Brilliant Opportunity

2 05 2017

AS: One of the best places on earth do a PhD in Business History right now is Copenhagen Business School. I’m therefore very happy to share this announcement, which concerns opportunities to do funded PhD research at CBS in a variety of fields, including business history.


PhD Scholarships in “Time and Societal Challenges in a Changing Global Economy”

PhD Scholarships in “Time and Societal Challenges in a Changing Global Economy”

Copenhagen Business School invites applications for 6 vacant PhD scholarships within the field of “Time and Societal Challenges in a Changing Global Economy”. The successful applicants will be organized as a cross-departmental cohort with a number of common PhD courses and other activities such as workshops. The positions will be based in the four Departments associated with the OMS Doctoral School: Department of Business and Politics (DBP), Department of Organisation (IOA), Department of Management, Politics and Philosophy (MPP) and Department of Management, Society and Communication (MSC).

Theme of the Cohort

The notions of time and temporality have increasingly become the object of study across the social sciences. Temporality refers to the linear progression of time, historicity, the perception of time, processes of sequencing and order and rates of change as well as the social organization of time. In sociology, for instance, it is becoming increasingly recognized that existing theoretical frameworks, largely rooted in traditional approaches, do not adequately explain the active role of time in a globalizing economy. In the political sciences, the historicity of practices, norms and political ideas and the concept of “political time” have received increased attention particularly in association with questions about the character of continuity and change. Furthermore, analyses of the ways in which political, institutional and ideational processes unfold over time are central to the study of political economy and the shaping of policy processes. Also, in the area of Business Studies, there is an increasing turn of attention to the strategic use of historical narratives in corporate action.

The work of the cohort will challenge prevailing chronological, linear and sequential theories of time in politics and the study of organizations to embrace an active and dynamic view of time. Using innovative theories and methods, it will seek to explain how and why temporal dynamics shape and impact contemporary challenges. These challenges include, for example, globalizing and de-globalizing processes, state capacities in an era of limited economic growth, and the changing relationships between actors, organizations and the institutional frameworks. A particular focus will be put on how temporal structures and processes of sequencing constrain, but at times also empower individual and collective actors (e.g. business, workers, policy makers, civil society representatives), and the ways in which, within that context, those actors seek to reconfigure past, present and future. The work of the cohort will furthermore explore how processes of temporal construction affect the interactions between different actors and institutions in the context of these challenges.

The proposed PhD cohort will draw upon central ideas in philosophy, sociology, political science, history, cultural studies and organization theory. Although students may choose to write a PhD within a particular disciplinary perspective they will be encouraged to draw upon some of the other disciplines that will be utilized and explored within the cohort. We see this interdisciplinary and multi-disciplinary cohort which is expected to use a range of innovative theoretical frameworks and sound research designs (including qualitative, quantitative and mixed methods alongside experimental approaches) as the only viable way forward in new research endeavors. There will be a shared understanding that differences in temporalities constituted by factors such as past and future time horizons, mechanisms of connecting past and future in the present, pace and acceleration of change, lead to increased temporal complexity.

Pool of possible topics within the overall theme

Department of Business and Politics (DBP)

• The politics and history of social challenges in a comparative perspective (such as sustainability, inequality, 4th industrial revolution)

• The political economy of European crises: politics, polity and policy
Department of Organization (IOA)

• The role of time in organizing for societal challenges

• Organizational time, learning and innovation

• Organizing time, routines and change
Department of Management, Politics and Philosophy (MPP)

• Time, history and entrepreneurship in a globalized world

• Time and transformations in private-public relations

• The philosophy of time and chronology
Department of Management, Society and Communication (MSC)

• Temporality and talk-action dynamics in CSR

• Varieties of time perceptions attached to multi-stakeholder initiatives

• Colliding temporal orders and new forms of organizing

The PhD programme

The PhD programme at CBS is highly international. It allows you to conduct research under the supervision of CBS professors, supported by research training courses (30 ECTS points). You are expected to participate in international research conferences and spend time abroad as a visiting PhD student. For further information on the CBS PhD programme please consult this page:
It is also required that the applicant shows an interest in joining the respective Department’s research environment. You find information on the departments here:

CBS PhD graduates are held in high esteem not only in academia and research institutions but also in government and business where their research qualifications are increasingly demanded. One third of CBS PhD graduates go on to employment outside universities and public research institutions.

