The New Enlightenment: Reshaping Capitalism and the Global Order in an Neo Mercantilist World

24 06 2019

enlightenment-website-header10

As have the philosophers, we social scientists have long been interested trying to reconcile the ideas Adam Smith presented The Theory of Moral Sentiments (TMS) with the principles established in The Wealth of Nations (WN). I have long felt that trying to balance or blend the principles in these two books is essential to our collective well-being  and one’s happiness as an individual living in a capitalist democracy. Smith’s ideas about economic nationalism, cosmopolitanism, and the moral aspects of the world-wide web of economic linkages that connect individuals and firms in different countries appear to be more relevant than ever, especially in light of the rise of anti-globalization populism.

 

In early July, Adam Smith’s Edinburgh house, Panmure, which now belongs to Edinburgh business school, will be the venue for an important interdisciplinary conference on “The New Enlightenment: Reshaping Capitalism and the Global Order in an Neo Mercantilist World.” The organizers of this conference, who include the great business thinker David Teece hope that this conference will  bring together action-oriented scholars, policy makers, and practitioners. The distinguished scholars who will be speaking at the conference include the management academics Jay Barney and Peter G. Klein, the economist Jon Kay, and such historians at Harold JamesBarry Eichengreen, and Niall Ferguson as well as some very distinguished practitioners and financial journalists. Practical details of the conference are here. The call to arms (theoretical document) describing the goals of the conference is available here.

Based on the call to arms document, I strongly suspect that shareholder value ideology (otherwise known as the doctrine of shareholder primacy) will be discussed at the conference. That document reads:

To the extent that current corporate law is viewed as imposing a legal duty to maximize (short-term) shareholder value, then it is inconsistent with Smith’s view of sustainable forms of capitalism. The imperative is now stronger than ever to read TMS and WN together. While some scholars see these as separate and contradictory theories, it’s hard to imagine that Smith  himself saw it that way. Both treatises have in common deep and prescient observations of society and the behavior of individuals. TMS, in particular, anticipates modern work in behavioral economics.

I’m very glad that that pros and cons of shareholder primacy will be discussed at this conference, as I’ve been convinced that this doctrine is corrosive to the long-term interests of capitalism as a system. About four decades ago, the doctrine of shareholder primacy was re-installed in the source code of Anglo-American capitalism and the results have not, in my view, been pretty. I know that some of the people attending this conference have, as I have, been heavily influenced by Hayek, an author who wrote eloquent defences of capitalism even though he did not accept shareholder primacy.  One of the intellectual puzzles that interests me is figuring out whether one can be sympathetic to Austrian economics and hostile to shareholder primacy at the same time. After careful reflection, I’ve decided that one can reconcile the two and that it is actually very important for society that we do so.

I would like to thank the conference organizers for inviting me to this august event. I also want to thank the various sponsors who are covering the costs of the conference.

 





Interesting Session on Historical Research at the Academy of Management

19 06 2019

Session Type: Symposium
Program Session: 1675 | Submission: 11526 | Sponsor(s): (OMT)
Scheduled: Tuesday, Aug 13 2019 8:00AM – 9:30AM at Boston Hynes Convention Center in 103

Advancing New Understandings of History in the Management Field
Advancing New Understandings of History PracticeInternationalResearch

View Map
Kunyuan Qiao, Cornell U.
Christopher Marquis, Cornell U.
Joerg Sydow, Freie U. Berlin
Florian Stache, Freie U. Berlin
Christopher W. J. Steele, U. of Alberta
Milo Shaoqing Wang, U. of Alberta
Paul Ingram, Columbia U.
Brian Silverman, U. of Toronto
Rodolphe Durand, HEC Paris
Andrew Sarta, Ivey Business School
Jean-Philippe Vergne, Ivey Business School
Howard Aldrich, U. of North Carolina

Scholars in the management field have been increasingly interested in how historical factors and processes affect current organizational behaviors and have called for a fuller integration of a historical perspective into organization and management theory. This symposium brings together a diverse set of papers that explore different ways through which history affects the present and provide implications for future research and practice. Specifically, the first paper extends path dependence theory by proposing a model of path-breaking organizational change and elaborating how paths can change. The second paper illustrates how the institutional logics perspective can help better integrate history into organizational research via historical contextualization, recognition of the constitutive power of history and histories, and a focus on how history-making is itself historically situated. The third paper develops the concept of moral cover in network research and applies history-based research methods to issues of strategy and organization. The fourth article reviews and reconceptualizes adaptation as a typical way to leverage history. The last article builds a more systematic understanding of how history matters by developing a typology that includes two types of historical formation conditions and three types of subsequent evolutionary processes. As a set, the papers offer new insights into how organization and management theories are affected by historical processes and shed new light on management history research.

