does the protestant ethic matter?

24 07 2017

The 500th anniversary of Luther’s nailing of the theses to the church door has prompted some interesting writing about the Weber thesis and the possible connection between Protestantism and the rise of capitalism.

Elizabeth Bruenig has a long review in The Nation on three recent book on Martin Luther, talking about, among other things, how Protestantism set the stage for capitalism and modernity.  The piece, weirdly, doesn’t mention Max Weber at all, or the later questions about whether Weber was right about the Protestant Ethic forming capitalism.

For what it’s worth, it’s pretty unclear if Protestantism did form capitalism, particularly through the disciplinary mechanisms Weber describes. Though it does seem fair to say-and Bruenig nods at this-that Protestantism was actually a series of reforms and internal changes to Christian Europe’s understanding of the self and its relationship to larger organizations and institutions. Most historians of the reformation and church history have the dividing line not really at the 95 theses but at earlier changing understandings of confession and homilies, both of which emphasizes the relevance of the individual believer as an actor in…

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Exchange on Management Journal Rankings

14 07 2017

AS: Last week, I blogged about some of the systems used for evaluating the quality of management-school journals. Laurent Ortmans, the FT journalist responsible for the rankings, tried to post a comment in response but for unknown technical reasons neither it nor my (lengthy) response showed up in the Comments section. I’m reposting his comments and an abbreviated version of my reply here.



Hello Andrew,

Your post contains factual errors about the Financial Times.

It is misleading to state that the FT inadvertently revealed my name. It is public information that I am the statistician in charge of the FT business school rankings.

The list of 50 research journals (FT50 list) itself is not a ranking. We do not rank research journals.

We use the articles published in these journals to produce the FT research rank, one of about 20 different criteria that inform our three MBA rankings. See our MBA methodology

The very first list was initially put together by the business schools that took part in our first MBA ranking back in 1999. Since then, the FT has consulted participating schools every time the list was updated, on the basis of one vote per school.

It is correct that some journals contacted me. However, the revised list is based on the schools’ votes only. Incidentally, Liverpool School of Management was consulted and did contribute to our review process.

For your reference, we have published a short methodology


Hi Laurent, Thanks for getting in touch. That takes guts.

I suppose the decision of the FT to publish your name along with the list wasn’t inadvertent.  It’s true they didn’t really say much about the people making the list.

I’m glad to hear that the lobbying by journals and scholarly organizations didn’t cause you to bend the rules outlined in your methodology.

There was a “short” methodology published, as you note. As I and other said online at the time of its publication, it is far too brief. Here is why I think it is far too brief. There are thousands of biz schools in the world and you only contacted 200. That’s fine, but neither the sampling methodology nor the geographical distribution of the schools is mentioned. What percentage are in each country? How is the weighting done?  Moreover, the way in which the “schools” were contacted wasn’t explained and the text of your communication (probably a mass email) wasn’t published, so we can’t examine its wording, which is crucial in opinion polling. The 67% response rate is mentioned, which is great, but the differences in the response rates between management schools in different countries, etc isn’t specified. To be fully transparent, you should list all of the management schools contacted and all of the one’s that didn’t reply. The date of contact should also probably be mentioned too, since this could affect the response rate. Was the response rate for non-US schools different from US schools?  That’s the type of thing people want to know.

How did each school go about forming its opinion? What were your instructions to the school? How was your contact person in each school? That’s something that should be discussed here as well.

I’m not going to compare this survey of management school opinion to the absurd online polls that tabloid papers run to generate statistics that support their editorial positions.  It reminds me of the Literary Digest polls that were used in the 1920s to predict the results of US presidential elections—these were polls of newspaper editors across the country and each editor was asked “how do people in your town plan to vote?” Gallup polling came along later and got steadily more scientific.

I suggest that next time your preregister your study and its methodology and use Open Data to increase the transparency and legitimacy of your findings. There is a cool organization that promotes the pre-registration of social scientific research.

