We share an interest in how ideas in management learning can originate from early thinkers and books. For instance, we are interested in how classic economic thinking has influenced management learning and practice. In our article, we elaborate and discuss how Joan Robinson – in interaction with a circle of other Cambridge economists – developed a new theory of the firm in imperfect competition. In her opinion, imperfect competition was the normal market situation. It could be a limited number of firms that represented the total supply of a consumer product like carbonated soft drinks.
Joan Violet Robinson was a member of an informal group of a younger generation of economists in Cambridge, UK. Through her first book, The Economics of Imperfect Competition, she actually became an innovator of new ideas and concepts. In this book, published in the wake of the Great Depression in the early 1930s, she explains new principles of how markets operate in different ways depending on the nature of the competition. By recognizing that some enterprises can affect prices and competition, this opened up for later, new thinking of how firms act and learn differently.
We were surprised by two things:
First, she became a transformer of earlier ideas of perfect competition into ideas of imperfect competition. It is remarkable that a young woman economist, without any formal position in the academy of Cambridge, could quickly synthetize new thinking of how markets are different.
Secondly, we noted that a younger generation of academics engaged collectively in critical and alternative theorizing. Robinson and her friend, the economist Richard F. Kahn, as well as other companions met regularly and discussed the strengths and weaknesses of each other’s arguments. We call this “epistemic interaction”. By this we understand mutual or reciprocal actions or influence in developing the grounds of knowledge and understanding among agents. In Greek, knowing and its possibility of understanding is episteme.
Through our discourse analysis of Robinson’s 1933-book and its emergence, we seek to explain our story beyond the perspective of a great economist finding new ideas by herself. Her book uncovers several important contributors; Robinson herself anchors her book in both established and new theorizing of firms and markets.
Joan Robinson points to the common existence of a limited number of firms with monopoly power over their offerings. Inspired by the 1930s reality as well as earlier writings, she offers new concepts, for example for exchange situations with only one buyer (monopsony). This is a situation where exploitation of labour can emerge, she points out. Robinson no doubt had a certain pedagogical style. She made many of the complicated economic ideas easier to understand by examples and metaphoric language. She claimed that the tool-users had been given “stones for bread” from the toolmakers (the economic thinkers). Still, she stressed that economics is one of the social sciences that study how society works.
From the circle of young economists’ debating in the 1930s, it is worth noting that firms and managers can be commonly acting within dissimilar or “imperfect” market conditions rather than principally “perfect” ones where firms are facing similar price mechanisms, often discussed in past economic literature. This critique and shift in understanding eventually opened up for management studies recognizing also fundamental differences in managerial knowledge, learning and strategizing. We think that more research on how earlier economic thinking has influenced management practice is a fruitful approach to the study of how management learning have developed through most of the 20th century up to our days. It is of general interest how new academic ideas come about.
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Johnson argues that modern growth-oriented economies consume resources at a rate faster than the Earth’s ecosystems can presently regenerate, threatening the sustainability of all life. Johnson elucidates how fundamentally new thinking is required to change business practices in ways that protect the Earth. As a solution, this article proposes that the tangible ecological principles that underpin Earth’s life-restorative natural ecosystems provide a more suitable language for materialising a sustainable human economy than the abstract language drawn from accounting and finance.
It’s no secret that high-performing high school athletes are offered college scholarships as a recruiting tactic, from sports varying from football, to swimming, to volleyball. With most every college student applying for and in need of financial aid, sometimes the scholarship stipend could secure a student’s acceptance, even if the school isn’t his or her top choice.
The National Collegiate Athletic Association is now allocating even more financial aid to athletes since 2015, that covers more than just tuition, room, and board–it can now cover the cost of transportation and other university fees. A recent study in the Journal of Sports Economics outlines these costs, and how athletes are positively swayed to accept the biggest scholarship offered. The article, “Full Cost-of-Attendance Scholarships and College Choice: Evidence From NCAA Football,” co-authored by John C. Bradbury and Joshua Pitts, is free to read for a limited time.
The abstract for their article is below:
In 2015, the National Collegiate Athletic Association Division I schools were permitted to cover the “full cost of attendance” as a part of athletic scholarships for the first time, which allowed schools to provide modest living stipends to its athletes. Differences in cost-of-attendance allotments across schools have the potential to affect the allocation of talent, with higher stipends attracting better student-athletes. Using recently published cost-of-attendance data, we estimate the impact of cost-of-attendance allowances on college football recruiting. Estimates reveal that cost-of-attendance scholarship allowances were positively associated with football recruiting quality immediately following their implementation, indicating that the modest differences in stipends swayed student-athletes’ college choice.
