March 11, 2008


I found this graph by chance, and it recalled to my mind the distinction that Hall and Soskice (don't think they are the fathers of this dichotomy) make in their famous publication in 2001 (Varieties of Capitalism)...
incremental innovation is displayed on the curve, radical innovation by the discontinuity area

Hall and Soskice (2001) state that LME are better at radical innovation (competitive advantage in medical engineering, biotechnology,semiconducto rs), whereas CME are better at incremental innovation (mechanical engineering, transport, consumer durables). see also Porter (1990) The competitive advantage of Nations.
When these authors are right, we can ask what nations (countries, institutional set-ups) are best prepared in conditions of globalisation... 

March 09, 2008

Robert W. Cox

Writing about web page

Cox, Robert and Sinclair, Timothy (1996) Approaches to World Order. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

- - -

I know this book is thick and expensive...but it is definitely worth a try. Before going onto this book (a collection of Cox's most important contributions) I had only read his Millennium article of 1981. Thus I knew about the 2 triangles and that theory is always for someone. Even though I appreciated his reflections quite a lot, I was not a big fan of him and instead focussed more directly on one of his intellectual fathers, Antonio Gramsci.

What I appreciate most in Cox's thought is how he applies his body of reflections to his own personal development, and how for instance he lets the reader know (in a usual chapter of an edited book) that he worked for ILO and therefore approaches IR from a different perspective than most US IR scholars (especially Waltz and Gilpin). The reader understands why he thinks as he does. I think Cox has no problem in telling his past because all his reflections are based into what he calls "historic dialectic(sm)" and that he knows that, as every other event that can only be understood when related to the historic conditions it arises in, his personal way of thinking is a product of his past, or as he himself states it:

"(...) it is necessary to begin with an understanding of the conditions not chosen by oneself in which action is possible". (p. 50)

This sentence must be related to Marx's "Men make their own history, but they do not make it as they please; they do not make it under self-selected circumstances, but under circumstances existing already, given and transmitted from the past" (Marx, Karl (1852) The 18th Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte.

Compare this to: “The starting-point of critical elaboration is the consciousness of what one really is, and is ‘knowing thyself’ as a product of the historical process (…)” (Gramsci, Antonio (1971) Selections from the Prison Notebooks. New York: International Publishers). 

In this sense, Robert W. Cox fits in the line with these acclaimed thinkers I offered quotations from.



March 04, 2008

IBIS/IPE book recommendation

Jones, Daniel and Womack James (2007) Lean Solutions: How Companies and Customers Can Create Value and Wealth Together. London: Simon & Schuster.


I have made reference to Toyota's success story here some time ago. Recently, the authors that brought into being the concept of lean production (eliminate all sorts of waste from the production process), launched a new book that covers both companies and customers. As I am interested in the consumer, these radical insights from business experts are highly inspiring, also when seen in a broader IPE framework. I am glad that the consumer (not only production) gets high attention from firms...!




Here the synopsis (from, but the book states the same one)

A massive disconnect exists today between consumers and providers. As consumers, we have a greater selection of higher quality goods and services to choose from, yet our experience of obtaining and using these items is more frustrating than ever. At the same time, companies find themselves with declining customer loyalty, greater challenges in fulfilling orders, and a general sense of dissatisfaction in connecting with their customers. In LEAN SOLUTIONS, lean production experts Womack and Jones show consumers and companies alike how they can align their goals to achieve greater value with less waste. 



March 03, 2008

plan IBIS essay 2

IBIS essay 2:

The not-so-liberal UK economy – evidence from company strategies

* VoC: UK = best European example of liberal market economy

* but:

1) theortically: UK is far from LME ideal-type (Hay, Rosamund article: globalization perceived as externally unavoidable, is NOT Nesadurai (IPE wk 18), trade//state intervention (IPE trade)...state debate, theories of globalization (3 schools in Phillips)

(liberal economistic, simplified assumptions, Hall, Soskice!, Hay in masterpiece convergence article, chapter in Ravenhill)

--deviations from model (on hall-soskice variables, even though they concentrate on firm-varibales), what characteristics...(list of points)

2) practically: these deviations can be explained by insights into firm-state relations (this is attacing hall-soskice on their domain!)

i) assumptions are too simplistic, economistsic understanding (get empirical evidence!)

ii) need state intervention, Polanyi, politics in economy

iii) firms want state intervention, in THEIR interests.