Breaking a Path by Creating a New One–Insights from a Healthcare Setting
Joerg Sydow, Freie U. Berlin
Florian Stache, Freie U. Berlin

The Logics of History, and the Historicity of Logics
Christopher W. J. Steele, U. of Alberta
Milo Shaoqing Wang, U. of Alberta

Friends in the Right Places: The Influence of Slave-Trading Quakers on Network Partners (1750-1807)
Paul Ingram, Columbia U.
Brian Silverman, U. of Toronto

Reset: Stock-Taking and Rethinking Organizational Adaptation as Congruence
Rodolphe Durand, HEC Paris
Andrew Sarta, Ivey Business School
Jean-philippe Vergne, Ivey Business School

How History Matters
View Sessions for this Participant Presenter: Christopher Marquis, Cornell U.
View Sessions for this Participant Presenter: Kunyuan Qiao, Cornell U.





My Sessions at the Academy of Management 2019

13 06 2019

 

 

Entrepreneurship and History

Entrepreneurship and History Research Session Type: PDW Workshop. Program Session: 136 | Submission: 18205 | Sponsor(s): (ENT, MH) Scheduled: Friday, Aug 9 2019 12:00PM – 2:00PM at Boston Marriott Copley Place in Grand Ballroom Salon IJK

Chair: Trevor Lyle Israelsen, U. of Victoria (PhD Student)

Participant: David A. Kirsch, U. of Maryland

Participant: Christina Lubinski, Copenhagen Business School

Participant: Rob Mitchell, Colorado State U.

Participant: Daniel Raff, The Wharton School, U. of Pennsylvania

Participant: Andrew D A Smith, U. of Liverpool

Participant: Daniel Wadhwani, U. of the Pacific

Participant: Ricardo Zozimo, Lancaster U.

History and entrepreneurship are intertwined in multiple, fundamental ways. Recent scholarship has established this connection across a range of topics, modes of inquiry, and as a means for contribution to theory. Here we draw attention to two critical questions requiring additional exploration at the intersection of entrepreneurship and history. First, what constitutes rigorous historical explanation in the context of entrepreneurship? And second, what is the relationship between history and ongoing entrepreneurial processes? To facilitate a collective discussion of these two topics, we bring together leading scholars from a variety of traditions ranging from economics to cultural history and from the history of technological innovation to historical cognition to help stimulate a dialogue with workshop attendees regarding these two critical questions at the intersection between the historiographic tradition and modern social-science-based entrepreneurial studies. The PDW culminates in an activity in which attendees generate and refine research questions and ideas to address these two problems.

 

 

Personalities, Their Foibles and Organizations

 

Session Type: Paper Session. Program Session: 890 | Submission: 20295 | Sponsor(s): (MH) Scheduled: Monday, Aug 12 2019 8:00AM – 9:30AM at Boston Marriott Copley Place in Yarmouth

 

Discussant: Jeffrey Muldoon, Emporia State U.

 

MH: Performing Intersection Identity Work Over Time; Historic Case of Viola Turner

Authors: Madison Portie Williamson, Hiscox Insurance ; David Ross Marshall, U. of Dayton; Milorad Novicevic, U. of Mississippi; Albert J. Mills, Saint Mary’s U., Canada/U. of Eastern Finland; Caleb Lugar, U. of Mississippi

Through the analysis of an exemplary historic case, we show how an individual alters their underlying moral foundations in order to align them to intersecting identities and changing social contexts over time. Using computer aided text analysis software, we analyze interviews conducted with Ms. Viola Turner, an African-American insurance executive in the early 1900’s. We find that Turner consistently adapted her configuration of moral foundations to her intersecting identities most prevalent and useful at each given time period. In this way, we shed light on how people perform intersection identity work over time.

