Accounting academic elites: The tale of ARIA

John Richard Edwards*, Graeme Dean, Frank Clarke, Peter Wolnizer

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Citations (Scopus)


"Golden age" accounting theorists Robert Sterling, George Staubus, Yuji Ijiri and Arthur Thomas joined together to create an elite organisation, the Accounting Researchers International Association (ARIA) in 1974, with its chief instigator Robert "Bob" Sterling serving as its first President. Written correspondence between the early members, in conjunction with oral testimony, suggest that ARIA's formation was motivated by a desire to protect and advance normative-based research. The early members also shared a mutual zeal for intellectual progress and a common passion to rid accounting practices of its defects. They shared a conviction that bringing together a well-recognised, dedicated group of scholars would create an environment in which individual differences would wilt under the pressure of scholarship.This paper reveals that ARIA's early members failed to protect and advance their specialist knowledge base-normative theorisation-and their elite position within the scholastic social order. In the social space occupied by these leading normative theorists, strategic errors included the absence of effective strategies to protect ARIA's reputational system through "reproduction of the corps" ( Bourdieu, 1988, p. 84) and to defend themselves against empiricists-cum-positivists' commitment to revolutionise the academy's research agenda. The history of ARIA also reveals a fatal inability to create a system of shared dispositions and cognitive structures amongst its early members capable of resisting the propensity towards the "circulation of elites" ( Pareto, 1935). The irony of the tale is that, in failing to recognise fully the implications of the empirical revolution in US academic accounting, ARIA recruited the very individuals whose choice of degree school and scholarly pursuits labelled them as academics committed to superseding within the academy the type of scholarship and values that the early members espoused.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)365-381
Number of pages17
JournalAccounting, Organizations and Society
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 2013
Externally publishedYes


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