ARGUMENT: firms are PUSHING (initiative) the state to intervene! something contradictory from the liberal, LME point of view!


a) theoretical evidence: as we have seen, conditions are not as in ideal-type (perfect mobility, no transaction costs...)! in these new conditions, real ones, what are advantages of firm-state relations (NOT liberal state, demise of the state). arguments from national (industry, Porter...) and international level (globalization, regionalisation)! + interplay!


b) practical evidence: cases of state-firm close relations! ---state debate, more, less state, or different state? (Phillips) 

February 29, 2008

IPE masterpiece

I just want to focus attention on an article which I will not hesitate to designate as a masterpiece in current IPE debates about varieties of capitalism and the convergence thesis. This is a very good and beautifully structured discussion of concepts that shed novel light into the literature. This is an example what IPE deals with!


Hay, Colin (2004) 'Common Trajectories, variable paces, divergent outcomes? Models of European capitalism under conditions of complex economic interdependence', Review of International Political Economy, 11:2, pp. 231-262. 

Information asymmetry in finance

This evening I had a look at a handout of a flatmate who does an Msc in Finance at Warwick. One thing I grasped was the thing about information asymmetry and the paper stated: only the project owner knows best what his project is like, the investors have an informational disadvantage. And then further down it argued that the owner of "bad" project (i.e. no return for investors) has no incentives to reveal its true nature...and that's what a course on "advanced corporate finance" from Warwick Business School tells you. Most of the business men learn these things in some business school...that means gives a bleak picture of what "soft" regulation can achieve.

Then in an article for last week, it was stated that these agencies rating stocks do not really tell you how they consider the stock (Sell, outperform, hold, sell...) because it is just window-dressing. My flatmate say "yes, all these financial products are just crap!"...that's something to reflect upon, as other theses claim that while investment margins have stagnated over the last years, profit margins well increased. Usually, this correlation should not arrive according to traditional economic explanations. The claim is that because more and more firms are doing money with financial products , alongside their core activity, these profit margins are possible...combine both arguments and you get quite a "funny" conclusion... 

February 22, 2008

CSR in the media

Nike and the child labour allegations

Corporate irresponsibility and discourses in the media

4 articles

The interpretation of the Nike case depends on the ideological basis of the magazine/editor

The debate of CSR is not only on what the positions are

but also who states them…

BBC (1)

Screening of a Panorama documentary on child labour practices (15/10/2000)

Severe accusations against sweatshops

BBC revisited the plants and found some changes for the better (2105/2001)

BBC (2) 

Conception that pressure must come from outside (consumers, civil society) (1)

Considers Nike’s CSR policies to be nothing more than PR strategy

Policy of showing off, Nike is not genuinely concerned with fair labour conditions (2)

The main initiative must come from the corporate world. External actors point to inconsistencies, firms must then change the rules. (1)

Nike published list of suppliers

This is seen as a sensere move, as it will facilitates auditing and puts competitive pressure on suppliers

This «change of strategy » comes after the Kasky affair (individual sued Nike in 2002) (2)

Reliance on the judicial system

Conception that Nike may not be directly responsible for what its suppliers are doing (difficult to control)

Rules-based system and competition are ways out

The New York Times (1)

Nike’s practices may be flawed,but

The corporation must have the right to defend itself

The debate deserves a proper discussion

The New York Times (2)

Freedom of speech is inviolable


Very different points of emphasis, but CSR definitely is on the agenda

It is a social issue and the various media actors are indirectly pushing their view on it

…one’s personal position also depends on one’s social background, not only on academic arguments