 

 

Best Paper MH: Mayo’s Beacon: How Hawthorne, Logical Positivism, and Psychology Shaped Social Exchange Theory

Author: Jeffrey Muldoon, Emporia State U; Yaron J. Zoller, Lakeland U.

John F. Mee Award for Paper with the Best Management History Division Contribution

Social exchange theory (SET) by Homans (1958) is one of the most researched, validated, and influential theories in the field of sociology. This paper provides a historical review to trace the disciplines, scholars, organizations, studies, and research methodologies that influenced Homans in creating SET. In addition, it investigates the mostly ignored role of the Hawthorne studies and Elton Mayo in shaping the development of SET. Our contention was that Homans, through the use of various methods, sought to explain how spontaneous cooperation emerged in groups. This goal was set early by Elton Mayo.

 

 

MH: Coming Together after a Tragedy – How the S.S. Eastland Disaster of 1915 Helped Shape Hawthorne Theme-oriented

Author: Yaron J. Zoller, Lakeland U; Jeffrey Muldoon, Emporia State U.

By conducting an historical study of the social conditions of the community of employees at Hawthorne Works before and after the S.S. Eastland disaster of 1915, this paper argues that the Eastland disaster resulted in expanding welfare capitalism practices by Western Electric in the 1920s-1930s and establishing the social and communal conditions which made the Hawthorne Studies (1924-1933) possible. The Eastland disaster likely steered Western Electric towards expanding its practice of welfare capitalism, a forerunner to the Human-Relations school of management, and taking a more humanistic approach. Expansion of welfare capitalism by Western Electric was partially designed to take advantage of the cultural and ethnic isolation of the community and to deflect attention from Western Electric’s involvement in the Eastland disaster. Linking the Eastland disaster and the Hawthorne Studies can help explain the importance of trust development during the famous studies.

 

 

MH: The Creation and Decline of an Ethics-Driven Market Category: The Case of Free-Grown Sugar International-oriented Research-oriented

Author: Andrew D A Smith, U. of Liverpool; Jennifer Johns, U. of Bristol

This paper uses a historical case study to integrate the theoretical work on category creation (Durand and Khaire, 2017) with the management research on the ethics of slavery. It documents the rise and fall of the ethics-driven market category of “freegrown sugar”. Between 1790 and 1890, the United Kingdom imported sugar produced by slaves and sugar that had been produced by free labourers. The market category of free-grown sugar existed during the first fifty years of this period, enabling consumers who were opposed to slavery to pay a premium for a more ethical product. After circa 1840, this market category disappeared, even though considerable quantities of slavegrown sugar continued to arrive into the UK. Our paper makes a number of theoretical contributions, including the introduction to the business-ethics literature of the concept of the ethics-driven market category. Our research also challenges the linearprogressive historical metanarrative that many business ethics scholars use to interpret data. The paper also refines our understanding of category creation and category disappearance. In addition to making these theoretical contributions, our research findings will be of interest to scholars of Modern Slavery and to social activists who seek to eradicate forced labour from the economy.

 

 

Corporations across the World

Session Type: Paper Session Program Session: 1771 | Submission: 20296 | Sponsor(s): (MH) Scheduled: Tuesday, Aug 13 2019 9:45AM – 11:15AM at Boston Marriott Copley Place in Yarmouth

 

Chair: Jay J. Janney, U. of Dayton

 

MH: Are Corporate Governance Theories Relevant to the History and Long- Term Survival of Catholic Orders?

Author: Peter Wirtz, U. Jean Moulin Lyon III

Despite extensive research efforts, the causal link between various corporate governance practices and the long-term performance and survival of organizations is still largely unexplored. Various theoretical approaches aim at explaining a governance system’s influence on organizational performance and sustainability over the long run, but few contemporaneous corporate organizations have experienced long enough lifespans to examine the underliyng assumtions consistently in a sound and consistent empirical setting. Catholic orders are among the oldest still existing organizations and hence present a unique opportunity to test theoretical assumptions about governance systems’ capacity to influence long- term survival. This paper presents a structured inventory of the current state of research on the form and functions of the governance systems of three old Catholic orders (namely the Benedictines, Dominicans, and Jesuits) in historical perspective and confirms the relevance of this kind of approach.