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

For further information please contact the head of department of the respective department:

• DBP: Prof MSO Caroline de la Porte +4538153550

• IOA: Prof MSO Signe Vikkelsø +4538152827

• MPP: Prof Lotte Jensen +4538153637

• MSC: Associate Prof Dorte Salskov-Iversen +4538153181
For administrative information please contact Henrik Hermansen +45 3815 3656,
General information

A PhD scholarship runs for a period of 3 years, and includes teaching obligations equivalent of 1⁄2 year’s work (840 work hours). The scholarships are fully salaried positions, according to the national Danish collective agreement. The scholarship includes the tuition fees, office space, travel grants plus a salary, currently starting with per month app. DKK 23.770 (app. 3,160 euro) up to DKK 28.964 (app. 3,860 euro) depending on seniority, plus a pension contribution totaling 17,1 % of 85 per cent of the base salary.

The salary level and appointment is determined by the Ministry of Finance’s collective agreement with the Central Academic Organization.

The PhD student will be enrolled at the PhD School in Organization and Management Studies (OMS). To be considered, the candidate should have a degree at the Masters level (similar to the 3 + 2 Bologna process). An educational background in philosophy, sociology, political science, history, cultural studies and organization theory or related fields is necessary. The applicant must have successfully completed the Master’s degree before commencing a PhD at CBS. The applicants must be fluent in English.
The application must include a 5 page research proposal following the guidelines available here:
In addition to the research proposal, the application must include copies of a Master’s degree certificate or other certificates of a corresponding level, brief curriculum vitae (CV), a list of papers and publications, and one copy of a selected written work (e.g. Master’s thesis). Applicants must enclose documentation for English language skills if not mother tongue.
Recruitment procedure

The Recruitment Committee will shortlist applicants. 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.

The successful applicants are expected to start their position on September 1 2017.

Closing date: June 1, 2017

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

Details about Copenhagen Business School and the departments are available at

What’s Missing from Noah Smith’s Analysis of the Alt-Right?

1 05 2017

A Trump supporter holding up a sign reading “Deplorables and Alt-Right Unite”. 4 March 2017, 13:28

Image source:  Wikimedia Image Commons Donald_Trump_alt-right_supporter_(32452974604)

The economist and Bloomberg columnist Noah Smith has published a thoughtful, erudite, and nevertheless frustrating piece about ethnic heterogeneity and the Alt-Right. What’s missing from Noah Smith’s analysis of the Alt-Right? A recognition of the important role of business in promoting harmony in divided societies!

For those who don’t know him, Noah (no relation to me) is a rising force in economics more generally and the economic blogosphere more generally. His worldview is centre-left, which is near the centre of gravity in the economics profession nowadays, but he differs from most of his fellow economists and indeed most academics in that he is sympathetic to nationalism and efforts to promote stronger national identities. (He recently advocated the re-introduction of universal military service in the United States on the grounds that the common experience of service in uniform would create a greater sense of social cohesion). My reading of the situation is that Noah is an old-fashioned liberal nationalist of the FDR and JFK school. That makes him stand out, since most economists (and social scientists more generally) are socialised into a very different way of thinking about nations that corresponds to Angus Deaton’s term cosmopolitan prioritarianism. Another ways in which  Noah’s perspective on social and political issues is distinctive in that it is informed by the time he lived in Japan, which gave him a perspective on European and US politics that is quite rare in the academic blogosphere.

Anyway, his recent blog post on diversity is fascinating because Noah, who is a card-carrying social scientist, engages with the arguments of the more intellectual wing of the Alt-Right, the cluster of anti-immigration, anti-liberal movements that contributed to the electoral success of Donald Trump and which is allied with xenophobic, anti-immigrant political parties in Europe. As Noah notes in his post, while many on the Alt-Right are stupid, others construct semi-intellectual arguments to support their content that the United States would be a better society if it were a more racially and religious homogenous society (i.e., a society in which non-whites were a much smaller percentage of the population than they are right now). The Alt-Right have been able to cite some academic studies that purport to show that increased ethnic and racial diversity in a country can create social problems by reducing levels of social trust.


