The Pursuit of Relevance : Studies on the Relationships between Accounting and Users

University dissertation from Stockholm : Stockholm Business School, Stockholm University

Abstract: Relevance has become one of the key priorities for accounting policy, and implies that accounting should have an impact on the economic decision-making of accounting users. Despite the increased importance given to users, however, little is known concerning the properties of such relevance in practice. Furthermore, the lack of insight into the practices of users has been mitigated with a theoretical perspective of decision-making which supports an insufficient understanding of how stock markets function and how accounting users behave.This dissertation contributes to the emerging interest in the sociology of financial analysis by following users in their pursuit of relevance. By theorising financial analysis as a social and institutional practice, this dissertation investigates not only how accounting is relevant but also how such relevance is influenced by the particular setting of accounting users. Furthermore, the understanding of relevance as located within the activities leading up to a decision is here extended by emphasising the continuous activities of users and therefore also the role of accounting in the management of their decisions.Based on in-depth field studies targeting the activities of (sell-side) equity research analysts and equity sales brokers, this dissertation presents four papers addressing different notions of accounting, users and relevance. Theoretical insights are drawn from sociology and include actor-network theory, dramaturgy and text-and-conversation-theory. The studies find that the organisation of the sell-side industry necessitates a use of accounting which accentuates the links between accounting, users and investments recommendations. This dissertation concludes that, in order to produce and sustain such links, relevance becomes (a) mediated by a variety of elements, (b) based on the production of differences, and (c) mutually constitutive for accounting and users. 

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