11.isea vol 0004www.iiste.org call for paper no 2 pp. 149-167
Issues in Social and Environmental AccountingVol. 4, No. 2 December 2010Pp 149-167 Identity, Variety and Destiny in Accounting Education for a Social—Environmental and Liberal Arts Tradition Ralph Palliam American University of Kuwait KuwaitAbstractWhen one considers that all profits are not made equally, philosophy, history, anthropologybecome pre-requisites for professional accounting and finance graduates. This allows for acomplete understanding of an intimately related financial market that exerts tremendous influ-ence on socio-economic conditions. A graduate from a liberal arts institution may be worthmore than what his or her academic balance sheet shows. A liberal arts education teaches onehow to think, how to analyze, how to read, how to write, how to develop a persuasive argu-ment. Any liberal arts education, even vaguely defined becomes an intellectual antidote to theoverwhelming flood of information and technological change. A liberal arts education teachesstudents to read and to reason; to learn something about the range of human expression; to con-sider the great literature and ideas of world civilizations; to recognize and construct arguments;and to have sensitivity towards others’ thinking. It also makes possible a genuine kind of citi-zenship without which democracy and markets crumble. This study presents emerging trends inaccounting as a growing discipline in liberal arts institutions whose mission is aligned withsocial goals.Keywords: accounting, accounting education, stewardship, social-environmental issues, lib-eral arts, accounting history.Introduction: accounting in the liberal sessing and evaluating financial account-arts tradition to build social con- ing records for corporate social responsi-sciousness bility. The globalization of businesses, the increasing complexities of businessFrom a stewardship perspective, not eve- transactions, advances in informationrything that a corporation counts can be technology and the demand for timelycounted and not everything that a corpo- accounting information are facilitatingration counted counts. This is precisely electronic commerce and communica-what most corporate social scientists tion at enormous social costs. Withinface particularly when it comes to as- this context one needs to consider theRalph Palliam is an Associate Professor of Finance at P O Box 3323 Safat KUWAIT, Telephone: +965 67040237,Facsimile: +965 25737039, email: email@example.com
150 R. Palliam / Issues in Social and Environmental Accounting 2 (2010) 149-167challenges, relevance and usefulness of ergy counting than in undertaking rigor-traditional accounting education that ous assessments of their social environ-underscores profit as a bottom line. Fi- mental management systems. Moreover,nance and accounting professors at lib- as long as lions cannot count, the historyeral arts institutions are frequently criti- of counting in the jungle is always goingcized by their professional organizations to favor the hunter. From a lion’s pointand associations for the specific theoreti- of view, reading, writing and arithmeticcal and theatrical tools they teach and may not be as important as the ability tofor the way they teach students to think critically think out life-long survivalabout the world and approach socio- strategies in a jungle. Coupling norma-economic problems in the face of corpo- tive discourse about the relationshipsrate success. Moreover, finance and ac- between accounting information in busi-counting degrees from liberal arts insti- ness and different societies enables onetutions tend to scare parents and students to identify opportunities for accountingtoo who worry about whether their in- as a subject and to engage in dialoguevestment in a college education will ever about those accounting activities thatpay off. In essence, they are responding create a potential not only for economicto a wave of human, social and cultural success but also socially sustainable de-interest in matters of business and tech- velopment. This is consistent with whatnology, globalization and innovation. Annisette (2006:399) in her seminalEducation entails, inter alia, an invest- work - People and periods untouchedment in human, social and cultural capi- by accounting history: an ancienttal, the consequences of which ought to Yoruba practice - suggests that “by tak-result in all endeavors of human ad- ing accounting history research beyondvancement and human achievements that the familiar settings of Europe and thesociety morally approves of. Account- West we create the potential for pro-ing therefore ought to be a qualitative found growth in our discipline”.and quantitative measurement and as-sessment of that human advancement Accountability and accounting have be-and achievements. Raising critical con- come terms with almost common mean-sciousness about the way accounting ing. Accounting describes an accountingdata is narrated offers a way of consider- system that is designed to truthfully anding the critical role liberal arts institu- accurately detail the description of a cor-tions in constructing and evaluating a poration’s financial result and position.corporation’s transition towards socially The term, accountability refers to impor-acceptable development. tant elements of considering and judging the quality of the details described byKlamer (2002) in accounting for social accounting practices, policies and proce-and cultural values considers the con- dures of the corporation. In this regardceptualization of the goods that count Cooper and Owen (2007) contend thatwith the concepts of capital, value and there is a significant degree of adminis-property. To those like Klamer (2002) trative reform, in terms of the increasingwho take welfare economics seriously number of major companies proclaimingwill find anomalies in counting conven- their social responsibility credentials,tion. There are strong suspicions that and backing up their claims by produc-many companies are spending more en- ing substantial environmental, social and