The meta-historical narrative that informs such studies holds that the countries of north-western Europe were able to construct generous welfare-states in the first half of the twentieth century because they then were homogenous. In other words, wealthy taxpayers in Sweden didn’t resent fiscal transfers because the recipients looked and sounded like them, at least in 1950. This reading of history suggests that political support for such welfare states has recently been undermined by immigration, which made these societies more ethnically diverse and thus more like the US, a country with a far weaker welfare state. Some people attribute the low levels of social spending in the US to its diversity and the unwillingness of wealthy people, who are mainly white, to pay for recipients who are disproportionately non-white. (Concerns that too much diversity was incompatible with the welfare state convinced David Goodhart, an erstwhile British social democrat, to embrace the cause of restricting immigration).  Some alt-right people speak of turning the United States into a “white Japan” by which they mean an ethnically and racially homogenous society that is characterized by high rates of trust and social cohesion. This particular variant of the alt-right philosophy doesn’t say that one race is superior to another, merely that the world is a better place when communities are homogenous.  Noah reports that a section of the alt-right

want to live in a place where only white people are allowed. They want the dream of a half-remembered, half-imagined 1950s Southern California – the clean streets, the nice lawns, the dependable white neighbors who tip their hat and say hi to you as they stroll down the lane.

The Alt-Right has latched on to the research that stresses the costs of diversity. Noah methodologically deconstructs this line of argumentation by drawing on a range of social scientific research that seeks to measure the costs and benefits of diversity in terms of social trust and social cohesion indicators. To his credit, Noah looks at research produced by non-economists, including

  1. Arecent study in Southern Californiafound that ethnic diversity is associated with decreased crime and higher home values2. A

    study in Britain showed no relationship between ethnic diversity and trust.3. A

    study in Europe found a positive long-term effect of diversity on trust.4. A

    2014 literature survey finds that “ethnic diversity is not related to less interethnic social cohesion.”5. A

    2008 study in Europe found that ethnic diversity didn’t decrease social capital.6. A

    2007 study in Britain found that the negative effect of diversity on social cohesion disappears after controlling for economic variables.7. There’s also a big literature on

    diversity and group decision-making, most (but not all) of which concludes that ethnic diversity makes groups smarter.

Noah blows the Alt-Right out of the water here, in my view. Noah concedes that while, yes, in certain cases a rapid and poorly-managed increase in diversity can indeed result in falling levels of generalised trust, high levels of ethno-racial diversity in a community can, in fact, be consistent with high trust.  In his view, the key variable is how well diversity is managed and the nature of the institutions in newly diverse societies. (I totally agree with this viewpoint). He then begins to discuss what these institutions might be.

It’s at this point that I start to disagree with what Noah is saying since it he appears to be ignoring the research in many disciplines, including IR, politics, and now management, on how capitalism can allow different groups to cooperate and live in in peace. There is a vast literature on the capitalist peace or commercial peace. Some of this literature is on inter-state conflict, while others papers are on intrastate conflict. I’ve contributed to this literature in a modest way (see here). I’ve also blogged about new research, especially in management, that has documented ways in which capitalism helps to promote peace and inter-ethnic cohesion. (see here, here, and here). I’m currently working on a paper on this subject that uses data from Canadian business history. I’ll be presenting this paper at a conference in Toronto in September that will mark the 150th anniversary of the Canadian Confederation.

Noah writes:

as time goes on, the previous inhabitants and the newcomers get used to each other. This process is accelerated by integrating institutions like public schools, colleges, and the military, and is complete once intermarriage is widespread. 


