Gathering String – Academic Conferences and Serendipity

By Keshav Krishnamurty.

Conferences are funny things. I was at the Eastern Sociological Society conference at the Boston Park Plaza this year, which proved to be fairly informal, friendly, and with a substantial number of undergrads presenting interesting new work. I have been to multiple management conferences before and although I am not quite a “conference junkie”, I can already see how each conference has its own “flavor”. Even relatively boring conferences sometimes tend to have rather interesting people turn up, and getting to meet them is an experience worth remembering.

Being the organizations nerd that I am, I’m also familiar with what the literature says about the benefits of conferences. More papers and articles than I can possibly list talk about how the networking opportunities provided by a conference help students – as the answers to this question at ResearchGate demonstrate – whether it’s in terms of finding future job opportunities, in terms of knowing future colleagues and superiors to recommend you and your work, or how meeting colleagues from different universities and therefore being exposed to new knowledge, new perspectives and new collaborations, leads to greater creativity. There is advice on how to network more easily at conferences, tips on conference productivity and for those who don’t like conferences much, there is even advice on how to make conference networking feel less ‘icky’. Overall, I do know, more or less, what to expect from a conference when I go into one. However, the Eastern Sociological Society conference resulted in something that I had not expected….  Continue reading

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Pub Talk in Public: How Trump and European Nationalists Test Democracy

By Stephan Manning.

The political climate in the U.S. and Western Europe is changing dramatically – authoritarian populists are on the rise: Donald Trump keeps winning primaries and is likely to become the Republican U.S. presidential candidate. At the same time, nationalist parties are gaining ground across Europe. Recent example: The ‘Alternative for Germany’ (AfD), a populist right-wing party that campaigns against refugees, climbed from zero to double-digit percentage figures in the latest state elections. Supporters of Trump and European right-wing populist parties have several things in common: they are mostly male, yet rather diverse in terms of age and socio-economic status; they are not loyal to any political party, yet concerned about order and national identity; they are anti-establishment and include many prior non-voters. For example, in the German state Saxony-Anhalt, the AfD received a record-breaking 24% of votes mainly thanks to prior non-voters making up 40% of their votes. Trump is betting on such voters as well, and according to him, his supporters will start ‘riots’ if the Republican National Convention blocks his nomination. Where does this nationalist movement against the establishment come from? What drives prior non-voters to ballot boxes in favor of authoritarian leadership? And what does that mean for democracy?

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Why is it so difficult to rein in Wall Street?

Why is it so difficult to rein in Wall Street?

Suhaib Riaz, University of Massachusetts Boston; Sean Buchanan, University of Manitoba, and Trish Ruebottom, Brock University.

Reforming Wall Street has become a key issue in the ongoing presidential primaries.

Bernie Sanders in particular has used his rival’s close ties to the financial industry, including speaking fees and political donations, to suggest Hillary Clinton wouldn’t rein in Wall Street. At the same time, Sanders has tried to highlight his own independence, declaring:

If I were elected president, the foxes would no longer guard the henhouse.

Clinton has tried to dispel the notion that Wall Street donations affect her judgment or independence, claiming her regulatory plan is actually tougher than Sanders’.

These exchanges underscore a crucial point: almost a decade after the 2008 financial crisis, the reforms that many Americans have demanded remain incomplete. Claims of independence, including by Republicans such as Donald Trump, are one way for candidates to suggest that they would be able to bring about real change.

Who would be the best candidate to do so is an important question. But first we must understand this underlying dilemma: why has it been so difficult to reform Wall Street following the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression?

This led us to a more fundamental question: whose voice matters most in determining how the financial industry should be run?

Given how much anger there still is at Wall Street, the answer may be surprising. Continue reading