R. Palliam / Issues in Social and Environmental Accounting 2 (2010) 149-167 151sustainability reports. Any exercise in quires, for the proper prosecutionaccountability requires much more than of it, considerable and varied at-standardized or normative accounting. In tainments; that it is not confinedthis regard Klamer (2002:454) laments: to the department of the Actuary,“ever since I began to consider the world which forms indeed only a branchof the arts from an economic perspective of it, but that, while it compre-I have been dealing with the restrictions hends all matters connected withof the standard economic perspective. It arithmetical calculation, or in-was as if that perspective did not allow volving investigation into figures,me to see things particular to that it also ranges over a much widerworld”. field, in which a considerable ac- quaintance with the general prin-A historical survey of accounting com- ciples of law, and a knowledge inmences with the contribution of Luca particular of the Law of Scotland,Pacioli who was widely considered the is quite indispensable; that Ac-father of modern accounting suggest that countants are frequently employedhe acquired an amazing knowledge of by Courts of Law . . . to aid thosediverse technical subjects – religion, Courts in their investigation ofbusiness, military science, mathematics, matters of Accounting, which in-medicine, art, music, law and language. volve, to a greater or less extent,He accepted the popular belief in the points of law of more or less diffi-inter-relatedness of these widely varying culty; that they act under suchdisciplines and in the special importance remits very much as the Mastersof those, such as mathematics and ac- in Chancery are understood to actcounting, which exhibit harmony and in England.”balance (Vaughan, 2005). This view isfurther supported by the Institute of Ac- Consistent with the notion of accountingcountants in Glasgow who once peti- in a liberal arts tradition, Albrecht andtioned Queen Victoria for the grant of a Sack (2000), cite the 1986 findings ofRoyal Charter in 1854. (As cited by Hall Bedford Committee of the American2009:2). The Petition, which was signed Accounting Association (AAA), whichby forty-nine accountants in the City of considered the future structure, content,Glasgow suggests: and scope of accounting education in preparing for the expanding profession. “That the profession of an Ac- Moreover, in recent years again, ac- countant has long existed in Scot- counting and finance professors have land as a distinct profession of issued impassioned calls for fundamen- great respectability; that origi- tal change in accounting education, with nally the number of those practic- increased emphasis on developing com- ing it was few but that, for many munication, interpersonal and intellec- years back, the number has been tual skills, and on broadening the knowl- rapidly increasing, and the pro- edge base. According to Palliam and fession in Glasgow now embraces Shalhoub (2003), these calls have not a numerous as well as highly re- been answered by the academic commu- spectable body of persons; that nity with significant efforts to reinvent the business of an Accountant re- pedagogical techniques and restructure
152 R. Palliam / Issues in Social and Environmental Accounting 2 (2010) 149-167the curriculum to address the perceived attack the devastation on all fronts isdeficiencies in accounting graduates. required. Hopefully, together with theThey contend that should Albert Ein- works of researchers like Annisettestein or Sir Alexander Fleming come (2006), identity, variety and destiny inback from their graves, they would be accounting education for a liberal artsamazed at the advancement and achieve- tradition will be seen as a foundation,ments that have been made in their re- so that one does not face crisis resultingspective fields. Moreover, should the from poor accounting policies and whatforefathers of accounting education needs to be considered are the prospectscome back from their graves, they would for meaningful changes in accountingbe devastated at the extent to which the education throughout the world. Itaccounting profession and the vast cur- therefore becomes apparent that due dili-riculum have been diminished and gence in the accounting professionpoorly refined. In this regard Palliam makes it necessary for a liberal arts edu-and Shalhoub (2003) contends that ac- cation since the proliferation of state-counting has not as yet fulfilled the wide ments of financial accounting standardsexpectations of the leaders of the profes- has had the insidious effect of pushingsion. Perhaps it has fulfilled the narrow the accounting curriculum in an everexpectations of today’s leaders whose more technical and ever less business-sole intention is narrow definitions of stakeholder oriented direction. The cur-prosperity, massive debt accumulation riculum has become devoted to teachingover toxic assets and the creation a false students the technical rules, conventionssense of achievement. of conformance and concentration on formal accounting rules, with corre-The unfortunate consequence is that ac- spondingly less focus on essential busi-counting students have become ever- ness and social issues.more narrowly-educated. Graduateshave become increasingly technicallyproficient, but less well-rounded in the A brief historical survey of accountingtradition of a liberal arts education.Communication, interpersonal, critical- According to accounting historiansthinking, and professional skills, as well Giroux (2007), Brown (1905) and Anni-as general knowledge of cultures, his- sette (2006) accounting is as old as civi-tory, and the arts and sciences, have no- lization. Should accounting be consid-ticeably been removed from an account- ered a function of elaborate and exten-ing curriculum. Moreover, the quantity sive human trading activities, elaborateof technical material covered has grown rules and procedure for proper recordingto a point where the depth of under- purposes are required. However, thesestanding regarding the issues and theo- rules should best articulate the narrativesries underlying memorized accounting of the trading activity that drive the con-rules has become very shallow. The duct of markets and society. The devel-question that society is seeking an an- opment of accounting may have drivenswer for is: why did accounting profes- the evolution of commerce, since it maysion fail to adequately respond to these have been through the use of more pre-calls for change for more than a century. cise accounting methods that modernA comprehensive strategy designed to business was able to grow, flourish and
R. Palliam / Issues in Social and Environmental Accounting 2 (2010) 149-167 153respond to the needs of the business agriculture as a result of frequent flood-stakeholders. The history of accounting ings. Consequently, as farmers pros-throws light on economic and business pered, service businesses and small in-history generally, and may help one bet- dustries developed in the communities inter predict what is on the horizon as the and around the Mesopotamian Valley. Itpace of global business evolution esca- is not surprising that the cities of Baby-lates. Like most other professions, the lon and Ninevah became the centers foraccounting profession has a rich history regional commerce. Babylonian was thewhich is usually discussed in terms of language of business and politicsone seminal event, the invention and throughout the Near East. In this regarddissemination of the double-entry book- banking firms in Mesopotamia em-keeping processes. According to Anni- ployed standard measures of gold andsette (2006), such a narrow view over- silver, and extended limited credit tolooks a long evolution of accounting some transactions. Alexander (2002)systems. A detailed historical survey