A research agenda for problematising profit and profitability

Alan LOWE*, Yesh NAMA, Alexandru PREDA

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Journal PublicationsJournal Article (refereed)peer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)


Purpose: The purpose of this paper is to advance a research agenda on the topic of problematising profit and profitability. This paper also acts as an introduction to this Accounting, Auditing & Accountability (AAAJ) special section which aims to foster the development of literature focussing on critically evaluating issues surrounding profit and profitability and their sometimes, deleterious effects on society. The authors encourage an interdisciplinary discussion on the concepts of profit and profitability and various ways in which the authors could potentially problematise these concepts. Design/methodology/approach: The authors undertake a purposive interdisciplinary review to provide context on problematising profit and profitability by briefly discussing the evolution of the concept of profit and by reviewing some contemporary debates and discussions about the role and status of profit and profitability. Findings: In order to further develop the literature on problematising profit and profitability, it is important to broaden the analytical framework in order to (1) uncover the assumptions that make profitable activities possible as well as justifications of such activities; (2) analyse the practices of profit not only in the sense of computational practices but also in the sense of strategic and rhetorical calculations; (3) evaluate the practices of profit and profitability where they are situated within social and power relationships and (4) connect practices of profit to specific social imaginaries of profit. Originality/value: In setting out a future research agenda, this paper fosters theoretical and methodological pluralism and encourages box-breaking research in the research community focussing on problematising profit and profitability in various settings. The perspectives offered in this paper provides not only a basis for further research in this critical area of discourse and regulation on the role and status of profit and profitability but also provides emancipatory potential for practitioners (to be reflective of their practices and their undesired consequences of such practices) whose overarching focus is on these accounting numbers.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)681-698
Number of pages18
JournalAccounting, Auditing and Accountability Journal
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 15 May 2020
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This paper forms part of a special section ?Problematizing profit and profitability?, guest edited by Alan Lowe, Yesh Nama and Alexandru Preda. The authors thank AAAJ editors for their unstinting support and advise in setting up and developing this special section. The authors also thank the managing editor and anonymous reviewers for their detailed comments and suggestions in improving this paper.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020, Emerald Publishing Limited.


  • Accounting for profit and profitability
  • Conceptualising profit
  • Morality
  • Problematising


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