10 May 2010
It is with great sadness that we have learned of the passing of Anthony Hopwood. With this, we have lost a truly outstanding figure.
Anthony Hopwood was Ernst and Young Professor of International Accounting and Financial Management at LSE from 1985 to 1995. On leaving LSE, he went to Oxford as Professor of Management Studies, and in 1999 was appointed Dean of the Saïd Business School, a position which he held until October 2006.
Anthony transformed the discipline of accounting, by suggesting that it be examined not as a neutral technical phenomenon, but as an organizational and social practice that itself had an impact on the world. He wrote many of the seminal papers and books of the discipline, and was always ahead of his time.
He is perhaps best known within academic circles for his founding position as Editor in Chief of Accounting, Organizations and Society, a role he held from 1976 to 2009. It is difficult, in retrospect, to appreciate the innovative intellectual position the journal adopted from its inception. It helped constitute an entirely new body of research. The journal is now ranked among the top four accounting journals in the world.
Anthony's own research has been enormously influential, stimulating the creation of a major body of interdisciplinary research investigating the roles of accounting in organizations and society. His PhD at the University of Chicago examined empirically the use of accounting information in performance evaluation within firms. Informed by a mix of social psychology and the sociology of groups, that study stimulated a body of research on accounting and performance measurement that continues today. In the 1980s, Anthony extended his research interests to examine the roles of accounting in institutions and society. This gave accounting an even firmer social science foundation, for it demonstrated the important links between accounting change and wider social developments.
Anthony's enthusiasm and inventiveness were not limited to his own prolific and influential research and publications. He made an outstanding contribution to the building of a wide range of accounting and management institutions in Europe and the UK. He played a major role at a number of prestigious British universities, most notably Manchester Business School, London Business School, the London School of Economics and Political Science, and the Saïd Business School.
Recognising the importance of a Europe-wide forum for accounting research – at a time when such an idea was novel – he actively participated in the European Institute of Advanced Studies in Management, and for a number of years served as its President. He was a founder of the European Accounting Association, and played a major role – including that of President – throughout its over thirty year history. He was also very active in the formation and management of the European Accounting Review, and he played a highly influential role in the development of doctoral education within accounting. He promoted and encouraged networks of junior researchers, and was very active in the doctoral colloquium for the European Accounting Association.
Anthony was a passionate defender of intellectual enquiry and diversity, something that is particularly important and challenging in contexts where such values are not always shared. Most recently, he wrote about the dangers of careerism, over-specialization, and an inward-looking approach to accounting and management education. He was also highly critical of the increasing pre-occupation with research rankings, and the crude quantification that this often depends on.
Anthony's achievements have been recognized by many awards. In 1998, he was voted Distinguished Academic of the Year by the British Accounting Association. In 2001 and 2008, he was given Lifetime Achievement Awards by sections of the American Accounting Association. In 2005, he was the recipient of the Leadership award of the European Accounting Association, and in 2006 he served as the Presidential Scholar of the American Accounting Association. He was elected to the USA's Accounting Hall of Fame in 2008, and also received the American Accounting Association's 2008 Notable Contribution to the Management Accounting Literature Award. He holds honorary doctorates from universities in Denmark, Finland, Italy, Sweden and the United Kingdom.
In recent years, Anthony extended his life-long interest in design and architecture, and was appointed by HRH the Prince of Wales as Chairman of the Prince's Foundation for the Built Environment. In this capacity, he worked with the Prince and the Chief Executive of the Foundation on issues of urban design.
It is difficult to imagine the discipline of accounting without Anthony. He will, however, continue to influence it profoundly through his writings, through those that he taught, through those that wrote and worked with him, and through all those that recognize the fundamental importance of analyzing accounting as an organizational and social practice.