What does Yanis Varoufakis want?

2 03 2015

That’s the title of a great blog post about Greece’s current finance minister.

By training, Varoufakis is not an economist, but a mathematical statistician. And similar to many academics who migrated from the ‘hard’ sciences to economics, Varoufakis has built a career on ridiculing economists’ inferior abilities in math and statistics. Also economists’ too simplistic belief in the miracles of the markets, their tendency only to see positive sides to technological progress, and the idea that to do economics is to build simple mathematical models, is derided by Varoufakis in witty and rhetorically gifted prose. At the same time, Varoufakis has been employed by economic faculties for some twenty-five years, in which he hence felt like an “atheist theologian ensconced in a Middle Ages monastery.”

The whole blog post is well worth reading, even if you are less fascinated by Yanis Varoufakis than I am.

American Football and the ABS Journal Quality Guide

27 02 2015


The article in the Times Higher Education supplement about the release of the ABS journal rankings has generated some interesting online discussion.

The Association of Business Schools’ Academic Journal Guide 2015assesses the quality of 1,401 business and management publications worldwide, based on citation scores and the judgements of leading researchers. 

It is designed to help academics to make decisions about where they should seek to have their work published and to help deans to evaluate performance.

But some scholars complain that the guide has become too powerful in decisions on recruitment, promotion and salary review, and that as a consequence they are assessed only on where they publish, not what they publish.

The first person to comment on this article is Bill Cooke, Professor of Strategy at the University of York Management School. He argues that the new guide will contribute to the Americanization of the research culture of UK business schools.

This list “aimed to provide scholars with clear goalposts against which to aim for in seeking to progress their careers”.

But you better be playing American Football, because this is simply a list of US journals. In my subdisciplines, in the journals ranked, the work is conservative, narrow, and parochial to the United States. People had better not believe the playing field is level, either. The normal institutional biases, let alone positive discrimination, tilt play in favour of the US scholar. The paper you’ve written and want someone to read informally. Your reader down the corridor or you bump into at a local seminar in THE-land is not going to be the editor of any of these journals, is he. Yes, he (nice, and appropriate pic btw).

The Association of Business Schools is now trying to face in two directions at once. It is sending the message, firstly, that if you are ‘seeking to progress [your] career’ you should publish in these US journals.

At the same time management scholars are told, rightly, and not least by the ABS that they need to have a strong concern for ‘impact’ in the REF sense – for material changes in the real world. Well, intuitively, research that gets published in these 4* journals will by definition have to be the opposite of impactful.

(I make these comments in a personal capacity, and not in my capacity as Vice Chair Research and Publications of the British Academy of Management).

I think that Professor Cooke is right about this. The creators of the ABS guide are to be commended for overcoming nationalistic passions and automatically giving more points to British journals simply because they are British. However, it maybe that they have gone too far in the opposite direction and have rewarded US journals that are nationally insular but which nevertheless have high citation counts simply because of the sheer size of the United States.

A better, but more complicated, method for measuring whether a journal has a truly global impact would be to look at both absolute citations and citation-miles, based on the mean distance between the author’s place of employment and the employers of the authors who cite a given paper.  Under this scenario, a journal by a New York City academic that is frequently cited by other academics who all work in New York would get a lower ranking than a journal with a similar number of citations by authors on different continents.

Business History Journals in the Journal Quality Guide of the Association of Business Schools

26 02 2015

Journal Quality Guide of the Association of Business Schools  is used to rank journal articles and is important in the lives of many management academics in the UK and Scandinavia. The new version of the guide was released at 12:01am yesterday. I know of at least one colleague who stayed up past midnight so that they could download the guide immediately after its publication.

ABS Journal Quality Guide

There have been some significant changes in the relative positions of business history journals on page 17 of the ABS guide.

For one thing, some economic-historical journals have appeared on the list of approved historical journals. We can expect more submissions by management scholars to such journals.

