Contextualised accountant stereotypes: understanding their social construction and reconstruction in Chinese society

Yuheng Wang, Junyuan Chen

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Abstract

Purpose
This study seeks to understand how accountant stereotypes have been constructed and reconstructed at the macro-national and the structural level in Chinese society.

Design/methodology/approach
This qualitative investigation into China's social construction of accountant stereotypes employs Becker's (1963) labelling theory. Viewing stereotyping as a socially constructed practice, this study draws on a post-positivistic, reflexive epistemology in conducting 28 semi-structured interviews with accountants and related actors.

Findings
Chinese accountant stereotypes are constructed and reconstructed according to the rules created and enforced in different cultural-political periods. The accountant stereotypes constructed during the ancient Confucian period (500 BC – 1948) were replaced during 1949 and 2012 when the political focus shifted towards propagating socialism and later promoting economic growth. They also show how Confucian stereotypes of accountants resurfaced in 2013 but were reconstructed by the central government's cultural confidence policy of propagating Confucianism.

Originality/value
Empirically, prior literature has focused on what the accountant stereotype is and how accountants respond to such stereotypes, but it has neglected the ways in which these accountant stereotypes are politically and culturally constructed, diffused and legitimated. This paper fills in the gap by understanding the social practice of accountant stereotyping in a previously unexplored political-cultural context, namely Chinese society. In theoretical terms, by offering the first use of Becker's (1963) labelling theory in the accounting literature, it furthermore enhances our understanding of how accountants' identities and social standing are shaped by social rules.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)336-362
Number of pages27
JournalAccounting, Auditing and Accountability Journal
Volume37
Issue number1
Early online date30 May 2023
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 4 Jan 2024

Bibliographical note

'This author accepted manuscript is deposited under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial 4.0 International (CC BY-NC) licence. This means that anyone may distribute, adapt, and build upon the work for non-commercial purposes, subject to full attribution. If you wish to use this manuscript for commercial purposes, please contact permissions@emerald.com.'

Keywords

  • accountant stereotypes
  • confucianism
  • labelling theory
  • China

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