The Rise and Fall of Comprehensive Accounting Theories: R. J. Chambers and Continuously Contemporary Accounting

Martin Persson

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

3277 Downloads (Pure)


The thesis is an exploratory study of the gap between accounting research and financial reporting practices. The fundamental issue is that comprehensive accounting theories (CATs) have been largely disregarded in the formation of financial reporting practices. To understand why this should be so, the thesis studies continuously contemporary accounting (COCOA), the CAT associated with the Australian scholar Raymond John Chambers. The thesis adopts a hyperbolic reading of actor-network theory (ANT), which treats ANT on its own terms rather than diluting it by reference to other interpretive approaches. The thesis uses a single case-study approach that traces how Chambers developed what was to become COCOA throughout his life. Archival data and interviews, as well as primary and secondary literature, inform the empirical narrative. The narrative focuses on six distinct episodes: the publication of Chambers’ first academic article in 1955, the debate and events that followed this article, attempts to influence financial reporting practices in the US in the 1960s, the publication of Chambers’ most comprehensive statement on COCOA in 1966, further attempts to influence financial reporting practices in the US, UK, and Australia in the 1970s, and three instances where financial statements were prepared in accordance with COCOA in the 1970s. Through the empirical narrative, the thesis contributes to knowledge about the gap between accounting research and financial reporting practices by studying an actual CAT and the attempts of its proponent to change conventional thinking. What emerges is a nuanced narrative about COCOA filled with various actors, not normally associated with accounting research, that nonetheless turn out to be vital to the success of COCOA.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Royal Holloway, University of London
  • Napier, Christopher, Supervisor
  • Nobes, Christopher, Advisor
Thesis sponsors
Award date1 Oct 2013
Publication statusUnpublished - 2013


  • Accounting
  • History
  • Continuously Contemporary Accounting
  • R. J. Chambers
  • Science and Technology Studies
  • Actor-Network Theory
  • Measurements

Cite this