February 20, 2008

Proposal for Second Research Essay BIS

Follow-up to Proposal for Second Research Essay from Ben's blog




The not-so-liberal UKeconomy – evidence from company strategies




In the varieties of capitalismdebate, the United Kingdom is often typified to be the best example of aliberal market economy alongside the US one. In this country, it is claimedthat the market is the most efficient means to allocate resources (naturalresources, financial capital and labour) to where they can achieve the mostproductive output. However, two elements are too often overlooked in thisideal-typist debate. First, the UK is far from matching with the theoreticalmodel as laid out by neoliberal economic theory because assumptions of perfectcapital mobility do not work in the real world. Second, even though thesemodels attribute a minimalist role to the state, it must be acknowledged in thePolanyian sense that markets are political constructions and do rely on publicpolicies. This essay addresses the issues of market intervention/regulation forthe UK case by investigating in how far national companies are expecting thegovernment to intervene in the economy and therefore prohibiting the creatingof a genuinely liberal market economy that would be at their detriment. Theessential claim is that the ideal-typist liberal model is not a desirable onefrom the firm’s point of view.


Keywords United Kingdom,liberal market economy, corporations, firm-state relations

February 16, 2008

Proposal for Second Research Essay



May it could be a good idea to limit the topic to a country, for instance Germany (because there state-firm relations are more developed than in the US). 




Tackling climate change – the economic implementation of a political issue


Climate change is riding high, in the news, on political agendas and on corporate strategy papers. It is now widely agreed that further increases in average world temperatures probably will harm the global economy and maybe threaten its current form. However, what policies to implement and how to tackle this global challenge in the most cost-effective way is still open to debate. Following Matthews and Paterson’s hypothesis that politicians from developed countries (mostly USA, Europe, Japan) have been willing to engage in the issue because an early commitment to climate change can give home companies early-mover advantages and commercial opportunities, this paper analyses this thesis on a state-firm level. Making reference to Cerny’s concept of the competition state, it is argued that climate change is one opportunity where close state-firm relations are expected to deliver beneficial outcomes for developed countries. In this context, the power of corporations to use political pressure is assessed and it the possible negative consequences for developing countries are taken into account. In fact, critics claim that emissions trading schemes based on market rationales are a way to perpetuate the neo-liberal global political economy to the detriment of developing countries.

Matthews, Karine and Paterson, Matthew (2005) ‘Boom or Bust? The Economic Engine Behind the Drive for Climate Change Policy’, Global Change, Peace & Security, 17:1, pp. 59-75.

Keywords climate change, state, firms, EU, developing countries

February 02, 2008

TNC's and accountability

Koenig-Archibugi, Mathias (2004) Transnational Corporations and Public Accountabilty. Government and Opposition, 39:2, pp. 234-259.


Following the lectures on Corporate Social Responsibility, the wider topic of accountability of corporations is analysed this week. This theme asks very similar questions than the CSR debate, but focusses more on stakeholders (not the firm in itself) and their control over TNCs.

I found this article valuable because it gives a neat introduction into the subject by providing clear definitions and discussing current issues. Overall it adopts a perspective that reminds me of Strange's prologue to "States and Markets". That is, it considers a firm as a social creature set up by individuals to produce collective goods, or a organization to which rules are confined in order to make it work for the public interest. I think this very basic understanding is too often set aside when dealing with complex and technical discussions about TNCs and economics in general.

The clear structure and the simple choice of words of the article makes it in excellent read into the topic. First it deals with the definition of accountability, then lists four possible sources why accountability mechanisms may not work and the shifts to a classification of regulating mechanisms. Moreover it investigates the reasons why companies may prefer self-regulation or the so-called "multi-stakeholder" initiatives over externally imposed regulation. However, many other actors external to the firm are identified that play into setting up accountability mechanisms.

Apart from it's hard-hitting nature of this article, I like the way how agency is highlighted in his debate. Too often, scholars identify structural logics (such as "globalization") without having a look at the micro- or meso-level. This neglect leads to explanations that are not rooted in any concrete, well-defined social processes. Such theories may get a higher degree of academic attention because they may seems to offer grand theories, but simply turn a blind eye to the eternal structure-agency problematic that is inherent of any social science. 

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