You may choose to do one of the following topics, or both. In either case, make sure you clearly indicate what you are doing by saying so in your introduction and by the use of clear headings in your report.
In the context of this research paper, the second questions such as: “Relevance and application of the social contract to Legitimacy Theory in accounting” is selected in order to fulfill the aims, objectives and goals associated with this research study. In addition to this, it should also be noted down that, in the current time of globalization and competitive business era, it is essential, valuable and significant for all the types of firms to follow ethical rules, legal standards and professional principles in order to conduct their different business functions. These rules and standards provides strategic directions and guidelines to the companies about how they should conduct their functions in a more ethical and professional manner. Moreover, tight competition, and changes in the attitude and perception of the public etc are the major factors that forcing today’s business firms to comply ethical & legal rules, standards, and principles.
On the other hand, it is also important to know that, accounting is not only an important and valuable function of a company but also it is a dynamic and innovative business process that need ethical, fair, legal, professional, transparent activities. It is because the accounting practices and process of a company is directly or indirectly linked and associated with its key stakeholders such as employees, investors, public, and customers. In the same way, accounting practices have a direct impact on the key stakeholders positively and negatively. For case, the ethical and legal accounting practices would motivate stakeholders directly. So, business firms should conduct their accounting practices ethically, fairly, legally and professionally in order to attain long term objectives effectively. Moreover the tangible and intangible benefits of social contract theory to the society and business would be addressed effectively. Finally, various execution methods with regards to social contract theory would be proposed for the purpose of enhancing the soundness and consistency of financial and accounting reporting (Ball, Grubnic, & Birchall, 2014). Hence, all these are the key objectives or issues that would be address and solved during the study of this research paper in order to attain the fundamental objective of the study.
Social Contract Theory
According to Eccles, Ioannou, & Serafeim, G. (2014), Social contract theory is characterized with various significant implications as well as applications to legitimacy. But, before understanding this, it is valuable and important to analyze and understand the meaning of social contract theory and legitimacy within the accounting. Basically, social contract theory can be defined as a set of rules, standards, laws, principles and norms that indicates relationships among the people and government and suggests how to interact with each other effectively. People have to follow the social norms, laws and standards to live in the society. In the same way, business firms are required to follow ethical rules to compete in the market. Moreover, a social contract is a mutual agreement among the organizations and society for the mutual protection and welfare. On the other hand, in the support of Fernando & Lawrence, (2014) found that, social contract theory is a more dynamic and valuable for today’s challenges business environments. It is also accessed from the study conducted in the USA (McKinsey and Co 2012) that, all the types of business firms are playing key role in the political, environmental and social challenges and issues. In the same way, this theory suggests the business firms to attain their social and environmental obligations to compete in the market. They should focus on satisfying the needs and wants of people of communities.
Hamid, & Atan, (2011) explained that, this theory is mainly focus on considering the local communities in the business. Social contracts are applied effectively by using various ways. For example, business firms should offer a number of sufficient resources to their people local communities for the social welfare. Moreover, it is also analyzed that, most of companies are focusing on donation for the society standards and some focus on using friendly campaigns to fulfill social objectives. All these practices and activities of the business firms reflect significance and applications of social contract theory in the business world. Social contract theory should be used by the firms to attain long term objectives as well as protect the interest of their key people by conducting professional, fair and ethical accounting practices. It is because the stakeholders are the major and important people of a company that may affect the business decisions, process, growth, objectives and success of a company directly or indirectly. In the same, business firms should follow legal, ethical and processional rules to conduct the accounting practices in order to protect the interest of their key people. Moreover, this theory of social contract provides strategic directions about how they could satisfy the needs and wants of their key stakeholders (Pellegrino, & Lodhia, 2012).