 

 

MH: Corporate Archives, History-as-Sensemaking: Evidence from Banking International-oriented Research-oriented

Author: Andrew D A Smith, U. of Liverpool; Wim Van Lent, Montpellier Business School; Ian Jones, U. of Liverpool

The emerging literature on how organizations use history focuses mainly on the rhetorical use of strategy to give sense to stakeholders, neglecting history’s potential for strategic sense- making. This study employs a unique combination of qualitative and quantitative data about archival usage by senior decision-makers at Barclays Bank during the Global Financial Crisis. The analysis demonstrates how history was used for both sense-giving and sense- making and that these practices eventually improved financial performance. Our findings enrich the theoretical foundation of the “Uses of the Past” literature and reinforce an agent-based approach to the role of history in strategy. We discuss the implications of our research for researchers, managers, and management educators in the conclusion of the paper.

 

 

MH: Trademarks and Competitiveness in the Global Ugg Boot Industry, 1979- 2017 International-oriented

Author: Amanda Budde-Sung, U. Of Sydney

Journal of Management History Award for Best International Paper

When intellectual property (IP) is covered in the international business literature, it usually focuses on competitive advantages conferred upon a firm or industry by new technology. Less discussed is the historical role of intellectual property, particularly when the intellectual property giving the competitive advantage is not new. This study considers the impact on competitive advantage of culturally distinctive, but not new, IP through the lens of the Australia-US battle over the UGG boot trademark. Court documents and trademark applications from 1984 to 2017 indicate that Australian firms underestimated the cultural differences between the US and Australia, and thus failed to adequately protect the generic word “ugg” in foreign markets where it was considered to be distinctive, rather than generic. The in-depth analysis of the development of the UGG brand highlights the importance of intangible barriers in global business. The impact on the competitive advantage these intangible barriers gave US firms over Australian firms in the worldwide sheepskin boot market is discussed.

 

 

MH: Following the Old Road: Organizational Imprinting and Regional Development of Russia

Author: Nooa Nykänen, U. of Jyväskylä

Russia’s strategy for regional development has taken an authoritarian direction during the recent decades, despite simultaneous pressures to modernize economic structures and generate innovative growth in regional agglomerations. In this paper, I study the impact of historical and organizational imprinting within Russian economic geography on the contemporary forms of regional policy, highlighting specifically the paradigmatic and path- dependent role of Soviet regional economic system, based on territorial-production complexes (TPCs). Analysis based on the dynamics within framework of imprinting suggest that the TPC model presents a cognitive institutional paragon for contemporary Russian decision-makers in administrating regional development. The results contribute to the literature of socialist imprints by demonstrating how imprints may influence organizational communities and invoke features of socialist economic management in contemporary regional strategies.

 

 

MH: Self-Help or Vassal? State Ideology and Discursive Legitimization of Turkish Cooperatives, 1934-1960 International-oriented Research-oriented

Author: Cemil Ozan Soydemir, Istanbul Technical U;   Mehmet Ercek, Istanbul Technical U.

The emergence of cooperatives as distinct economic forms has been associated with either social movements or with entrepreneurial works of local elites. The aim of this study is to unveil how cooperative forms emerge in the Turkish setting and to question the role of the state in the initial constitution and subsequent legitimization of cooperative forms. Contrary to the existing literature, this study revealed that the Turkish state constituted and instrumentally used cooperatives as an extension of its apparatus to legitimize its ideology. Shifts in the external conditions required the state to configure new cooperative forms and delegitimize or silence existing forms. Besides, alteration of the state ideology also resulted in the inception of new forms and modification of the existing ones. The use of rhetorics, frames and narratives in the discursive legitimation of each form varied as contextual and temporal conditions unfolded.





Historical Geographies of Interdisciplinarity: McGill University’s Caribbean Project

11 06 2019

AS: I’m pleased to announce that a paper of which I was a co-author has been published.

