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

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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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Disney’s Magic: The Business of Organizing and Managing Culture

By David Levy.

As Stephan Manning commented in a recent blog post, many of us who attended the recent Academy of Management conference in Orlando, Florida, felt some of the discomfort of the fakeness of the place, the endless “have a magical day” greetings from overly perky staff (“castmembers”, in Disney’s Orwellian newspeak), the over-engineered physical environment of artificial beauty with an enormous carbon footprint (the steady stream of planes arriving, the acres of over-air conditioned buildings – but you save the earth if you hang up your towels!) Parallels with the TV series The Prisoner or the classic movie The Stepford Wives jump to mind (indeed in the book, the leader of the men’s club is a former Disney engineer).

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Can you imagine a world without Disney? Five reasons why some old corporate giants never die

By Stephan Manning.

Have you ever been to Disney World Orlando? Well, around 8,000 management scholars, including myself, just returned home from this rather curious place which hosted this year’s Academy of Management Annual Meeting, generating a series of satirical comments, including an anonymous ‘Letter to Minnie’. The theme of the conference was ‘Capitalism in Question’ which – as Crane and Matten rightly point out in their recent blog – was oddly matched with a site that symbolizes corporate capitalism in its ugly form – low-paid employees under continuous emotional stress, overpriced hotels and tours, marketing and merchandising overkill – combined with some other annoying features – lack of food options, long lines, constrained access to the outside world – that remind us of state socialism a la East Germany or Soviet Union rather than the ideal of a ‘free’ (capitalist) world. So how does Disney continue to attract visitors, including academics, year by year? Or more broadly speaking, how do certain old corporate giants, such as Disney, Coca Cola and McDonald’s, who share a bad reputation for their labor conditions and whose offerings are everything but natural, healthy and ecologically sustainable, continue to exist? Why is it that some old giants apparently never die, but rather monopolize large parts of our consumer economy? I can see at least five reasons why even our children and grandchildren will continue to be hugged by Minnie, Mickey and friends, while drinking Coke and downing a Cheeseburger.

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