Business schools must step up and engage in intellectual activism – here’s how

By Alessia Contu.

A professor of politics in an elite US liberal art college recently remarked to me:  “I must confess my stereotype of someone working in a business school is of one who serves the one per cent.”

Noting our shared political and intellectual persuasions, she questioned: “how can you work in a business school?”

My colleague is right, of course.  Business schools are not perceived as intellectual ‘hotbeds’, and even less crucibles of critical and progressive thinking.

Business schools are often portrayed as universities’ ‘cash cows’, something former minister of universities and science David Willetts acknowledged in 2013.  A Chartered Association of Business Schools Report in March confirmed that business schools are big business worth more than £2.4 billion annually.

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Challenges of balancing scholarly engagement and critique: A reflection on social studies of finance

By Suhaib Riaz. *

Is finance socializing us.jpg

“Socializing finance” has become shorthand to describe the research that several scholars (including me) are engaged in related to social studies of finance. This stream of work involves: bringing finance into the realm of social studies; but also making the industry aware of other ways of thinking and doing, beyond their current status quo; this also often has an element of (social) interaction with the industry thrown in. All these are consistent with various meanings of ‘socializing’ and are much needed efforts.

But there is a flip side to this aspect. How critically aware are we that finance is also on a mission to socialize us – in the sense of influencing our thinking – even as we may attempt to ‘socialize’ it?

In my work (in collaboration most prominently with Sean Buchanan, Trish Ruebottom, Madeline Toubiana) and that of a few other scholars, this seems to be a theme too powerful and important to ignore.

Finance is indeed at work to socialize us – to influence our ways of thinking about it through various means. At the peak of the financial crisis, various categories of elite actors seemed bounded by these ways of thinking about the financial industry resulting in configurations of positions often in favor of status quo (see Riaz et al., 2011). More specifically, financial industry leadership may well see it as their task to defend the institutional framework in which the current version of their industry thrives; and accordingly work to ‘socialize’ the rest of us – all stakeholders- to accept their view of finance and its role in society as the ultimate one by claiming epistemic authority in this domain (see Riaz et al., 2016). Continue reading

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

Will U.S. Tech Jobs Turn All-Indian? The H1B Visa Dilemma

By Stephan Manning.

Skilled immigration is one of the most controversial topics in the current presidential election race as political scientist Ron Hira points out in his latest Conversation article. At the core of this debate are H1B visas which allow U.S. employers to sponsor the temporary recruitment of skilled workers from abroad, particularly in so-called STEM* professions. Currently, U.S. law permits 85,000 H1B visas to be issued every year. In theory, this visa program allows for labor market flexibility in response to domestic skill shortages. In practice, H1B visas have increasingly been used to employ skilled foreign workers for lower costs, primarily from India. While H1B visas have certainly helped create tech positions at home rather than offshore, Thousands of U.S. employees have been replaced in the process and forced to train those taking their jobs. Facing this dilemma, presidential candidates across the political spectrum have struggled to find convincing solutions. I discuss what’s behind the dilemma; why the solutions of presidential candidates fall short in addressing it; and what is needed to make the H1B debate more fruitful in today’s global competitive environment.

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To All Academics: Let’s Boycott Commercial Publishers!

By Stephan Manning and Keshav Krishnamurty.

In his new article “Putting the ‘Public’ Back into ‘Publication’”, Mike Valente uncovers the outrageous profit-making model of commercial publishers of academic journals. Publishing houses like Elsevier and Springer generate enormous profits without actually contributing anything to knowledge production. They neither produce content nor pay the ones who do. They do not even review papers, but instead delegate this task to voluntary academic editors and reviewers. Yet, publishers continue to charge $30 or more per paper download and $4,000 to $20,000 for annual journal subscriptions. Thanks to online distribution and reduced printing costs, publishers can turn 40% of their revenues into profit. Commercial publishing has not only hindered public access to academic knowledge, but has created high costs for university libraries and justified high student fees. So, why does nobody care to change this profit-making model, and what would it take to change it?

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The Enloe Strikes Back at the Phantom Menace of Business Militarization

By Keshav Krishnamurty.

UMass Boston was honored to host distinguished guest speaker Prof. Cynthia Enloe (Clark University) during the lunch session of the AIBNE Frontier Conference on October 23, 2015. Prof. Enloe is one of the most prominent and distinguished scholars in the world to study the complex intersections of feminism, women, the military, war, politics and the international economy.

After being introduced by Prof. David Levy (UMass Boston College of Management), Prof. Enloe spoke about how she spent a lot of time thinking about the field of militarism and the processes of militarization, the processes by which anything and anybody can be infused with militaristic ideas and depends for their well-being on militarization. These processes can occur at the macro-level and micro-level, from daily life to public policy. Her talk, she said, would be about the militarization of business, a process that happens in several different ways.

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The Force of Political Economy Awakens at UMass Boston

By Keshav Krishnamurty.

AIBNE Panel I

Two weeks ago, UMass Boston played host to the Academy of International Business (AIB) US-Northeast 2015 Frontier Conference themed “Bringing the Political Economy back in” (October 22-24), facilitating a broad discussion and engagement on the issue of Political Economy and International Business amongst leading academics from top universities across the world. The first highlight of this conference was the panel “Challenges to International Business Research: Bringing the Global Political Economy back in”, featuring panelists Mona Makhija (Fisher College of Business), John Cantwell (Rutgers University), Rajneesh Narula (University of Reading, UK) and Ravi Ramamurti (Northeastern University), with Suhaib Riaz (UMass Boston College of Management) as the panel moderator. This panel underlined the great importance of political economy perspectives and raised some fundamental issues for future research.

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