views the Mesopotamian scribes to thehelps one to identify the phenomenal accountants of today. Their duties werethought processes that are associated identical, but even more extensive. Inwith the history of accounting which is addition to writing up the transaction,indeed an entertaining one. Moreover, the scribes ensured that the agreementsthe original writing and the use of num- complied with the detailed code require-bers and counting in accounting makes ments for commercial transactions. Dur-accounting history an area of interest ing this time places of worship, palacesand within this confine one can pursue and private firms employed large num-socially responsible recording, reporting, bers of scribes, and it was considered ainterpretation and analysis. In this regard prestigious profession. In a typical trans-five areas of history have been identi- action of the time, the parties might seekfied: accounting from clay to paper; out the scribes at the gates to the city.early recordings for government; ac- They would describe their agreement tocounting renaissance; and the account- the scribe, who would take from his sup-ing profession joined for common pur- ply a small quantity of clay, speciallypose. prepared, on which to record the transac- tion. During this period papyrus wasAccounting – from clay to paper scarce and expensive.An extensive survey by accounting his- Moreover, Previtts and Merino (1979)torians, Chatfield and Vangermeersch found that during this era which lasted(1996), Previtts and Merino (1979) and until around five hundred years beforeGiroux (2007) reveals that the early civi- the birth of Christ, Sumeria was a theoc-lization in Assyria, Chaldaea-Babylonia racy whose rulers held most land andand Sumeria were flourishing in the animals in trust for their gods, and thisMesopotamian Valley where some of gave impetus to their record-keepingthe oldest known records in commerce efforts. Furthermore the legal codes thatwere produced. These authors contend evolved penalized the failure to honorthat the area between the Tigris and Eu- transactions. Consistent with this Alex-phrates Rivers, within the borders of ander (2002) indicates that the renownedIraq, was a valley that was a rich area for Code of Hammurabi required that an
154 R. Palliam / Issues in Social and Environmental Accounting 2 (2010) 149-167agent selling goods for a merchant give network of royal storehouses withinthe merchant a price quotation under which the tax payments were kept.seal or face invalidation of a questioned Egyptian bookkeepers associated withagreement which was recorded on clay. each storehouse kept meticulous records,The moistened clay was molded into a which were checked by an elaborate in-size and shape adequate to contain the ternal verification system. These earlyterms of the agreement. The scribes re- accountants had good reason to be hon-corded the names of the contracting par- est and accurate, because irregularitiesties, the goods and money exchanged disclosed by royal audits were punish-and any other promises made. The par- able by fine, mutilation or death. Al-ties then "signed" their names to the tab- though such records were important,let by impressing their respective seals. Palliam and Shalhoub (2003) maintainA manifestation of mass illiteracy re- that ancient Egyptian accounting neverquired one to carry one’s signature progressed beyond simple list-making inaround one’s neck in the form of stone its thousands of years of existence. Per-amulets engraved with a mark and upon haps more than any other factors, illiter-death one were buried with it. Often the acy and the lack of coined money appearseals included the owners name and reli- to have hindered the development ofgious symbols, such as the picture and accounting. Moreover, the meticulousname of the gods worshipped by the paper driven Arab World can be attrib-owner. uted to the work of the Egyptians.After transactions were recorded, the Since the Egyptians at that time treatedscribe would dry the tablet in the sun or gold and silver not as units of fungiblein an oven for important transactions value, but rather as mere articles of ex-which needed a more permanent record. change. The inability to describe allSometimes a clay layer about as thick as goods in terms of a single valuationa pie crust was fashioned and wrapped measure made accumulation and sum-around the tablet like an envelope. For mation difficult and the development ofextra security, the whole transaction a cohesive accounting system practicallywould be rewritten on this outer crust, in impossible. According to Alexandereffect making a carbon copy of the origi- (2002) Pre-Christian China used ac-nal. Attempted alterations of the enve- counting chiefly as a means of evaluat-lope could be detected by comparing it ing the efficiency of governmental pro-with its contents, and the original could grams and the civil servants who admin-not be altered without cracking off and istered them. A level of sophisticationdestroying the outer shell (Previtts and was achieved during the Chao DynastyMerino,1979). which was not surpassed in China until after the introduction of double entryGovernmental accounting in ancient processes in the 19 century. In the 5thEgypt also developed in a fashion simi- century B.C., Greece used public ac-lar to those associated with the Mesopo- countants to allow its citizenry to main-tamians. The use of papyrus rather than tain real authority and control over theirclay tablets allowed more detailed re- governments finances. Members of thecords to be made more easily. Extensive Athens Popular Assembly legislated onrecords were kept, particularly for the financial matters and controlled receipt
R. Palliam / Issues in Social and Environmental Accounting 2 (2010) 149-167 155and expenditure of public monies upon leaving office. The transition fromthrough the oversight of 10 state ac- republic to empire was, at least in part,countants, chosen by lot. One of the to control Roman fiscal operations andmost important Greek contributions to to raise more revenues for the ongoingaccountancy was its introduction of wars of conquest. While the facade ofcoined money about 600 B.C. Wide- republicanism was maintained, the em-spread use of coinage took time, as did pire concentrated real fiscal and politicalits impact on the evolution of account- power in the emperor. Julius Caesar per-ing. Banking in ancient Greece appeared sonally supervised the Roman treasury,to have been more developed than in and Augustus completely overhauledprior societies. Bankers kept account treasury operations during his reign.books, changed and loaned money, and Amongst Roman accounting innovationseven arranged for cash transfers for citi- were the use of an annual budgets,zens through affiliate banks in distant which attempted to coordinate the Em-cities. pires diverse financial enterprises, lim- ited expenditures to the amount of esti-The Association of Chartered Account- mated