After Habermas: Applying Axel Honneth's critical theory in accounting research

Dale Tweedie*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)


This paper argues Axel Honneth's critical theory can advance critical accounting research, especially within the Frankfurt School tradition. As prior accounting scholars have shown, Frankfurt School critical theory aims to mobilize rationally-defensible norms embedded in, or 'immanent' to, extant social practice that can effect emancipatory social change. While prior critical theory focuses on Jürgen Habermas, Honneth offers a promising alternative. Habermasian critical accounting derives critical norms from rational pre-conditions of autonomous social discourse. Honneth mobilises a broader set of norms from two alternative sources: (i) a philosophical anthropology of recognitive self-development; and, (ii) sociological reconstructions of normative pre-conditions of specific institutions or social practices. Honneth's critical theory can illuminate injustices and pathologies in which accounting is complicit, but which fall outside of Habermas' discursive-procedural lens. The paper illustrates these possibilities across multiple levels of critical accounting research. Within organisations, Honneth's philosophical anthropology of recognition can provide a richer phenomenology of how accounting practices or systems can impair subjects' self-relations. Honneth's normative sociology also suggests some less historically contingent, more rationally-grounded strategies to critique accounting institutions and frameworks that violate their own enabling promises or norms.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)39-55
Number of pages17
JournalCritical Perspectives on Accounting
Early online date2018
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2018


  • Critical theory
  • Habermas
  • Honneth
  • Integrated Reporting
  • Recognition
  • Resistance


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