Business History a UK based journal, has now been overtaken by the Business History Review from the US. The precise reasons for this change continue to be debated. Business History now ranks as a 3, a rank it shares with Enterprise and Society. The Business History Review has climbed to 4.  The system of rankings has five grades: 4*, 4, 3, 2, and 1.

One other important development in this ranking system is that Management and Organization History has attained a ranking of just 2, whereas prior to yesterday’s release of the new rankings, it had been widely expected to climb to 3.

The guide can’t be downloaded as document that I can forward to you, so I have inserted a screen shot.

Snow Job in New Jersey: Crony Capitalism Comes in Many Sizes

23 02 2015

The Wall Street Journal recently ran a piece called Regulation is Good for Goldman Sachs. It was occasioned by remarks made by the firm’s CEO in a recent conference call with investors. During the call, Lloyd Blankfein suggested that the burden of new government regulations was a net benefit to the bank, since its competitors were less able to carry the associated costs.  “More intense regulatory and technology requirements have raised the barriers to entry higher than at any other time in modern history,” said Mr. Blankfein. “This is an expensive business to be in, if you don’t have the market share in scale. Consider the numerous business exits that have been announced by our peers as they reassessed their competitive positioning and relative returns.”

This article is a reminder of the sheer importance of regulatory capture in explaining the emergence of crony capitalism and concentrations of economic power. Regulations that are often intended to protect the weak and the powerless often end up being perverted into measures that enrich particular groups of wealthy individuals at the expense of both other firms and society as a whole.

Spare a thought, though, for the impact of regulation on the degree of competition in humbler sections of the economy. Regulation can protect incumbents and reduce competition in banking, but it can also do so in the world of snow removal, a type of economic activity that is rarely if ever discussed in the financial press.  Banks and their regulators are always in the media spotlight.  Relative to their share of GDP, the zillions of obscure guys who do the vitally important work of removing snow get fewer column inches, at least most of the time.

The New York Times reports that two New Jersey teenagers have been stopped by the police from offering snow removal services to their neighbours.  Needless to say, this sort of harassment will cause future would-be entrepreneurs to think twice before handing out snow-removal flyers to their neighbours. Unfortunately, the Times story does not reveal whether the reporter investigated the possibility that the cops who stopped the teenagers are linked to any of the existing snow removal players. It may be that the cops have friends who are incumbents in this industry, although they also may simply have been on a little power trip.

For the impact of excessive occupational licensing in the United States, see this piece by Matt Yglesias. The website of the Cato Institute’s Police Misconduct project is also worth reading.

BLOG #3: Update On Andrew Smith’s activities for the Timber Project

23 02 2015


The blog for the Empire, Trees, Climate project recently had a post about one of my current papers.

Originally posted on empire trees climate:

In the last few months, Andrew Smith (University of Liverpool Management School) has been contributing to the timber project in several ways.

First, he has been supervising the collection trade statistics so that we can reconstruct the international flows of timber in the nineteenth century. Collecting the data has been involved looking at the table of figures that were printed each year in the British parliamentary papers and then entering the relevant numbers into an Excel file. This essential data entry work has been performed by an able Research Assistant working under Andrew’s supervision. (The able RA in question is Joe Kelly, a PhD student over in Liverpool’s history department). Andrew has been responsible for analysing the resulting data and turning it into a form useful to other members of the project. He has also engaged in archival research about the international timber trade, using materials in the University…

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Project Update: Trees, and Climate in the British North Atlantic: Towards Critical Dendro-Provenancing (2014-2016).

21 02 2015

As readers of this blog will know, I’m involved in a collaborative, inter-disciplinary research project called Trees, and Climate in the British North Atlantic: Towards Critical Dendro-Provenancing (2014-2016). This project has been generously funded by SSHRC, the social-scientific research council in Canada. The PI for the project is Kirsten Greer. The other team members include  include: Dr. Kirby Calvert (Geography, Penn State University), Dr. Adam Csank (Geography, Nipissing), Dr. Kimberly Monk (Archaeology & Anthropology, Bristol University),  and Margot Maddison-MacFadyen (Interdisciplinary Program, Memorial University). Our institutional partners are the National Museum of Bermuda, the Department of Conservation Services (Government of Bermuda), and the Bermuda National Trust.