revenues and levied taxes in aants in the United States also considers manner which took into consideration itsAlexander’s (2002) historical survey as citizens ability to pay. The thousandan authority on the historical develop- years between the fall of the Roman Em-ment of accounting. The Association pire and the publication of Luca Pacioliscontends that government and banking Treatise widely viewed as a period ofaccounts in ancient Rome evolved from accounting stagnation, and medievalrecords traditionally kept by the heads of practices outside Italy are often ignoredfamilies, wherein daily entry of house- in historical summaries. Accounting his-hold receipts and payments were kept in torian Chatfield and Vangermeerschan adversaria or daybook, and monthly (1996) observed, medieval agency ac-postings were made to a cashbook counting, laid the foundations for theknown as a codex accepti et expensi. doctrines of stewardship and conserva-These household expenses were impor- tism, and the medieval era created thetant in Rome because citizens were re- conditions for the rapid advance in ac-quired to submit regular statements of counting technology that occurred dur-assets and liabilities, used as a basis for ing the Renaissance.taxation and even determination of civilrights. Elaborate systems of checks and Early recordings for government -balances were maintained in Rome for domesdaygovernmental receipts and disburse-ments by the quaestors, who managed Giroux (2007) in tracing the historicalthe treasury, paid the army and super- evolution of accounting, notes that ac-vised governmental books. Quaestors in counting under the Roman Empire wasancient Rome were magistrates who prescribed by the centralized legal codeswere responsible chiefly for financial of the time. Medieval bookkeeping wasadministration. Public accounts were localized and centered on the specializedregularly examined by an audit staff, and institutions of the feudal manor. Thequaestors were required to account to systems of exchequer and manor neces-their successors and the Roman senate sitated numerous delegations of author-
156 R. Palliam / Issues in Social and Environmental Accounting 2 (2010) 149-167ity over property from the owners to ac- Association of Chartered Accountants intual possessors and users. The central the United States suggests that the Ital-task of accounting during this era was to ians of the Renaissance (14th - 16th cen-allow the government or property own- tury) are widely acknowledged to be theers to monitor those in the lower por- fathers of modern accounting and theytions of the socio-economic pyramid. elevated trade and commerce to new levels, and actively sought better meth-It is widely reported (Bachrach 1988) ods of determining their profits. Al-that when William the Conqueror in- though Arabic numerals were introducedvaded England, he took possession of all long before, it was during this periodproperty in the name of the king. In that the Italians became the first to use1086 a survey was conducted of all real them regularly in tracking business ac-estate and the taxes due on them, known counts – an improvement over Romanas the Domesday Book. According to numerals the importance of which can-Alexander (2002), the oldest surviving not be overstated. It is noted that theyaccounting record in the English lan- kept extensive business records, as theguage is considered the Pipe Roll, or the use of capital and credit on a large scaleGreat Roll of the Exchequer, which pro- developed (Alexander 2002). The evolu-vides an annual description of rents, tionary trend toward double entry book-fines and taxes due the then King of keeping was underway. Luca PacioliEngland. Compiled from valuations in was considered a true Renaissance man,the Domesday Book and from state- with wide knowledge of literature, art,ments of sheriffs and others collecting mathematics, business and the sciences,for the royal treasury, the Pipe Roll was at a time when few could even read.the final record whereupon various Leonardo da Vinci helped prepare thecounty sheriffs were called before the drawings for Paciolis 1497 work, Di-Exchequer at Westminster to pay about vina Proportione. In turn, Pacioli ishalf of the total annual assessments his reputed to have calculated for da Vincicounty owed. the quantity of bronze needed for the artists huge statue of Duke LidovicoMuch of the current bureaucracy in re- Sforza of Milan (Alexander 2002). Pa-cording transactions associated with cioli’s De Computis begins with somegovernment accounting can be attributed basic instruction for commerce. The suc-to this period. Lest one forgets debit cessful merchant, declares Pacioli, needscomes from the Italian “debito” which three things: adequate or sufficient cashcomes from the Latin “debita” and or credit, good bookkepers and an ac-“debeo”which means: Owed to the pro- counting system which allows one toprietor or an asset of the proprietor and view one’s finances at a glance. Beforecredit comes from the Italian “credito” commencing business, one should pre-which comes from the Latin “credo” pare an inventory listing all business andwhich means: Trust or belief (in the pro- personal assets and debts. This inventoryprietor) or owed by the proprietor. must be completed within one day, and property should be appraised at currentAccounting renaissance market values and arranged according to mobility and value, with cash and otherA literature review as published by the valuables listed first since they are most
R. Palliam / Issues in Social and Environmental Accounting 2 (2010) 149-167 157easily lost. Alexander (2002) considers by the needs of a larger scale of businessthe memorandum, or memorial, as Pa- operations. The small proprietorships ofcioli’s equivalent of a daybook, for the 15th century Italy had no need for spe-recording, in chronological order, of cialized journals, subsidiary ledgers,business transactions as they occurred. control accounts, formal audit systems,The transaction could be entered in any cost accounting or budgeting. Someof the various monetary units then in use omissions, such as the failure to touchin the Italian city-states of the time, with on accruals and deferrals, probably oc-conversion to a common currency for curred because Pacioli felt they were toodouble entry left for later. The journal advanced. The numerous details ofbecame the book of the merchants pri- bookkeeping techniques set forth by Pa-vate account. Entries consisted of a nar- cioli were followed in texts and the pro-rative debit, credit and explanation in fession over the last four centuries ac-one continuous paragraph. The journal cording to Hatfield (1916).had only one column, which was nottotaled. There were no compound en- In summary while Pacioli is often calledtries. The first 16 chapters of De Compu- the "Father of Accounting," he did nottis describe this basic system of books invent the system. Instead, he simplyand accounts, while the remaining 20 are