“Historical Geographies of Interdisciplinarity: McGill University’s Caribbean Project” Kirsten Greer (Nipissing University), Katie Hemsworth (Nipissing University), Matthew Farish (University of Toronto), Andrew Smith (University of Liverpool).
Historical Geography  Volume 46, 2018 pp. 48-78

Scholars working on global environmental change research are increasingly seeing the value of collaborating on projects involving methodologies in the geophysical sciences and humanities to solve environmental problems such as climate change, soil erosion, and loss of biodiversity. Largely missing from these works, however, are histories of what might be considered earlier interdisciplinary scholarship by physical and human geographers, which are valuable for thinking about what it means to practice the interdisciplinary study of the environment. The purpose of this paper is to examine the understudied history of McGill University’s Caribbean Project of the 1950s and 1960s, to consider what it might tell us about the histories of interdisciplinarity in (geographical) research. We seek to broaden understandings about the very nature of interdisciplinarity, including what may be called early exercises in critical physical geography, through an examination of this small but important and enduring Canadian program located in Barbados with its own complex historical geographies. Focusing on a few instrumental scholars involved in the Barbados project—including the climatologist Kenneth Hare, the cultural geographer Theo Hills, and the biogeographer David Watts—our contribution draws on primary materials (correspondence, reports, memoranda, and research site plans) obtained through the McGill University Archives and the Bancroft Library at Berkeley University, as well as close readings of McGill Geography’s digitized Climatological Bulletins (1967–93), Climatological Research Series, and student theses and dissertations. We conclude by suggesting possible ways forward for future interdisciplinary research on this and other projects, involving physical and human geographers and historians as well as local participants.





Business History Job at CBS

10 06 2019

Copenhagen Business School invites applications for a vacant tenure-track assistant professorship in History at the Department of Management, Politics and Philosophy (MPP).

We seek applicants with excellent qualifications and expertise in business and/or economic history. The Assistant Professor will be affiliated with the Department’s Centre for Business History.

Profile of MPP

MPP is a disciplinary and multi-disciplinary research department in the humanities and social sciences with a focus on law, management, and organisation across private and public sectors and civil society. It aims to develop its reputation among students, companies, public institutions, and research colleagues as innovative, creative and critical/reflexive. The Department is committed to research-based education and to bring new knowledge into play in society in a constructive, engaged, and valuable manner. A key focus of MPP is to publish its research with highly ranked academic journals and publishers across a broad spectrum of areas, reflecting the Department’s multidisciplinary set-up.

MPP is organised into different research groups: Politics; Business History: Philosophy; Management & Entreprenurship; and Law. Faculty within these groups have research backgrounds in all areas of law, political science, sociology, philosophy, history, anthropology, literature, theology, tourism and leisure management, cultural economics and other areas. What unites Faculty is an overriding concern for the human within its multiple environments: work, nature, economy, civil association, the state, and the corporation. MPP also participates in numerous interdisciplinary cross CBS activities.

Across the department, there is a keen interest in developing new forms of teaching and learning environments in collaboration with CBS faculty, international researchers, students and partner organizations. MPP’s researchers teach in a wide range of CBS programs and covers Bachelor, Master and PhD levels as well as executive programs.

Profile of the position

The assistant professorship is a non-tenured position of 4-6 years leading to a tenured position as Associate Professor, if the requirements are met. The requirements will be formulated in the context of appointment; the decision regarding tenure is taken between the fourth and the sixth year. In order to fulfill the teaching and research requirements of the position, the applicant chosen is expected to be physically present on a regular basis and actively participate in the teaching and research activities of the Department. The successful applicant is obliged to participate in the assistant professor program at CBS on teaching principles and methods in order to fulfill the pedagogical requirements made at the end of the term of employment as assistant professor.

We particularly welcome applications from candidates who can demonstrate an interest in cultural and interdisciplinary approaches. Examples of research areas that the assistant professor might include (but are not limited to):

  • Historical entrepreneurship
  • Narratives and uses of history in organizations and society
  • History of capitalism
  • Financial history
  • Evolution of business, markets, government and society
  • Organizational change and corporate governance developments over time
  • Consumption, marketing and branding in historical perspective

Responsibilities

  • Teaching and associated examination in existing CBS programs, including Executive Education
  • Individual and group based research meeting high international standards
  • Promoting CBS’s academic reputation
  • Initiating, fundraising and coordinating research projects
  • Promoting the teaching and research capabilities of Copenhagen Business School and other relevant assignments at Copenhagen Business School
  • Contributing to the administrative responsibilities of the department and to CBS-wide tasks
  • Communicating findings to the public in general and to CBS’s stakeholders in particular
  • Research, including responsibility for the academic development of the relevant discipline
  • Responsibility for publishing, scientific communication and research-based teaching
  • Active participation in the regular research activities, such as research seminars, workshops and conferences.

