Corporate annual reports: towards a non-reductionist approach

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Abstract:

During the 20th century, numerous philosophers of science highlighted several problems afflicting scientific communication. Communication in accounting is also problematic. In both cases (science and accounting) there seems to be a tension between objectivism and subjectivism. The former emphasizes the objects of knowledge, while the latter tends to rely on the human subject. In science one of these approaches seems to prevail in different periods. In accounting there seems to be an oscillation or ambiguity between the two tendencies (subjectivism and objectivism) which remain side by side. A polarity seems to emerge as statutory disclosures are mainly influenced by objectivism, while contextual disclosures are inclined towards subjectivism. With reference to the philosophy of Herman Dooyeweerd, subjectivism and objectivism are interpreted as emphasizing certain modal aspects to the detriment of others. Although this problem can be regarded as the cause of many challenges in preparing annual reports, this article focuses on communication problems. It is suggested that a better (non-reductionist) approach can be adopted by paying attention to all the modal aspects, in particular to those which tend to be neglected under a certain approach (objectivism or subjectivism). The final sections of this article provide a few concrete examples to improve communication.