There are many cool aspects of this project, but the greatest of them is the sheer inter-disciplinary nature of the research. In a modest way our project, which bring together physical scientists, humanities scholars, and social scientists, helps to bridge the cultural gaps identified by C.P. Snow in his 1959 lecture Two Cultures.

We have a blog where we provide updates on our project. This month’s update focuses on my research, so I am re-posting it here:

Update On Andrew Smith’s activities for the Timber Project

In the last few months, Andrew Smith (University of Liverpool Management School) has been contributing to the timber project in several ways.

First, he has been supervising the collection trade statistics so that we can reconstruct the international flows of timber in the nineteenth century. Collecting the data has been involved looking at the table of figures that were printed each year in the British parliamentary papers and then entering the relevant numbers into an Excel file. This essential data entry work has been performed by an able Research Assistant working under Andrew’s  supervision . (The able RA in question is Joe Kelly, a PhD student over in Liverpool’s history department). Andrew has been responsible for analysing the resulting data and turning it into a form useful to other members of the project. He has also engaged in archival research about the international timber trade, using materials in the University of Liverpool Library’s   Special Collections & Archives as well as the Archive in the Liverpool Museum.

Andrew wrote a lengthy report on the history of British timber tariff policy for the group. Andrew has also researched and prepared a long note on the history of the Canada Dock, a specialised facility for handling timber in Liverpool’s waterfront that opened in 1859.    The information in these documents will be incorporated into the various co-authored papers that emerge from our group project. Moreover, the material in the reports has fed into a paper Andrew is co-authoring with Kirsten Greer and Kirby Calvert.

This paper seeks to answer the question of whether it is possible for a government to use protective tariffs and other interventionist trade policies to permanently increase the competitiveness of the nation’s firms . Free-market purists argue that protectionist policies are almost always wrong, since they nurture incompetent companies that almost always fail once the artificial support of government intervention is removed. Other academics and policymakers, however, argue that under very particular circumstances, it is possible to use industrial policy to nurture companies that are genuinely competitive.  These companies  will survive and thrive once the supportive industrial policy, the training wheels as it were, is removed. These academics, who include figures such as Dani Rodrik, tend to use data  taken from the post-1945 history of East Asia to support their theory. However, the advocates of active IP certainly consider the economic histories of other countries. Indeed, the edited collection University of Toronto Press published last year, Smart Globalization, uses Canadian case studies to try to address this debate.

Our paper, which is called “The Role of IP-Induced Resource Accumulation by the Liverpool Timber Cluster,” uses the Liverpool timber merchants on the 19th century to engage with the issue of whether IP can permanently strengthen the capacity of firms to compete in the global economy.  In the paper, we operationalize a theoretical framework that was recently developed by Sergio Lazzarini, a professor of strategy at Insper Institute of Education and Research in São Paulo, Brazil. (see his “Strategizing by the government: Can industrial policy create firm‐level competitive advantage?.” Strategic Management Journal 36, no. 1 (2015): 97-112)

Here is an abstract of our paper.