Notice what is missing from Noah’s list—business corporations and the other institutions associated with the market economy! Noah’s list is about public-sector and non-profit institutions. Of course, these institutions do promote cohesion (think of the role of the IDF in integrating Ashkenazi and Sephardic Jews), but public-sector organizations can’t be the whole story. The old Soviet Union had public schools, colleges, and army units where people of different ethnicities mixed, and were indoctrinated with rhetoric about the unity of the world’s workers, but ethnic animosities nevertheless persisted. Noah’s list of integrating, pacifying institutions is sadly incomplete. I’m inclined to think that Noah’s decision to omit business institutions from this list of integrating factors may be related to his centre-left political views. There were certainly many US economists, particularly those of the generation taught by Milton Friedman, who went to great lengths to note the benefits of all things related to the market and to denigrate the state.  I suspect that Noah Smith, who is reacting the excesses of libertarian market-worship, may be committing the opposite error in failing to note in this paragraph the very important role that commercial activity and a vibrant private sector play in promoting peace.

I would call on Noah Smith and other progressives to reflect more about the positive role of business in promoting ethnic harmony. Thinking about the potential role of business in combating xenophobia and ethnic animosity is the first step towards having a conversation about the social responsibilities of business leaders in the face of the Alt-Right.



Business and Management in an Age of Rising Nationalism: Historical Perspectives 

14 04 2017

As I have mentioned in previous blog posts, there are an increasingly number of data points that support the thesis that economic nationalism is on the rise and that political developments may be contributing to the ongoing process of deglobalization. Brexit and the election of Trump are perhaps the most famous of these events.  Public intellectuals and business people are now talking about deglobalization as never before (see here). I’ve also pointed out that academics in business schools have yet to provide managers with concrete and practical advice about how to manage the political risks associated with elevated levels of economic nationalism and protectionist sentiment.  For instance, one of my blog posts critiqued Michael Witt, a political scientist at INSEAD, for failing to give managers advice that was non-obvious and useful. Here’s what I wrote


Late last year,  Dr Witt wrote two pieces in which he pondered what deglobalization means for multinational firms. His first piece did an admirable job of summarizing the political science literature on globalization and deglobalization and tells people how two of the three main schools of thought in IR (Realism and Liberalism) view these phenomena. Somewhat curiously, Witt doesn’t say much as about Constructivism, another interpretative tradition in IR, which is unfortunate since constructivism has a great deal  to offer here. Anyway,  his second piece, which was published a week after the first one, sought to offer concrete advice to business executives interested in this topic. Sadly, the main pieces of managerial advice he provided weren’t that useful to managers

I am, therefore, glad that my fellow business historians are now preparing to enter the conversation and to give advice to managers. A special panel on historical perspectives on managerial responses to rising nationalism will be held at this year’s American Academy of Management conference in Atlanta.  Business historians have written extensively about how firms managed previous episodes of deglobalization and my impression is that this panel will draw on this research. In a sense, the panel in Atlanta will complement a recent British Academy of Management event that was held in the city of Coventry. (A few months ago, I blogged about the unfortunate choice of venue for this otherwise excellent event, which included such speakers at  Steven McGuire, University of Sussex, Thomas Lawton, Open University Business School, and Neil Rollings,  University of Glasgow).

My hope is that the events in Coventry and Atlanta will result in publications that give advice to practitioners that goes beyond simply stating the obvious (e.g., “in times of elevated political risk, consider creating an in-house department for engaging in political risk analysis”). Given the calibre of the scholars who attended the two events, I’m very optimistic that high quality manager-relevant research outputs will emerge. It also occurs to me that the volume of the extant business-historical research on managerial responses to rising levels of economic nationalism may now be sufficient to support a meta-analysis paper targetted at a journal such as the International Journal of Management Reviews.

Anyway, here are the details.

Sunday  10.30-12.00pm, Hyatt Regency Atlanta, Spring
Chair: Daniel Wadhwani, U. of the Pacific

Panelist: Matthias Kipping, Schulich School of Bus, York U.

Panelist: Takafumi Kurosawa, Kyoto U.