described a method used by merchantsdevoted to specialized accounting issues in Venice during the Italian Renaissanceof merchants. These include bank depos- period. His system included most of theits and withdrawals, brokered purchases, accounting cycle as it is known today.drafts, barter transactions, joint venture He described the use journals and ledg-trading, expense disbursements and clos- ers, and he warned that a person shoulding and balancing books. not go to sleep at night until the debits and credits were equal. His ledger in-The trial balance (summa summarium) cluded assets (including receivables andis the end of Paciolis accounting cycle. inventories), liabilities, capital, income,Debit amounts from the old ledger are and expense accounts. He demonstratedlisted on the left side of the balance year-end closing entries and proposedsheet and credits on the right. If the two that a trial balance be used to prove atotals are equal, the ledger is considered balanced ledger. Moreover, his treatisebalanced. If not, says Pacioli according alludes to a wide range of topics fromto Giroux (2007), that would indicate a accounting ethics to cost accounting.mistake in one’s ledger, which mistakeone will have to look for diligently with The establishment of the accountingthe industry and intelligence. It is most profession – joined for common pur-surprising how little bookkeeping meth- poseods have changed since Pacioli. Both thesequence of events in the accounting Both the early and modern accountingcycle and the special procedures he de- profession owe much of its origin toscribed in De Computis are familiar to Scotland. It is in Scotland that the char-modern accountants. The primary differ- tered accountancy as a profession origi-ences between current bookkeeping nated, and it is in Scotland one finds thepractices and the Method of Venice are oldest existing societies of public ac-additions and refinements brought about countants according to Willmott (1986)
158 R. Palliam / Issues in Social and Environmental Accounting 2 (2010) 149-167who traces the growth of the profession America. Several existing American ac-in the United Kingdom. In Edinburgh counting firms trace their origins to oneaccounting was for long associated with or more of these visiting Scottish orthe profession of law, so that one fre- British chartered accountants (Willmottquently finds the designation of writer 1986).applied in one place to the same individ-ual who is in another designated as an Accounting practice today and in theaccountant. There are several instances futureof members of the Society of Writers tothe Signet, the leading Solicitors Soci- A historical survey (Previts and Merinoety in Scotland, practicing as account- 1979; Willmott 1986; and Alexanderants. Moreover, until comparatively re- 2002) suggests that the start of the twen-cet times, much accountant’s work was tieth century saw enormous economicdone in solicitor’s offices. Again, to a growth. This was a result of industriali-certain extent in Edinburgh, but to a zation overtaking agriculture in financialgreater extent in the more commercial importance. This period of growth alsocity of Glasgow, the designation of ac- saw its share of financial scandals. Over-countant was, in early times, confused capitalization and stock speculationwith that of merchant, a term of much caused financial panics during the latterwider significance then than now. part of the nineteenth century. Labor unions developed in response to corpo-Directly after its formation the Edin- rate exploitation of workers. In the earlyburgh Society deliberated upon a dis- century, Theodore Roosevelt supportedtinctive title for its members, and re- the use of government power to controlsolved to adopt the name of chartered the growing industrial monopolies andaccountant. The Glasgow Institute also the price increases at that time. Theadopted the same title and so did the Roosevelt administration helped per-Aberdeen Society. It naturally took some suade Congress to establish the Depart-time before the new name became famil- ment of Commerce and Labor to gatheriar to the public and in 1880 the same the facts needed to establish a uniformdesignation was adopted by the English system of accounting. This is the firstInstitute and it soon became a recog- instance of accounting being used as annized term in former English colonies instrument of federal regulation. Unlike(Willmott 1986). By the middle of the British, who used the balance sheetthe19th century, England became highly in an effort to monitor managements useprosperous as a result of the Industrial of stockholders monies, American cor-Revolution. It became the leading pro- porations of the early twentieth centuryducer of coal, iron and cotton textiles. had no comparable history of lossesConsequently, a demand for accountants from stock speculation. Rather, Ameri-became apparent. Moreover, large can balance sheets were drafted mainlyamounts of British capital were flowing with bankers in mind. Bankers usuallyto the rapidly growing industries in the emphasize and consider a companysUnited States. Scottish and British ac- liquidity more than earning power.countants traveled to the United States toaudit these investments, and a number of Business practices began changing dras-them stayed on and to set up practice in tically as the United States went through
R. Palliam / Issues in Social and Environmental Accounting 2 (2010) 149-167 159an inventory depression in 1920 when broad, general and liberal education. Thewholesale prices fell to around 40 per- accounting educators were influenced bycent. Cash flow slowed, loans defaulted John Dewey and his followers, whoand credit became less available to cor- stressed practicality and relevance. Un-porations. In response, businesses sought fortunately, progressive education be-financing from sources less tied to their came interpreted to mean a kind of voca-current cash flow. The offering of corpo- tion with little sympathy or use for so-rate stock issues became a leading called liberal arts. Practitioners weremethod of financing expansion. As deeply disappointed with the trends instockholders, rather than bankers, be- the university business schools they hadcame the primary users of financial done so much to foster. Despite practi-statements, the income statement began tioners concerns, the trend away from ato take center stage over the balance liberal education toward technical train-sheet. Other factors, such as the rise of ing continued throughout the latter partincome taxation and cost accounting, twentieth century. As time passed, thealso shifted the focus to revenues and magnitude and complexity of the re-expenses. quired common body of knowledge ex- panded at an exponential rate. IncomeAt the turn of the century, Brown (1905) tax legislation was passed and the thelists four types of funds statements in Securities Exchange Commission wasuse -those that summarized changes in created. The Financial