The Role of IP-Induced Resource Accumulation by the Liverpool Timber Cluster

Andrew Smith, Kirsten Greer, Kirby Calvert


In 1810, the British government introduced an Industrial Policy (IP) designed to create alternative to Britain’s traditional supplies of wood in the Baltic region. This IP consisted of a differential duties to induce timber importing firms to switch from Baltic to Canadian suppliers. As a result of this policy, the firms acquired capabilities related to the import of wood over long distances. Between 1810 and 1842, Britain’s timber merchants developed thriving businesses based on trans-Atlantic supply chains. The tariff structure in place in these years created an artificial cost structure that benefited timber merchants with ties to Canada, many of whom were in Liverpool, over timber merchants with ties to the Baltic, a group disproportionately located in Hull, Newcastle, and the other North Sea ports that faced towards the Baltic. Between  1842 and 1860, this tariff structure was gradually eliminated. At the same time, the development of Britain’s railway network intensified competition among British ports to serve timber consumers in the interior of the country. Liverpool’s timber merchants thus faced a number of strategic threats in the 1850s and 1860s. The firms in Liverpool’s timber cluster responded to these challenges with strategies that involved a mixture of intra-cluster cooperation and intra-cluster, inter-firm competition. They learned to use the resources they had accumulated during the 1810-1842 period of mercantilist tariffs in novel ways to cope with the new strategic environment. The historical case study presented in this paper is intended as a contribution to the project of integrating research in IP and Strategic Management (SM), a research agenda that has been outlined by Lazzarini (2015).  The paper uses this historical case study to provide prescriptions for policymakers in different groups of nations. The paper uses the experience of the Liverpool timber cluster in the nineteenth century to argue that interventionist IP is most likely to result in the accumulation of Support-Adjusted Sustainable Competitive Advantage (SASCA) by firms in polities have long been characterized by stable and inclusive political systems, low levels of corruption, and high levels of transparency and state capacity. In such countries, interventionist IP may be able to produce SASCA, provided there is vigorous competition between firms in the sector targeted by the IP. The IP should also ensure that the firms in the targeted sector should be integrated into global production networks. However, the IP is most likely to be effective if targeted sector has high degree of geographical specificity of the type seen in clusters.

Andrew will be presenting this paper at the University of York Management School on Tuesday, 24 February. He also plans to get feedback on this paper at the summer conference circuit, with presentations at the Association of Business Historians annual conference (Exeter, 3-4 July ) and a pre-conference paper development workshop at the joint meeting of the Business History Conference and the European Business History Association (Miami, 24 June).  Andrew will then, he hopes, present the paper to Society for Strategic Management conference in  Denver, Colorado, October 3 – 6, 2015. (Andrew is aware that the application process for this conference is very competitive and the chances of getting our paper accepted at the SSM conference are fairly lwo). The aim is to submit this co-authored paper to strategy journal by the end of 2015. Papers in top economic geography and business history journals may also result from this research.

To conclude, Andrew Smith and his collaborators are using these funds provided by SSHRC to produce high-quality, archive-based historical research that is relevant to policy issues that are being faced by governments around the world. We also believe that our research will be of interest to decision makers in the private sector, as well as to academics in a range of disciplines.

CFP: Using Historical Approaches in Organizational Research

18 02 2015

This year’s EGOS conference (2-4 July, Athens, Greece) there will be a paper development workshop on historical approaches in organization studies. Information about how to apply for this workshop appears below.

R. Daniel Wadhwani, University of the Pacific, USA dwadhwani@pacific.edu

Eero Vaara, Hanken School of Economics, Finland eero.vaara@hanken.fi

Roy Suddaby, University of Victoria, Canada roy.suddaby@ualberta.ca

Matthias Kipping, Schulich School of Business, Canada mkipping@schulich.yorku.ca

William M. Foster, University of Alberta, Canada wfoster@ualberta.ca

Gabrielle Durepos, Mount Saint Vincent University, Canada gabrielle.durepos@msvu.ca


In recent years, interest in history and research incorporating historical perspectives has grown within organization studies, with both new theoretical perspectives and methods for studying the relationship between past and present in organizations. The main objectives of this pre-Colloquium Development Workshop (PDW) are to introduce participants to the range of historical perspectives and approaches used in organizational research and to spur the continued development of new ideas and innovative contributions that explore the relationship between history and organization studies, broadly conceived. Those involved will learn about the theories and methods used in engaging history as a lens for study organizations and organizing, as well as discuss strategies for publishing such research in leading journals. They will also learn about the range of historically oriented scholarship being produced in organizational studies today. The workshop is open to researchers at all career stages who are interested in exploring the potential of using historical methods and perspectives in their research and would like to discuss how best to do so.