The assistant professor is expected to contribute to the development and application of the research of the department’s research areas and to maintain and strengthen CBS’s international research position.

Qualifications

The applicant must hold a PhD or the equivalent. The applicant should be able to present an excellent publication record including articles in internationally renowned journals in the field and/or monographs with a distinguished publishing house. Ability to publish in top international journals will be key criteria of the assessment process together with teaching experience (if applicable) and the evaluation of an indicative proposal for a 6 year period of research. The applicant must have professional proficiency in English (written and spoken).

Copenhagen Business School has a broad commitment to the excellence, distinctiveness and relevance of its teaching and research. Candidates who wish to join us should demonstrate enthusiasm for working in an organisation of this type (highlighting, for example, relevant business, educational and dissemination activities).

Appointment and salary will be in accordance with the Ministry of Finance’s agreement with the Central Academic Organisation.

Details about the department are available at www.cbs.dk/mpp. For further information please contact: Head of Department Mitchell Dean, tel.: +45 3815 4234, e-mail md.mpp@cbs.dk or the Director of Centre for Business History Mads Mordhorst, tel.: +45 3815 3839, e-mail mmo.mpp@cbs.dk.

Application

Application must be sent via the electronic recruitment system, using the link below.

Application must include:

  1. A statement of application
  2. Proof of qualifications and a full CV
  3. Documentation of relevant, significant, original research, including publications in the field’s internationally recognized journals.
  4. Documentation of teaching qualifications or other material for the evaluation of his/her pedagogical level (if applicable)
  5. Information indicating experience in research management and international co-operation (if applicable)
  6. An indicative proposal for a 6 year period of research
  7. A complete, numbered list of publications (indicating titles, co-authors, page numbers and year) with an * marking of the academic productions to be considered during the review. A maximum of 10 publications for review are allowed. Applicants are requested to prioritise their publications in relation to the field of this job advertisement
  8. Copies of the publications marked with an *. Only publications written in English, French, German or one of the Scandinavian languageswill be taken into consideration.
  9. Contact address (email and phone) of three reputable international scholars in the field that would be available for a reference.

Recruitment procedure

The Recruitment Committee will shortlist minimum two applicants; when possible five or more applicants will be shortlisted. The shortlisted applicants will be assessed by the Assessment Committee. All applicants will be notified of their status in the recruitment process shortly after the application deadline.

The applicants selected for assessment will be notified about the composition of the Assessment Committee and later in the process about the result of the assessment.

Once the recruitment process is completed each applicant will be notified of the outcome of their application.

Copenhagen Business School must receive all application material, including all appendices (see items above), by the application deadline.

Appointment and salary will be in accordance with the Ministry of Finance’s agreement with the Central Academic Organisation.

Details about Copenhagen Business School and the department are available at www.cbs.dk.

Closing date: 20 August 2019.

Apply online





Imperial Standard: Imperial Oil, Exxon, and the Canadian Oil Industry from 1880

7 06 2019

Imperial Standard: Imperial Oil, Exxon, and the Canadian Oil Industry from 1880

Imperial standard cover Full Fin.indd

 

Publishers sometimes send me books in the hopes that I will review them on my blog. I was recently asked by the publisher to review Graham Taylor’s excellent new history of Canada’s Imperial Oil. I was happy to comply. This book is an important contribution to the field of Canadian business history: for more than a century, Imperial Oil has dominated Canada’s oil industry and this important company has a long last been the subject of the scholarly historical study it deserves. I hope that this book will be read by non-historical scholars and by researchers whose empirical focus in on the history of the Latin American countries in which Standard Oil established subsidiaries.

 

Canada’s Imperial Oil has a distinctly British-sounding name that speaks to Canada’s membership in the British/Empire Commonwealth. Throughout its history, however, most of the equity in the firm has been owned by Americans: Rockefeller’s Standard Oil and now  Exxon Mobil Corporation of Texas. Throughout its history, Imperial Oil of Canada has retained a distinctive identity and a degree of operational autonomy from its parent, which has never treated the Canadian oil market as simply another region of the United States. The central theme running through this book Imperial Oil’s evolving relationship with its parent. The author shows how the firm’s strategy and structure were influenced by such forces as the existence of high tariff barriers between the countries, the somewhat distinctive nature of Canada’s legal system, and Canadian public opinion, which is has been consistently ambivalent about the United States and fearful of absorption into the public.

