, Hopwood takes offense and himself criticizes the structure of research in America. He claims that American researchers are motivated by career opportunities, and that, as a result, innovative and risky research is not pursued. In short, the “academic control structure” present in North America may bode poorly for the future of the discipline.
Toward the end, Hopwood does give Zimmerman credit for some of his insightful comments. Specifically, the very nature of managerial accounting data is that it is heterogeneous and complex. In short, it is difficult to study in practice, and therefore, field and case studies may lack validity. On the other hand, Hopwood criticizes Zimmerman’s reliance on economic theories as a solution to the lack of an underlying theoretical framework. Although economic theory may be effective for some managerial accounting topics; it may be less appropriate for studying cultural differences. In these cases, researchers may need to look elsewhere for answers.
Articles related to this issue in the order that they were published:
Ittner, C. D. and D. F. Larcker. 2001. Assessing empirical research in managerial accounting: A value-based management perspective. Journal of Accounting and Economics (December): 349-410. (Summary).
Zimmerman, J. L. 2001. Conjectures regarding empirical managerial accounting research. Journal of Accounting and Economics (December): 411-427. (Summary).
Hopwood, A. G. 2002. If only there were simple solutions, but there aren't: Some reflections on Zimmerman's critique of empirical management accounting research. The European Accounting Review 11(4): 777-785.
Ittner, C. D. and D. F. Larcker. 2002. Empirical managerial accounting research: Are we just describing management consulting practice? The European Accounting Review 11(4): 787-794. (Summary).
Luft, J. and M. D. Shields. 2002. Zimmerman's contentious conjectures: Describing the present and prescribing the future of empirical management accounting research. The European Accounting Review 11(4): 795-803. (Summary).
Lukka, K. and J. Mouritsen. 2002. Homogeneity or heterogeneity of research in management accounting? The European Accounting Review 11(4): 805-811. (Summary).