We are trying to put together a panel at the 2017 Business History Conference on the theme of “Managing in Ages of Deglobalization.” There is a vast literature on how firms have managed the many challenges related to globalization, here defined as falling barriers to the movement of goods and capital across borders. Business historians, along with scholars in such disciplines as economics, economic history, international management, operations management, organization studies, and strategy have contributed to our understanding of how firms have responded to the challenges and opportunities associated with globalization in the last few decades. We also are learning more about how firms took advantage of earlier globalization phases in world history, such as the golden age of globalization that is conventionally regarded to have ended abruptly in 1914 with the outbreak of the First World War.
Unfortunately, we know far less about firms have managed deglobalization — i.e., periods in which globalization goes into reverse and the barriers to international trade reappear, disrupting international value chains. Some research, some of which is in a forthcoming volume on international business strategy and the First World War, has been done but much more knowledge is required. Kindleberger’s seminal research suggests that globalization appears to have been a cyclical process, with periods of global economic integration being punctuated by breakdown in the international economic order and the reversion back in the direction of autarky. If this theory is true, business historians have a great deal to offer to our understanding of how the private-sector can manage deglobalization. Knowing more about managerial responses to globalization is particularly crucial at this point, as the prospect of Brexit and the rise of anti-trade and anti-globalization movements in countries around the world raises the spectre of deglobalization. Indeed, there is some evidence in the international trade data that deglobalization is already taking place (see here, here, and here). The IMF reports that since the 2008, Global Financial Crisis, world trade is now growing at a slower rate than the global economy as a whole.
I am, therefore, trying to create a panel on the theme of Managing in Ages of Deglobalization. The 2017 Business History Conference meeting will take place in Denver, 30 March to 1 April, 2017. The deadline for paper and panel proposals is 3 October 2016, so please contact me ASAP if you wish to be part of this panel. Please use my Liverpool university address. The panel I envision would be interdisciplinary and would draw on methodologies from a wide range of disciplines.
Tyler Cowen has recently pointed out that globalization can take place within countries as the natural and man-made barriers to trade within nations are reduced. In the interests of defining the panel in inclusive terms, I would welcome paper proposals that deal with managerial responses to the breakdown of long-distance supply chains within large nation states.
This panel, which may take us forward towards a special issue in a prestigious journal, is our chance to showcase business-historical research that speaks to ongoing developments in the real world.