The conceptual and theoretical development of cost accounting has been at a standstill for several decades, despite its poor state and drastic changes in its environment. The concept of cost itself and related concepts are both unclear and unrelated to relevant concepts in other areas of economics, and several critical issues remain unresolved.

Part of the blame for this state is laid at the door of those writers and interpreters of several key pieces of literature, or sets of writings on specific topics. The works involved in the “miscues” are J. M. Clark's emphasis on different costs for different purposes in his Studies in the Economics of Overhead Costs; Paton and Littleton's difficulties in clarifying the cost concept; the American Institute of Accountants' definition of depreciation accounting as systematic and rational allocation; the direct/variable costing literature; and the rejection of allocation. An effort is made to show how each of those miscues harmed the cause of cost accounting.

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