Slater & Tonkiss, (2013) analyzed that, this theory is also assume a key role not only satisfying the needs of key people but also creating the relationships, trusts, and faith among the different key stakeholders such as: employees, customers, investors, business partners, public etc. This theory is also states that in order to develop long realistic relationships and trust among the different level of stakeholders, a company should present fair data/information about the company’s accounting practices, financial reports & records, transactions etc. Moreover, social theory is obligates and force the companies or business firms to adopt and follow ethical and legal practices within the company to conduct the functions. On the other hand, Wallenburg, & Schäffler, (2014) explained that, the key purpose of this theory is to avoid unethical and illegal practices followed by the people of the society and business firms to earn profit. This theory is also characterized with a number of significant ethical, legal, and professional rules and standards that should be used and applied by the business firms or society. It is also focus on the mutual advances for both society and business. In addition to this, in the global context, this social theory is more important that focus on equal power. In the same way, this theory indicates that all the people of the society should be treated equally and professionally. This is the main component of the social contract theory. The next component of this social theory is related to the normative individuality of the parties to the contract. Normative as well as empirical dimensions are the two major dimensions in the social theory. For case, the first dimension is directly linked with the history of origins and the second one is reflects rules and principles. Moreover, social contract theory is investigates important questions under the normative dimensions such as: what are the key and fundamental rules, regulations, standards and principles that force the people to react professional and effectively with each other. The next question is what the major situations are that can state legitimately act (Rhodes & Mény, 2016).
In the words of Lanis & Richardson, (2012), this social theory is also focus on addressing the rights of human being in the society. But, in the business world, the social theory is different and unique. For example, the company defines social contract theory as a strictly hypothetical as well as unwritten agreement. Moreover, all the people of the community should be agreed on the social contract by playing their roles in the society. In addition to this, it is also important to know that, in the context of business ethics, there are various ethical theories such as stakeholder theory, social contract theory etc. For example, the main findings of the first ethical theory such as stakeholder’s theory reflects that a particular company is not legally obligated to the local people and community and a company could make profit for their key people by using ethical rules and laws. But, business firms are morally responsible to fulfill CSR functions. In contrast, the finding of the social contract theory holds that, business firms are fully obligated to fulfill their corporate responsibilities by contracting with the societies, people and communities (Mäkelä, & Näsi, 2010).
Legitimacy Theory in the Accounting Setting
Rossi, (2014) found that, the past research studies indicates that, business firms or companies have faced several ethical, and legal issues due to scandals and scams that adversely affected the reputation, success and growth of business firms in the market. As results of this, the significance of fair and ethical accounting practices had increased in the corporate world. There is also rapid increase in the legitimacy accounting practices that is important in overcoming various business challenges and issues related to accounting scandals, fraud, misuse of assets, financial uncertainties. In the support of Rassindren, & Hans, (2015) stated that, Legitimacy practices helped the business firms to handle, manage and control such types of serious issues in an effective and proper manner. So, it is essential, important and valuable for today’s business firms adopt and use legitimacy theory, its applications, rules, standards and principles in the accounting setting to bring accountability, flexibility, creditability and innovation with the current accounting practices and method. In this way, it can be said that, they theory is assist a company and its managers to deal with a wide range of business issues by maintaining fairness, transparency and accountability within the business practices. Based on this theory, it can be said that, business firms are fully legally and ethically responsible to focus on disclosing of accurate, correct, and relevant data and information about the financial position, statements and records of the firms without ignoring any important information to key stakeholders (Smelser, 2013).
Spence, & Rinaldi, (2014) explained that, All the information related to company should be disclosed to develop the relations with the stakeholder. Simply, it can be said that, this theory has two major elements such as: transparency and fairness. Financial reports and records should be developed by an individual employee by focusing on fairness and accountability. It is because there are a number of stakeholders they use such information to take decisions. In addition to this, legitimacy theory is also suggests the business firms to effectively use ethical rules and follow ethical practices in the society. This is also offers a lot of significant ethical rules and standards that suggest companies how to make profit ethically. Moreover, as per this theory, a company should also develop ethical standards, code of conduct, professional principles towards the society to attain long term objectives. In the same way, this is more important and valuable theory that helps the company in creating a positive image in the eyes of public and stakeholders (Taylor, Bogdan, & DeVault, 2015).