 

At one point, it was common for people who taught and researched Canadian history to organize their thinking around the tension between the forces of imperialism (pressures to draw Canada closer to the Britain), continentalism (forces integrating Canada into the United States), and nationalism. Traditionally, left-wing Canadians were the most sceptical of continentalism and the most supportive of efforts to promote Canadian autonomy by measures such as public ownership in key sectors such as oil and natural gas. I’m old enough to remember when the tension between continentalism and nationalism as a central issue in Canadian politics. Younger Canadians on the left simply aren’t interested in these issues anymore and it is likely that a historian under the age of forty tasked with writing a history of Imperial Oil would have chosen to focus on very different themes, such gender relations in the firm’s workforce or environmental externalities or the firm’s relationship with Indigenous peoples. Graham Taylor, professor emeritus of history at Trent University is a Baby Boomer who came of age at a time when the issue of Canadian economic nationalism was central to Canadian politics and Canadian intellectual life.  For this reason, the book centres on Imperial Oil and the national question, although he certainly also discusses some of the issues I have just mentioned.

From my point of view, which is that of someone who teaches and does research in the field of international business, it is probably a good thing that Graham focuses on the issues he did, since the relationship between subsidiaries and multinational headquarters is a major theme in the field of international business. It seems to me that IB scholars who write on this topic could profit from reading this book.  In fact, those IB scholars who use qualitative and mixed-methods may even be inspired to make use of the archival sources that were the basis of this book, namely, the Imperial Oil archives, which are now kept in the Glenbow Museum in Calgary. With more than 230 linear metres of documents and few access restrictions, the Imperial Oil fonds would appear to be an excellent resource for scholars.

I’m currently working on a project right now that examines the operation of works councils and other employee representation systems in the United States in the early 20th century. Around 1908, American managers and workers became very interested in the idea of giving workers a voice in how factories and even whole companies were run. After 1916, the Rockefeller family became particularly enthusiastic about employee representation systems, which were introduced throughout their business empire, including in Imperial Oil.  Now in the United States, these initiatives were largely killed off by legislation passed during the New Deal. North of the border, however, they persisted in Imperial Oil. Graham Taylor devotes several pages to telling us about how employee representation worked in two Imperial Oil facilities in different regions of the country, skilfully using archival materials he found in Calgary to identify differences between the facility where this system appears to have worked reasonably well and the one where it didn’t.

The field of Canadian business history would appear to be facing some headwinds right now. It is encouraging to see the appearance of this great book.

 





Radical Business? Business and the Contest over Social Norms

4 06 2019

I’m sharing some information about a business-historical workshop that will take place in Oxford on 28 June 2019.

Conveners: David Chan Smith and Rowena Olegario

This one-day symposium at the Weston Library brings together an interdisciplinary group of speakers to offer insights into how business has acted as a radical force to upset and replace social norms over time. Whether seeking to normalize new products and services, such as autonomous vehicles, or reacting to environmental or safety concerns, business is engaged in a constant negotiation with larger cultural codes. Speakers will discuss the consequences of this contest over social norms, including ethical as well as strategic implications. By bringing together researchers from across disciplines, the symposium will also explore common conceptual ground to understand the significance of this problem for the history of capitalism and management.

All are welcome to attend, but please RSVP.

David Chan Smith is Associate Professor, Department of History, Wilfrid Laurier University, and is the Royal Bank of Canada-Bodleian Visiting Fellow at the Bodleian Libraries during Trinity Term 2019.

Presented in association with the Bodleian Libraries Centre for the Study of the Book.

Confirmed speakers:

Aled Davies, University of Oxford
Stephanie Decker, Aston University
Neil Forbes, Coventry University
James Hollis, University of Oxford
Mary Johnstone-Louise, University of Oxford
Alan Morrison, University of Oxford
Anne Murphy, University of Hertfordshire
Adam Nix, De Montfort University
Will Pettigrew, University of Lancaster
David Chan Smith, Wilfrid Laurier University
Heidi Tworek, University of British Columbia
Michael Weatherburn, Imperial College London
Lola Wilhelm, University of Oxford