I will say that the FT polling methodology has less room for bias than the some of the other journal lists that I mocked in my post. And the FT50 is useful for people trying to get promoted- useful intel.


Canada 150 Research Chair in the History of Britain and the World, 1500-1850

13 07 2017

The Department of History, Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies, York University, invites applications from individuals interested in nomination for a Canada 150 Research Chair in the History of Britain and the World, 1500-1850, with preferred specialization in Africa and the Atlantic World, to commence July 1, 2018.

The position is a tenure stream appointment at the rank of Assistant or Associate Professor conditional on the successful nomination of the applicant as a Canada 150 Research Chair. To be eligible for this award, nominees must be internationally based at the time of the application (both working and residing outside of Canada), including Canadian expatriates. 

The individual sought will be nominated for a Canada 150 Research Chairs at the $350,000 per year level.  Appointments to Canada 150 Chairs are for 7 years and are accompanied by a full-time tenure-stream faculty position. Further information about the Canada 150 Research Chair program is available at

The successful candidate will have a record of excellence in scholarly research including publications appropriate to their stage of career, and will demonstrate a commitment to excellence in teaching at all levels. The successful candidate will be prepared to participate actively in the Graduate Program in History and be suitable for prompt appointment to the Faculty of Graduate Studies.

For this nomination, York is particularly interested in candidates with diverse backgrounds and especially encourages candidates in equity, diversity and inclusion categories. York acknowledges the potential impact that career interruptions can have on a candidate’s record of research achievement and encourages applicants to explain in their application the impact that career interruptions may have had on their record of research achievement. York University is an Affirmative Action (AA) employer and strongly values diversity, including gender and sexual diversity, within its community. The AA program, which applies to Aboriginal people, visible minorities, people with disabilities, and women, can be found at or by calling the AA office at 416-736-5713. All qualified candidates are encouraged to apply; however, Canadian citizens and permanent residents will be given priority.

Applicants should submit a signed letter of application outlining their professional experience and research interests, an up-to-date curriculum vitae, a sample of their scholarly writing (maximum 50 pp.), and a teaching dossier, and arrange for three confidential letters of recommendation to be sent to: Professor Thabit Abdullah, Chair, Department of History, 2140 Vari Hall. York University, 4700 Keele St., Toronto, Ontario, Canada, M3J 1P3.  Email: – (Subject line: “Britain and the World”).

The deadline for applications is July 24, 2017. Salary will be commensurate with qualifications and experience. All York University positions are subject to budgetary approval.

The Archive Advantage

12 07 2017

I am currently co-supervising an excellent PhD student who is doing a case studentship in the archive of a UK-based banking group. (A case studentship is PhD research that is jointly funded by a private-sector partner and a research council, in this case the AHRC). We had a meeting yesterday to talk about the student’s progress towards his PhD (see picture). The student’s research is helping to develop our understanding of how having an archive contributes to the overall performance of the company in a variety of ways. In essence, this case study will document the ways in which a corporate archive can create a competitive advantage for a firm. The result will be knowledge that will be useful to both academics and to managers.


Although the student’s research is just about one company, I believe that his research findings may be generalizable to other firms. As I observed to the archivists yesterday, corporate archives in the UK are generally well developed relative to other countries. I suspect that this is an important source of competitive advantage for these firms, and for UK plc as a whole.

Academic fields sorted according to their endorsement of genetic causes of human behaviour

12 07 2017

AS: This research is interesting conceptually but not necessarily methodologically. The curious thing is that the authors ignored the main business-school disciplines with the exception of economics. Given the importance of such academic disciplines as strategy and finance in our culture, this omission is most unfortunate. I also note that Law is absent from the list.

The paper is based on a self-selected group of survey respondents. Still, it’s an interesting early finding.

