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Investigating interdisciplinary translations: The influence of Pierre Bourdieu on accounting literature

  • Philosophy
  • Political Science


Purpose – Accounting researchers have frequently borrowed theories and methods from other disciplines. A noteworthy importation movement in recent decades involves the work of French intellectuals and philosophers, not least Pierre Bourdieu. This paper aims to contribute to the sociology of the accounting discipline by examining how Bourdieu's works have been translated into the domain of accounting research. Design/methodology/approach – The investigation is articulated through three modes of analysis. First, it evaluates Bourdieu's recognition in the domain of accounting research, through an examination of the extent to which Bourdieu's writings are cited in accounting articles. Focusing on accounting articles which rely significantly on Bourdieu's thought, the paper then examines which of his publications have been mobilized, and how researchers have articulated his ideas in studying accounting phenomena. The third line of inquiry addresses the extent to which accounting researchers have used Bourdieu's core concepts holistically, that is to say in mobilizing simultaneously the concepts of field, capital and habitus. Findings – Several of the studies which rely significantly on Bourdieu have employed his work holistically, while others have not. Moreover, about half of the studies reviewed in the paper are characterized by a gap between Bourdieu's view of academic research as a support to political and social causes debated in the public arena versus a more dispassionate approach to research. While it is difficult to be conclusive about the implications of these translational gaps, they nonetheless make one aware of some central epistemological issues: Should accounting researchers be more concerned about bringing “the achievements of science and scholarship into public debate”? What are the pros and cons of drawing upon ideas from politically-engaged intellectuals in order to conduct research characterized by political dispassion? Does it make sense to use certain concepts excerpted from a comprehensive system of thought in a piecemeal way? Originality/value – The paper mobilizes and develops the notion of translation in investigating an interdisciplinary movement.

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