Accounting Stan-cash, in current assets, in working capi- dards Board promulgated a large numbertal and overall financial activities. After of technical and accounting rules. Thissecuring acceptance for accounting cur- knowledge explosion compounded aricula in universities, early accountants classic three-way educational dilemma:began to advocate an expansion of uni- breadth of education; depth of learningversity education to realize the goals of and technical coverage.broader, more conceptual programs.Most practitioners considered mastery of Education programs are designed to cov-the technical procedures of auditing and ering an ever-increasing body of ac-accounting to be most effectively counting rules rather than developing alearned through practical experience; the full understanding of underlying ac-role of education was to develop analyti- counting principles, on which intelligentcal ability. Accounting, they believed, rule-making ultimately depends. Thus, atrequired a wide range of knowledge and the end of an education in accounting,minds trained to think analytically and the student has an exposure to a wideconstructively. They supported a broad array of seemingly isolated rules butprogram emphasizing theory and phi- lacks an overview of the purpose and thelosophy and were disappointed when the economically universal domain of ac-evidence accumulated that accounting counting. As the common body of ac-educators tended to emphasize the nar- counting knowledge expanded, educa-row, technical training. It was the uni- tors responded by adding specializedversity accounting educators who moved accounting courses (Previts and Merinofrom the theoretical approach and turned 1979). Unfortunately, this further re-to the procedural orientation. The ac- duced the liberal education componentcountants believed in the concept of a in accounting programs, which practitio-
160 R. Palliam / Issues in Social and Environmental Accounting 2 (2010) 149-167ners had felt was too sparse from the where (GAAP) is perverted; where man-beginning. Thus, the breadth of educa- agers cut corners; and, where earningstion was further narrowed. Depth was reports reflect the desires of manage-sacrificed, as well. ment rather than the underlying financial performance of the company. PalliamVariety in accounting education – all and Shalhoub (2003) consider an elo-profits are not made equally quent definition of earnings management which basically occurs when agents useRevenues are the bottom line of profits. judgment in financial reporting and inAn often-debated contention is that, structuring transactions to alter financialwithin GAAP, agents have the power, to reports to either mislead some stake-a certain degree, to manipulate revenues holders about the underlying economicand reported company income. The ma- performance of the company or to influ-nipulation is not always in the direction ence contractual outcomes that dependof higher income. Agents prefer to re- on reported accounting numbers. Severalport earnings that follow a smooth, regu- aspects of this definition merit discus-lar, upward path and dislike to report sion.declines, and at the same time prefer toavoid increases that vary wildly from Firstly, what are the many judgementalyear to year. The extent to which earn- ways that agents can exercise in finan-ings are manipulated has long been of cial reporting consistent with GAAP?interest to analysts, researchers and in- Judgment is required to estimate numer-vestment professionals. Levitt ous future economic events such as ex-(1998:12) widely publicized accounting pected lives and salvage values of long-problems at a number of companies term assets, obligations for pensionwere in danger of undermining United benefits and other post-employmentStates capital markets. One of the proc- benefits, deferred taxes, and losses fromesses Levitt alluded to was earnings bad debts and asset impairments. Agentsmanagement - an effort among the issu- must also choose among acceptable ac-ers of financial reports (managements counting methods for reporting the sameand boards of directors, who have the economic transactions, such as theauthority to specify the contents of the straight-line or accelerated depreciationreports) “to satisfy consensus earnings methods or the LIFO, FIFO, or weightedestimates and project a smooth earnings -average inventory valuation methods.path”. Concerns were recently ex- In addition, agents must exercise judg-pressed suggesting that agents’ expecta- ment in working capital managementtions to satisfy earnings expectations (such as inventory levels, the timing ofmay be the overriding common sense inventory shipments or purchases, andbusiness practices. There is a gradual receivable policies), which affects costand noticeable erosion in the quality of allocations and net revenues. Agentsfinancial reporting. must also choose to make or defer ex- penditures, such as research and devel-It therefore becomes difficult to hold opment, advertising, or maintenance.the line on good practices when agents Finally, they must decide how to struc-operate in the gray area between legiti- ture corporate transactions. For example,macy and outright fraud. A gray area is business combinations can be structured
R. Palliam / Issues in Social and Environmental Accounting 2 (2010) 149-167 161to qualify for pooling or purchase ac- Finally, the use of judgment in financialcounting, lease contracts can be struc- reporting has enormous costs which in-tured so that lease obligations are on or clude, the potential misallocation of re-off-balance sheet, and equity invest- sources that arise from earnings manage-ments can be structured to avoid or re- ment. It undermines the capital marketquire consolidation. and ultimately the cost of capital. Bene- fits could include potential improve-A second point to note is that the defini- ments in agents’ credible communica-tion frames the objective of earnings tion of private information to externalmanagement as being to mislead princi- stakeholders, improving in resource allo-pals or stakeholders about the underly- cation decisions. Agents have no suching economic performance of the com- reservations about trying to achieve sta-pany. This can arise if agents believe bility of income reporting (also knownthat (at least some) stakeholders do not as smoothing). This is a fundamentalundo earnings management. It can also goal of traditional financial reporting.occur if agents have access to informa- Their wish for stability of income report-tion that is not available to outside stake- ing far exceeds their desire for higherholders so that earnings management is reported income. An example is the wayunlikely to be transparent to outsiders. companies have accepted income taxStakeholders are then likely to anticipate allocation, which both lowers and stabi-(and tolerate) a certain amount of earn- lizes reported income.ings management and manipulation. Accounting standard setters start