Panelist: Stephanie Decker, Aston Business School

History can provide management scholars with a unique lens for understanding the current rise of nationalism, and the choices that businesses, managers, and entrepreneurs face in response to those changes. In part, this is because both supporters and critics of the current wave of nationalism point to historical examples and their consequences in justifying their positions. But, even more so, historical waves of globalization and de- globalization allow us a mirror for reflecting on the options and consequences that both policymakers and managers face today. For instance, on the eve of World War I, much of the world economy was economically integrated, with the relatively free mobility of firms, people, and capital across borders. This earlier wave of global integration fell apart with the rise of nationalism and nationalist policies during the interwar period, and a different kind of globally integrated economy had to be rebuilt by policymakers and businesspeople in the post-World War II world. This panel will discuss the lessons of such earlier waves of nationalism and de-globalization for our own time. It draws together four leading business historians, with expertise in four different regions of the world as well as in different aspects of management research. The panel will examine how rising nationalism affected not only the global context in which managers operated, but also consider its implications for business strategy, organizational behavior, social and political legitimacy, labor mobility and entrepreneurship. The goal of the panel will remain focused on the relevance of history for understanding managerial choices and consequences in the face of nationalism in our own time.

Should Scotland Join the Canadian Federation?

10 04 2017

The author Ken McGoogan has recently proposed that Scotland leave the UK and become part of Canada.  His argument is that Scotland would enjoy considerable autonomy as a Canadian province and tariff-free access to the EU market. His proposal, which has attracted some attention in the press, is reminiscent of the early twentieth century Irish and Scottish nationalists who favoured imperial federation, a constitutional arrangement in which there would be a common parliament for the British Empire along with a federal system in which each country (Scotland, Canada, England, etc) would enjoy internal autonomy– Home Rule All Round.  I would say that there is a zero percent chance of this proposal being implemented  but it is interesting that some people in Scotland are thinking in such terms. The sentimental ties between Scotland and Canada remain strong. Moreover, the social memory of the historic ties between the two countries is being used by a variety of social actors, including Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland’s First Minister, who made an appearance yesterday at the 100th anniversary commemoration of the Battle of Vimy Ridge. (It is not entirely clear what agenda drove Ms. Sturgeon to travel to France for this event, which was also attend by the French president and other EU leaders).  Even though academic military historians tend to scoff at claims that it was important, the Battle of Vimy Ridge now looms large in the Canadian historical consciousness in which the same way that Galliopi is important to present-day Australian. For those who want to learn more about how the memory of Vimy Ridge is used by Canadian social actors, I would recommend this recent piece by the journalist Tony Keene as well as this article by Jean Martin, a historian.


Sturgeon at Vimy Ridge


Digital Fabrication and the Transformation of Global Production?: Uneven Landscapes of Innovation

7 04 2017

That’s the title of our paper for the Academy of International Business UK&I conference. My co-author Jennifer Johns will be presenting it.


This paper examines digital technologies with a focus on a particular type of digital fabrication space, the FabLab. Much existing research on these technologies predicts transformative impacts on international business through the adoption of digital technologies.  We aim to begin filling the gap in empirical examination of this issue, using qualitative interview data collected between 2014 and 2017 in the Manchester, Barcelona and London FabLabs. These sites of adoption of, and innovation in, digital technologies are lenses through which we can observe the interaction of actors in the evolution of digital technology.  We find that a significant challenge for international business is the highly uneven landscape of innovation in digital technologies.  Far from being uniform, development in digital technologies and their impact on international business and production networks are highly geographically specific.


Since a major theme of the year’s AIB UK&I conference is deglobalization, I should stress that our paper is agnostic on the question of whether digital fabrication technologies such as 3-D printers will actually contribute to deglobalization  by decentralizing manufacturing back towards the household and community levels  Instead, our paper’s focus is on how European entrepreneurs who work with digital fabrication technologies engage in sensemaking to understand our current era in economic-historical time. I would point out that even if the most radical version of the ‘substitution scenario’ comes to pass and most manufacturing reverts back to the community or household level, it would not mean that globalization itself had been reversed. Such a scenario would instead represent a change in the nature of global production networks from a system in which manufactured goods are moved long distances to one in which the data in the form of the designs for such goods are transmitted long distances and are then applied to raw materials, some of which are sourced locally. Such a scenario would be congruent with a trend that has been underway since approximately 2008: as a recent report by the McKinsey Global Institute observed, globalization in the form of the circulation of physical goods has become proportionally less important, as global merchandize trade as percentage of world economic output has fallen, but the globalization of data flows has become ever more important.