The authors are: Joseph Carroll, John A. Johnson, Catherine Salmon, Jens Kjeldgaard-Christiansen, Mathias Clasen, Emelie Jonsson. Paper title: “A Cross-Disciplinary Survey of Beliefs about Human Nature, Culture, and Science”






How far has the Darwinian revolution come? To what extent have evolutionary ideas penetrated into the social sciences and humanities? Are the “science wars” over? Or do whole blocs of disciplines face off over an unbridgeable epistemic gap? To answer questions like these, contributors to top journals in 22 disciplines were surveyed on their beliefs about human nature, culture, and science. More than 600 respondents completed the survey. Scoring patterns divided into two main sets of disciplines. Genetic influences were emphasized in the evolutionary social sciences, evolutionary humanities, psychology, empirical study of the arts, philosophy, economics, and political science. Environmental influences were emphasized in most of the humanities disciplines and in anthropology, sociology, education, and women’s or gender studies. Confidence in scientific explanation correlated positively with emphasizing genetic influences on behavior, and negatively with emphasizing environmental influences. Knowing the current actual landscape of belief should help scholars avoid sterile debates and ease the way toward fruitful collaborations with neighboring disciplines.



Between Past and Present: Sub-Plenary at EGOS 2017

12 07 2017

I’m sharing from images of the great EGOS sub-plenary Between Past and Present – History in Organization and Organizing

Organizational History Network

Today’s sub-plenary “Between Past and Present – History in Organization and Organizing” at EGOS 2017 in Copenhagen brought together leading scholars in History and Organization Studies to discuss recent research on time and history.

The three keynote speakers Stephanie Decker, Roy Suddaby and Anders Ravn Sorensen illustrated the plurality in both the conceptualization of organizational time and in how history is researched. The talks triggered a lively debate on how history matters, to whom it matters, and which (often implicit) theories of history shape organizational research.

Chair: Mads Mordhorst

Stephanie Decker – Making sense of the Past: History vs. memory

Roy Suddaby – Institutional Memory as a Dynamic Capability

Anders Ravn Sorensen – Uses of history in action: CBS’ anniversary


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EABH Conference: The data dilemma: a risk or an asset?

12 07 2017

The data dilemma: a risk or an asset?

Business, academic and regulator perspectives on the past, present and future of data in the finance sector.

Data about the finance sector is growing exponentially and storing it is becoming easier. Businesses are excited about the commercial possibilities of ‘Big Data’; academics are relishing the research potential of deep data archives and regulators are hoping for a fuller view of systemic risk and stability. Will it all turn out well though? The current reality of massive data stores is often no more than massive cost and complexity. The workshop will explore how we got here with data and where we go next. Ultimately, can a meeting of business, academics and regulators resolve the data dilemma and find a way to turn a risk into an asset?”

The committee invites proposals focusing on the following questions:
–  Does more data make us better forecasters? Are we any better than Keynes at predicting systemic risk now that we have all this information?
–  Do economic policy makers make good use of historical data or is it too hard to do?
–  Forecasters of all descriptions (especially economic ones) are facing a popular backlash. They missed the financial crisis and got the short-term impact of Brexit wrong (possibly). Wasn’t more data meant to mean better predictions?
–  How can financial research catch up with the need to change its methods in order to be able to make the best possible use of ‚big data’ (data mining, etc.)?
–  Which financial and/or academic institutions are using innovative and creative approaches towards research?
–  Which are the tools needed to do successful historical research in the future?
–  Which are the risks related to financial data? Which are the associated legal requirements for privacy, confidentiality, security and consumer protection?

Please send your abstract (400 – 500 words) and a short CV no later than 31 August 2017to:

The workshop committee is formed by Jan Booth (DEFRA), Carmen Hofmann (eabh) and Hrvoje Stančić (University of Zagreb)

The workshop will take place on 10 November 2017 at The Westin Zagreb Hotel, Krsnjavoga 1, Zagreb, Croatia, parallel to the international conference INFuture2017: Integrating ICT in Society (

You can find the Call for papers here.

Please visit for more information on eabh.