theirThirdly, agents can also use accounting discussion from needs of users or objec-judgment to make financial reports more tives of financial statements. Cultural,informative for users. This can arise if social, economic, and political factorscertain accounting choices or estimates have considerable effects on the infor-are perceived to be credible signals of a mation different financial statementsfirms financial performance. For exam- provide. However, these factors are notple, if auditing is effective, managers similar. Socio-cultural principles areestimates of net receivables will be suggestive of a variety of implicationsviewed as a credible forecast of cash for governance and accounting. Reflect-collections. In addition, managers can ing upon cultural aspects one needs touse reporting judgment to make finan- engage into the notion of accounting forcial reports more informative by over- the social environment. In western coun-coming limitations to current accounting tries with regard to basic principles ofstandards. Until recently some success- economy the most important users offul research and development firms cre- financial statements are investors andated limited partnerships, which permit- creditors. Thus, other groups such asted them to effectively capitalize re- government, social authorities, and peo-search and development outlays that oth- ple are secondary. The theoretical con-erwise would have been expensed. The cepts of accounting in the Anglo-decision to use accounting judgment to American model are self-evident state-make financial reports more informative ments or axioms that represent the na-for users also falls within the definition ture of accounting entities operating inof earnings management. free economy characterized by private
162 R. Palliam / Issues in Social and Environmental Accounting 2 (2010) 149-167ownership of property. The concept of only recognizes public ownership whenbasic principles of economy in account- required by social necessity and whening standard setting has been mostly ig- experience demonstrated the need fornored in spite of its potential to provide nationalization of this or that utility. So-a more systematic appreciation of the cialism society is completely contrary tostandard setting process. In the west that. Common ownership is the generalthere is a tendency to amass wealth as an principal which it is applied to everyeconomic activity. kind of wealth. Appendix 1 presents theHaving identified that the history of ac- differences together with the destiny ofcounting finds its roots in and around accounting.modern Iraq, and drawing from the his-torical development of accounting inIraq and Egypt, it would be ideal to dis- Destiny: the pursuit of truth and com-cuss key principles of relevance and de- mon good accountinglineate what is necessary for accountingin different settings. It would be neces- The recent financial crisis has made itsary to view the variety of accounting in clear that the future of accounting is upthe Islamic and Western world. Before for grabs. Accountants have become aone explains the basic principles of Is- group of people who simply could notlamic economy, the basic principles of handle being the bearer of bad tidings.economics from an Islamic view need to The furthest accountants went in deliver-be considered. Then some of the salient ing the worse news was to prepare stake-features of basic principles of Islamic holders for bad news. In exploring theeconomy and their effect on accounting causes for the current economic declinestandards setting should be considered. and their implications for modes of regu-According to Sadr (1994,51-55), the Is- lating advanced capitalist economies, thelamic economy is composed of three death knell for laissez-faire accountingbasic components, according to which is being signaled. As different countriesits theoretical content is defined. Thus it and regions attempt to manage the tran-is distinguished from other economic sition to newer forms of economic sys-theories in terms of the broad lines of tems, one needs to ascertain what ac-these components, which are: The prin- counting models work best to weatherciple of multi-faceted ownership; the the current economic upheaval. Goingprinciple of economic freedom within a back to the basics of building the infra-defined limit; and the principle of social structure of trust and industry as prac-justice. ticed by historical forefathers of ac- counting may provide a more meaning-Islam differs essentially from capitalism ful solution. “You shall not steal, norand socialism in the nature of the princi- deal falsely, nor lie to one another.”ple of ownership, which it acknowl- False accomplishments and achieve-edges. Capitalist society believes in the ments among leadership create what oneprivate individual form of ownership, calls narcissistic value. Stakeholders’namely private ownership. It allows in- attitude wavers erratically between threedividuals private ownership of different different images of accounting leader-kinds of wealth in the country according ship. The first is based on dependenceto their activities and circumstances. It and a recognition that stakeholders as a
R. Palliam / Issues in Social and Environmental Accounting 2 (2010) 149-167 163whole rely on the accounting function the type of examinations that fail to testfor financial security and a lifestyle that writing and interpersonal skills. Ac-both agents and principals have grown counting professors have rarely requiredused to. The second is grounded in hope students to apply such skills in account-and focuses on the energy and creativity ing courses. Term papers disappeared inthat a group of motivated accountants favor of more lectures and problems,endowed with social, human and cultural while multiple-choice examinationscapital can bring to bear on a prob- gradually displaced essays. The studentlem. The third is dominated by a sense should come to understand man himself,of fear, vulnerability and suspicion par- his history, the philosophies by which heticularly in uncertain times. The notion lives, the language by which he commu-of "common good" accounting entails nicates and the arts and sciences whichprimarily of having the social systems, enrich his existence.institutions, and environments on whichpeople depend to work in a manner that It is certainly not wrong for cynics tobenefits all people. An example of par- rate accounting rather than entrepreneur-ticular common good or parts of the ship as the key driver of wealth genera-common good would include an accessi- tion and that accounting has becomeble flourishing accounting system which more a key and fundamental pillar of anhas a powerful impact on the well-being economic system in any free and democ-of all members of society. Virtually ratic society. There has always been aevery socio-economic problem in one call for market forces to be embeddedway or another is linked to how well an into a globally enhanced and more