The PDW will be broken into two main parts:

The first part will focus on the range of ways in which scholars have used theories of history and historical methods in published research. The emphasis here will be on examining published work and considering how the authors used historical research and reasoning to address questions about organization(s), as well as the prospects for publishing research in the future. Part 1 will also cover practical topics, such developing papers that respond to the CFPs for special issues on history in Organization Studies (deadline: March 2016) and in Strategic Entrepreneurship Journal (deadline: July 2016) as well as publishing in management history journals, such as Management and Organizational History.

In the second part, we will examine the working papers of participants in small groups with the aim of improving and sharpening the papers with regards to their use and interpretation of historical sources and their explanations of historical methods.

Participants will be expected to read the papers of their fellow session presenters, attend both parts of the PDW, and engage actively in discussions.


All scholars interested in developing their papers towards publishable articles are invited to apply. Please submit (through the EGOS website) a single document of application that includes:
On the first page: a short letter of application containing full details of name, address (postal address, phone, fax and email), affiliation (date of PhD completion for early career scholars), a statement of why the applicant considers it valuable to attend the workshop as well as an indication of what journal(s) the paper is likely to be submitted to.

R. Daniel Wadhwani is Associate Professor of Management at University of the Pacific, USA, and Visiting Professor at Copenhagen Business School, Denmark. His research has used historical approaches to study a range of organizational issues, including the emergence of new markets, the nature of entrepreneurial agency, and the processes of categorization and value determination in organizational fields. He is co-editor (with Marcelo Bucheli) of “Organizations in Time: History, Theory, Methods” (Oxford University Press), which examines the role of historical research and reasoning in organization studies.

Eero Vaara is Professor of Management and Organization at Hanken School of Economics in Helsinki, Finland. He is also a permanent visiting professor at EMLYON Business School, a distinguished visiting scholar at Lancaster University, and Adjunct Professor at Copenhagen Business School. His research interests focus on strategy and strategizing, organizational change, multinational corporations and globalization, management education, and methodological issues in management research. He has worked especially on discursive and narrative perspectives.
Roy Suddaby is the Winspear Chair of Business at the Peter B. Gustavson School of Business, University of Victoria. He is the Editor of the ‘Academy of Management Review’, an Honorary Professor at Copenhagen Business School and a Strategic Research Advisor at Newcastle Business School. He has published on a wide array of topics, including historical approaches to the study of institutions and on the uses of history in strategy. His research has appeared in a number of top journals, including Administrative Science Quarterly, Academy of Management Journal, and Academy of Management Review.

Matthias Kipping is Professor of Policy and Chair in Business History at the Schulich School of Business, York University in Toronto, Canada. His research has focused on the development and role of the different institutions of management knowledge, namely management consulting and business education. In his publications, as well as in his teaching, he has been trying to link historical research with organizational theory. He is active in a variety of scholarly associations in both business history and management and organization studies.

William M. Foster is an Associate Professor of Management at the Augustana Campus of the University of Alberta. His research interests include rhetorical history, social memory studies and business ethics. He has published in ‘Advances in Strategic Management’, ‘Management and Organizational History’ and ‘Journal of Business Ethics and is currently an Associate Editor at the ‘Academy of Management Learning & Education‘.

Gabrielle Durepos is an Assistant Professor at Mount Saint Vincent University in Halifax, Canada. Her co-authored book: “ANTi-History: Theorizing the Past, History, and Historiography in Management and Organization Studies” seeks to address the call for an historic turn. She is a co-editor of both the SAGE “Encyclopaedia of Case Study Research” as well as the “SAGE Major Work on Case Study Methods in Business Research”. Her recent publications appear in ‘Management & Organizational History’, ‘Journal of Management History‘, ‘Critical Perspectives of International Business’, and ‘Organization‘. Gabrielle is a co-investigator on a SSHRC funded project focused on Reassembling Canadian Management Knowledge with a special interest in dispersion, equity, identity and history. She is the past-president of the Atlantic Schools of Business Conference as well as the newsletter editor of the Critical Management Studies Division of the Academy of Management. She is currently engaged in an organizational history of a provincial museum complex in Canada.


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