Future Role of Business Archives

5 04 2017


The annual conference for the International Council on Archives‘ (ICA) Section on Business Archives (SBA) is taking place right now,  5-6 April 2017, in Stockholm. A follow-up conference will be taking place 4–6 December in Mumbai. Both events are about the Future Role of Business Archives and should interest both business historians and uses of the past scholars (I’m both). In the photo below, you can see Kathrine Maher, executive director of the Wikimedia Foundation giving keynote today.  Photo courtesy of Anders Ravn Sørensen





Although I can’t be at the Stockholm conference, I am hoping to get to the one in Mumbai. The focus of the Stockholm conference in on the importance of using true stories for external brand-building communication. In Mumbai, the focus on the internal effects that historical stories can have on management decisions and organizational culture. Since my current research looks at how history influences managerial cognition and organizational culture, the Mumbai conference is a better fit for my research.

These two conferences will help us to answer the following questions: why do corporate archives exist?  How does the use of history give firms a competitive advantage?  How do corporate archives help firms to use history more effectively?   Why on earth would a for-profit company fund the creation of a corporate archive? Why are firms in some industries more likely to spend money on elaborate archives than firms in other industries?  Scholars  various disciplines have come up with competing explanations for why corporate archives exist.  There is a consensus that corporate archives exist because they help firms to achieve their objectives. However, there is disagreement about precisely how archives give firms a competitive advantage.

According to National Strategy for Business Archives of England and Wales (2009), which was written by people trained in the academic discipline of archive science, company archives exist to support “new product innovation, corporate culture and brand identity management information and evidence to protect against litigation, trademark infringement, or assault on reputation”. This description of the function of corporate archives hints at the fact that corporate archives can serve very different purposes.  According to Castellani and Rossato (2014), two Italian communications studies professors,  corporate archives “act as an innovative communication tool” that create opportunities “for dialogue between the company and its community”. This interpretation, likely reflects the Italian context of the authors and is difficult to reconcile with the examples of corporations that fund excellent, well-organized archives that are closed to all external users (Alcan’s archive in Montreal is a famous case in point).

My point is that right now the social-scientific literature doesn’t give us a clear generalisable answer about what exactly corporate archives are for and how they contribute to the competitive advantage of companies. Our paper seeks to answer these questions.  Our argument is that possessing an archive gives a firm a competitive advantage because it makes the historical narratives produced by the firm seem more authentic in the eyes of stakeholders. Most firms invest at least a few resources in the production of historical narratives. The advantage one gets by spending money on a proper archive is that people in post-Enlightenment cultures are much more likely to believe a firm’s historical narrative if it is based on archival documents. It is no coincidence that the world’s first corporate archive was developed by the East India Company in the wake of the Enlightenment, which had convinced educated British people that for a historical narrative to be true, it had to be based on primary sources. Needless to say, many companies have since emulated the EIC’s archive-based rhetorical history strategy!




Castellani, P., & Rossato, C. (2014). On the communication value of the company museum and archives. Journal of Communication Management18(3), 240-253.




Reflections on BHC 2017

2 04 2017

The Business History Conference is my favourite conference of the year. I always come away from this conference feeling energized and inspired. One of the great strengths of the BHC is its interdisciplinarity: economists, historians, management academics, and many other contribute to making the conference very rich. Many of the people who work in management schools who attend BHC will tell you that the research presented here is of greater relevance than the papers that are presented at many management conferences.  The conversations one has at BHC are fascinating: where else can you speak to range of people that include NASA employees, practicing corporate lawyers, and the odd Hollywood actor.

This year’s conference was, in many ways, a typical BHC conference. However, it was exceptional in the sense that there were frequent references to the life and work of the late Chris Kobrak. At last year’s BHC, Chris Kobrak held a reception to announce the launch of the Canadian Business History Association. This year, there was a reception to honour the memory of Professor Kobrak.