coor-accounting system is functioning. Com- dinated regulatory framework. At leastmon good accounting does not just hap- two decades have been devoted by aca-pen. The common denominator of estab- demics and practitioners criticizing ac-lishing and maintaining the common counting education as being too narrowgood accounting requires trust and in- and too technical to properly preparedustry. Gandhi in his first ever public entrants for the rapidly changing andspeech in South Africa to Indian mer- expanding profession. There were urgentchants alluded to observing truthfulness calls for a broader, more liberal account-in business. He awakened the mer- ing education. Early academics believedchants to a sense of duty. The need for accounting required a wide range ofand the responsibility of being truthful knowledge and minds trained to thinkwas greater in a foreign land because the analytically and critically. However,conduct of a few was the measure of that accounting programs through the yearsof the millions of their fellow country- have largely emphasized technical train-men. Likewise, bringing any form of ing at the expense of the broad, liberaldisrespect to the accounting profession education that was intended by theconstitutes a sense of shamefulness col- founding practitioners who sponsoredlectively shared by people. the first university schools of business. Forward-looking accountants cum aca-Students perceive accountants work with demics have for many years been deeplynumbers, not people, and there is one disappointed with the narrow focus ofright answer to every accounting ques- accounting programs and with the rules-tion. This perception is consistent with based, procedural approach of account-
164 R. Palliam / Issues in Social and Environmental Accounting 2 (2010) 149-167ing courses. These criticisms of account- cific reference to economic approach,ing education sound remarkably similar the term macro means something veryto recent concerns. The intensity and large in span. The macro dimension ofurgency of current mandates for change accounting entails relationships amongmay be a result of years of frustration. agents within the enterprise and princi-Table 1 presents a summary of the iden- pals in society. Supra is a pre-fix mean-tity, variety and destiny of accounting. ing above or over. The supra-macro di-The identity is reflected as the Anglo- mension of accounting focuses on mat-American model. Variety is shown in ters above and over every transactionterms of an Islamic model. Destiny is recording and financial reporting proc-shown as a proposed model. With spe- ess. Table 1. Comparison of Accounting Elements between the British-American Model with an Islamic Accounting Model and a Proposed Model ELEMENTS ANGLO- AN ISLAMIC DESTINY (A AMERICAN MODEL PROPOSED MODEL MODEL)Economic Approach Micro Macro Supra-MacroPrimary Users Investors and State, Management Labor and Creditors Consuming publicAccounting Policy Goal Oriented Value Oriented Common Good OrientedAsset Valuation Historical Cost Price Current Exit Price Responsible Market ValueIncome Revenue-Expense Asset-Liability Incorporation ofDetermination Approach Approach CashflowsTime Value Money Yes No YesTime Period Yes Yes YesPrimary Focus Income Statement Balance Sheet CashflowsTheoretical Concept Entity Theory Proprietary Theory Stakeholder TheoryGoing Concern Based on Income Based on Islamic Laws of SuccessionPostulate LawFixed Interest Yes No VariableLegalistic Common Law Religious Law Laws relating toOrientation common goodAccounting Rules Technical Ethical Moral and EthicalAccounting Ethics Professional Ethics Religious Ethics Good citizenshipStock Exchange Yes Yes YesMarketBonds Yes Yes with request Yes conditionAccounting Value Approach Event Approach InterdisciplinaryApproach
R. Palliam / Issues in Social and Environmental Accounting 2 (2010) 149-167 165Conclusion velops higher thinking and communica- tion skills, should be consistently ex-Individuals entering the accounting pro- pressed. The factors that impedefession require a broad liberal arts cul- changes include students, practitionerstural background which should give and accounting professors as a groupthem an appreciation of their responsi- favoring technical education and theybilities to society, the profession and the fail to truly recognize the value of a lib-state. On a cultural dimension there must eral education. To correct the deficien-be a knowledge foundation of the broad cies, an entire educational process mustfield of business and economics and su- be reengineered and an education forperimposed on the technical training in common good should be considered.their chosen field. This plan of account-ing education must be coupled with rec-ognition of its interrelatedness with su- Referencespra-macro issues. This entails having asufficiently broad knowledge of the so- Albrecht, W. S., and Sack, R. J. (2000)called arts and sciences to give one a “Accounting Education: Chartingproper appreciation of present-day civili- the Course through a Perilous Fu-zation. Moreover, one should know the ture, Accounting Education Se-major scientific facts about the world ries, Vol. 16.one lives in and should have an appre- Alexander, J.R. (2002) History of Ac-ciation of the richer fruits of civilization, counting, NETGAIN, Associationusually known as the fine art or liberal of Chartered Accountants, Newarts. This viewpoint has been consis- York.tently expressed by leading practitioners Annisette, M., (2006) “People and peri-and academics. The students should ods untouched by accounting his-come to appreciate the humanities, in- tory: an ancient Yoruba practice”,cluding art and literature, and to under- Accounting History, Vol. 11, No.stand the major concepts of mathemat- 4, 399-417.ics, physical and biological sciences, and Bachrach, B.S. (1988) “Albion: A Quar-the social sciences. Such study should terly Journal Concerned with Brit-contribute to the development of indi- ish Studies”, Vol. 20, No. 3, pp.viduals not only endowed with intellec- 450 (Autumn 1988).tual capital but also social, human and Bebbington, J. (2001). “Sustainable de-cultural capital. The accountant of the velopment: A review of the inter-future must be a man of broad educa- national development, businesstional background like the predecessors and accounting literature”, Ac-of the renaissance period. In their nu- counting Forum, Vol. 25, No.2,merous and divergent efforts to change 128157.accounting education, accounting pro- Bedford, N. M., and Shenkir, W.G.fessors might do well to consider the (1987). “Reorienting Accountingoriginal intent of a university degree and Education”, Journal of Accoun-how far one has strayed from that objec- tancy, (August), pp. 84-91.tive. Calls for a major shift away from Brown, R. (1905) A History of Account-technical training towards a more well ing and Accountants: Beardrounded, traditional education that de- Books.
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