On the other hand, it is also analyzed by Tester, (2014) that, this legitimacy theory is also play a fundamental role in the social accounting and offer benefits to the user organization. For case, the business operations and functions of today’s companies should be legitimate in the context of communities. If a company do not follow and use legitimate practices, it may encounter several serious challenges and issues in the society. On the basis of social accounting practices, business firms are required to use various rules and norms related to environmental, social and corporate reporting. It is because it improves faith, relation and trusts among the internal and external key stakeholders. Overall, this theory states that, in the current time, business firms should focus on fulfilling economic, social and environmental responsibilities by using appropriate methods and ways (Yang, Su, & Fam, 2012).
Moreover, Khan, Muttakin, & Siddiqui, (2013) stated that, the social contract theory supports the legitimacy theory and focus on environmental reporting. In addition to this, it is also important for the companies that they should bring innovation and modify current business strategies, practices and policies as per the suitability and CSR for the total success and future growth. They must also provide all the information clearly in the front of communities and key people about the environmental impact. Hence, it could be said that, Legitimacy theory is directly related with the social accounting theory and both explain and define social accounting process. Finally, it can be summarized that, business firms should adopt both Legitimacy and social contract theory in order to attain competitive advantages, overcome future challenges and improve organizational image (Smith, 2014).
Relevance and Application of the Social Contract to Legitimacy Theory/Assumptions in Accounting
Taylor, Walton & Young, (2013) investigated that, in the corporate business environment, legitimacy is an essential and more valuable element for the total success growth of today’s business firms. Basically, Legitimacy reflects significant and valuable values, norms, codes of conduct and moral values. All these standards and principles are used and applied by the companies in order to offer superior outcomes to the local communities and societies. In the same way, the social contract theory is also play a fundamental and key role in promoting the significance of general population in the standards and norms in the accounting. On the other hand, it is also important to know that, legitimacy is more valuable and significant for the business firms in reducing the unethical business practices as well as future suspicions. The main motivate of social theory is to help business firms from the unethical and illegal practices. For case, this theory provides strategic directions to the business firms about how to maintain harmonization among the users and customers in an effective and proper manner. The social contract theory is also focus on the welfare of the local communities by applying and using legitimate practices within the accounting setting (Wagiciengo & Belal, 2012).
Moreover, the applications of the social contract theory are directly linked with the Legitimacy Theory. For instance, the social theory is obligates to the accounting people and experts to disclosure reporting fairly and ethically to the users such as key stakeholders. In addition to this, suppliers, investors, shareholders, customers, society, employees etc are the key people and stakeholders of a company that need information for the different purposes. For example, the local community uses accounting information in order to know and access that a particular company or firm is fulfilling their social duties by conducting CSR functions. The social contract theory is also offers a lot of tangible and intangible benefits to the business firms. For case, it provides strategic directions to the senior management about how to use and follow ethical, legal, and fair practices within the accounting setting by attaining sustainability as well as CSR functions more effectively and innovatively. On the other hand, the legitimacy theory is also directly help a company and provides suggestions to use standards, principles, regulations and rules to conduct the business functions more ethically (Zikmund, Babin, Carr, J& Griffin, 2013).
Moreover, it is also analyzed by García-Sánchez, Frías-Aceituno, & Rodríguez-Domínguez, (2013) that, reliability & validity are the important elements of the accounting that are affected by the social contract theory. This hypothesis is also focus on satisfying the needs and wants of stakeholders of a company. In addition to this, business firms should use social contract within their legitimate practices in order to satisfy and enhance the motivation level of key stakeholders. This is more effective and comprehensive for a company in attaining the core goals and objectives effectively. So, social contract theory is assumes a key part in developing balance among the society and business effectively. In the same way, this theory assists the companies to achieve competitive advantages and enhance the level of market share and revenues in an effective and more dynamic manner. In contrast, if a company does not focus on legitimacy practices, it could not survive in the competitive market for the long time period. Simply, it can be said that, legitimacy is an important factor that determine the success and growth of business and helps in attaining long term organizational goals effectively. So, both social contract and legitimacy practices are associated with each other and without these a company could not be success in the market (Farook, Kabir Hassan, & Lanis, 2011).
According to Dong, Burritt, & Qian, (2014), in the current time, most of business firms are focusing on using legitimate practices and fulfilling CSR functions. This indicates that, without social contract or society could not survive in the market. Hence, it is essential for all the firms that they should fulfill social responsibilities through legitimacy practices. On the other hand, a social theory is also creates a strong agreement among the employees and members of society that is important for both society and company. In this way, the social contract indicates and reflects social, ethical and legal accountabilities of a company. A social contract is characterized with different elements including corporate philanthropy, CSR and corporate governance. These significant elements of a social contract ensure legitimacy of the financial and accounting practices in a company. Moreover, the theory of legitimacy is totally focus on utilizing and applying ethical, fair and valid rules, code of conducts, standards, principles and norms within the accounting transactions, reporting and practices. Both the theories such as: social contract and legitimacy is also considers and focus on the effective welfare of the business and society (Epstein, & Buhovac, 2014).
In addition to this Delanty, (2013) stated that, it is also important to know that, social contract force the company, its management and employees to use legitimate practices in the accounting setting by involving all the social, legal and ethical aspects of accounting. For example, a company could be success in bringing innovation, transparency and fairness within the accounting practices by creating social contract. This could also help a company to overcome future and current business risks, challenges, and uncertainties with the business. Social contract is also help the business firms in maintaining creditability and accountability towards the local communities by achieving the key business objectives. In contrast, without maintaining creditability and accountability, a company may encounter several issues and risks related to unfair and fraudulent practices in accounting setting. Social contract is also bound and forces today’s companies and business firms to focus on creating and developing more sustainable reporting by considering different aspects such as financial, social, environmental etc (Chiu, & Sharfman, 2011).
Brown, Vetterlein, & Roemer-Mahler, (2010) interpreted that, Social contract is also reflects that the company is using most appropriate and effective ethical, legal, social norms to conduct their accounting practices. For case, social contract helps the business firms to develop financial records and reports more appropriately, ethically and legally by considering social perceptions. Moreover, social contract theory is also deal with the different aspects such as: fairness, transparency, accountability, flexibility. All these aspects of the social contract reflect a company’s legitimacy practices within the accounting setting. Social contract theory is also bound and forces the business firms to use legitimacy practices in accounting by considering the interests and expectation of local community or society. This is the reason that, business firms are using legitimacy theory or practices in conducting of fiancial reporting. In the current time of globlization, it is mandatory and esssential for the business firms to follow sustbablity rules and standards in the reporing practices. Social contract suggest a company that it should also work for the interest of investors, governement, and society by adopting of sustainability in reporting (Chandler, 2016).
Along with this, Boulouta, & Pitelis, (2014) found that, in the present time a number of sustainability strategies, practices, methods and approaches are used by the business firms that indicate fair and transparent business operations of the company. These practices and method adopted by a company plays key roles in promoting legitimacy of economic accounts of the company. Overall, it can be said that, social contract to legitimacy practices is a tool that create confidence and trusts among the different level of key stakeholders. Moreover, both CSR and social contract are related, linked and associated with each other and ensures that organizational reporting is fair and transparent. Business firms are required to use and adopt ethical, social, and legal norms, standards and principles in developing of financial reports, statements and accounting transactions. The applications and principles of the social contract theory to legitimacy theory develop relations among the business firms and society (Crane, 2013).
Dawkins, & Fraas, (2013) analyzed that, Business firms are more liable to make ethical decisions in conducting legitimacy reporting. Moreover, ethical and social norms suggest the company to use effective standards and regulations in preparing the financial reports and records. The social contract theory is also guides the companies and business firms that, they are in the market to fulfill the needs of society. This indicates that there is link among the social contract among a company and society for a specific purpose. Hence, it is important for the business firms to focus on legitimizing business practices and operations by considering CSR engagement. Moreover, social theory is also reflects the needs, wants and expectations of the local community or society towards how the companies should perform their functions and operations. Additionally, legitimacy theory is suggests the firms to use and follow social norms in conducting business functions and operations. This theory is also provides strategic direction to the business firms about how they can create and develop long relationships with the key stakeholders and society by fulfilling their obligations in an effective and proper manner. Both social theory and legitimacy theory is bound the business firms to disclose their CSR aspects of business. So, legitimacy theory is based on the social contract theory. Overall, it can be said that, both the theories helps the business firms in attaining their core goals, objectives, functions and mission & vision in an effective and more innovative manner (Bettis, Gambardella, Helfat, & Mitchell, 2014).
Along with this, it is also accessed by Krieg, (2013) that, by using these theories, a company could generate more revenues and profit by improving its image and reputation in the market. In the same way, both the theories and their applications are more useful in the corporate business environment for the total success. Finally, it can be said that, in the current time, it is important, essential and valuable for the business firms to adopt such theories in order to become more success in the competitive business environment. It is because these theories and their applications could help the business firms in attaining the competitive advantages or scope in the market in an effective and specific manner.
Limitations and Criticism of Social Contract
It is accessed by Skyrms, (2014) that, there are several drawbacks or limitations of the social contract theory. For example, social theory is creates conflicts and issues in enhancing the legitimacy within the accounting practices of a company. In the same way, this theory hides legitimacy practices of a company directly or indirectly. On the other hand, the other limitation of this theory is that, this theory bound the business firms to fulfill social responsibilities at the various social levels. This social theory is also focus on fulfilling the needs and wants key people, but the interests of the different stakeholder could be different with each others. This is a situation that creates confusion and difficulties for the companies to adopt legitimacy accounting practices. Moreover, the level of financial reporting is another factor that directly affects the legitimacy reporting. For example, in the present business situation, every stakeholder of the company wants to earn more profit at the lower costs. But the money spend on the social programs may affect the level of profit of the key stakeholder. So, there is a conflict that CSR functions should be fulfilled or not. If fulfilled, how much cost was spent on this Ball, (Grubnic, & Birchall, 2014).
Along with this, it is also analyzed by Brown, Vetterlein, & Roemer-Mahler, (2010) that, this social theory is totally based on the hypothetical world. So, it would not be easy for the companies to use and apply this social contract theory within the accounting setting or to conduct accounting functions. Moreover, the rules and standards of this social theory is directly or indirectly forcing the business firms to follow various standards and rules in fulfilling CSR functions. Overall, these hypothetical concepts of the social theory could not be used in the corporate world. In addition to this, it is also important to know that, social theory is also considers sensible rules that could not be applied within the accounting practices easily and effectively. Hence, based on the above limitations and findings of the social contract theory, it is analyzed that, this theory is not valid to elucidate legitimacy of the bookkeeping activities implemented by the business firms (Chiu, & Sharfman, 2011).
Based on the findings, facts and analysis, it is summarized and concluded that, social contract theory is consists with a number of ethical, and legal rules and standards that guides business firms to effectively fulfill their social obligations in an effective and proper manner. Moreover, with the effective use of social contract theory, a company could develop strong relations with the key stakeholders and improve its image in the market. So, it plays a significant role in enhancing organizational efficiency and reputation. In addition to this, long term strategic objectives can be attained by a company if it follow and use the standards and rules of social contract theory. Along with this, it is also analyzed that, the main focus on social contract theory is on improving organization revenue, market share, profit, and productivity by fulfilling socially and environmentally objectives. At the same time, it can also be concluded that, legitimacy theory is also used to improve and bring innovation within the bookkeeping setting because this theory states that business firms should follow and apply ethical and moral practices within their business in order to survive and compete in more challenging and dynamic business environment.
In addition to this, by developing social contract, a particular company could gain a lot of tangible and intangible benefits from the market. Moreover, through the social contract, a company could also maintain the relationships with the public and could generate benefits for the longer time. Additionally, Social contract is also valuable and significant for the firms to ensure protection, peace, stability and justice. Hence, it is more important to use and apply a wide range of legitimacy rules, standards and principles within the accounting practices. Along with this, a company should also adopt ethical and legal principles in order to develop social contract with the local community. It would help the company in bringing innovation, development and legitimacy within the current accounting practices. Overall, it can be concluded that, different positive and negative arguments are made in the favor and dislike of social contract theory to legitimacy. These indicate that, social contract theory is more significant for the success of a company.
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