Reading the following quote from a leading bank, “We believe we have an affirmative responsibility to play an even bigger role in helping solve the economic, social and environmental challenges of the day” (JPMorgan Chase & Co., 2012), should make us curious about its sincerity. It is hard to find a bank website and not to read sentences like this introductory quotation. We seem to live in the era of corporate social responsibility, and to take responsibility is said to be an important cornerstone of a modern, ethical corporation.
However, do corporations really take full responsibility for their actions? Content analysis of presidents’ letters in the annual financial reports shows accounts as a rhetoric device directed to influence stakeholders in their responsibility judgment. Our results indicate that bank managers in the financial market crisis primarily use accounts which do not directly address responsibility.
This may inspire future research to have a closer look on account giving in the communication of companies if different layers of the responsibility pyramid are concerned (Carroll, 1991): economic, legal, moral responsibilities.
At first glance, the organizational form of major league and minor league baseball teams may appear straightforward–minor league teams provide training and experience for players, which provides major league teams with a strong recruitment pool. However, a recent paper published in the Journal of Sports Economicsby F. Andrew Hanssen, James W. Meehan Jr., and Thomas J. Miceli, entitled “Explaining Changes in Organizational Form: The Case of Professional Baseball,” the authors suggest that the relationship between major league and minor league baseball teams is more dynamic than previously thought.
The abstract for the paper:
In this article, we investigate changes over time in the organization of the relationship between Major League Baseball and minor league baseball teams. We develop a model in which a minor league team serves two functions: talent development and local entertainment. The model predicts different modes of organizing the relationship between majors and minors based on the value of these parameters. We then develop a discursive history. Consistent with the model’s predictions, we find that when the value of minor league baseball’s training function was low but the value of its entertainment function was high, major and minor league franchises operated independently, engaging in arms’-length transactions. However, as the training function became more important and the local entertainment function less important, formal agreements ceded control of minor league functions to major league franchises. Finally, as the value of local entertainment rose once again in the late 20th century, the two roles were split, with control of local functions accruing to local ownership and training functions to major league teams. This analysis helps shed light on factors that influence the boundaries of the firm.
It is not often that economics and comedy come together, but for professors looking to infuse their macroeconomics courses with comedic appeal, look no further than The Colbert Report. A recent article from The American Economistfrom author Gregory M. Randolph entitled “Laissez-Colbert: Teaching Introductory Macroeconomics with The Colbert Report”outlines how the Comedy Central show can be useful tool to engage students and teach lessons about macroeconomic principles, including GDP, supply and demand, and unemployment. The abstract for the paper:
The Colbert Report combines comedic entertainment and current events, two pedagogical sources that have the potential to increase student interest in classes and improve student learning. This article offers suggestions on the use of segments from The Colbert Report to teach introductory macroeconomics. Segments are included that relate to comparative advantage, supply and demand, externalities, GDP, unemployment, classical versus Keynesian theory and the Great Depression, fiscal policy and economic stimulus packages, monetary policy and the Federal Reserve, money, taxes, and foreign aid. Guidance is provided regarding the use of the clips in an introductory macroeconomics class.
The authors find that privately held firms owned by women were less likely than those owned by men to downsize their workforces during the Great Recession. Year-to-year employment reductions were as much as 29% smaller at women-owned firms, even after controlling for industry, size, and profitability. Using data that allow the authors to control for additional detailed firm and owner characteristics, they also find that women-owned firms operated with greater labor intensity after the previous recession and were less likely to hire temporary or leased workers. These patterns extend previous findings associating female business leadership with increased labor hoarding.
The authors revisit the long-running minimum wage–employment debate to assess new studies claiming that estimates produced by the panel data approach commonly used in recent minimum wage research are flawed by that approach’s failure to account for spatial heterogeneity. The new studies use research designs intended to control for this heterogeneity and conclude that minimum wages in the United States have not reduced employment. The authors explore the ability of the new research designs to isolate reliable identifying information, and they test the designs’ untested assumptions about the construction of better control groups. Their analysis reveals problems with the new research designs. Moreover, using methods that let the data identify the appropriate control groups, their results reaffirm the evidence of disemployment effects, with teen employment elasticities near −0.15. This evidence, they conclude, still shows that minimum wages pose a tradeoff of higher wages for some against job losses for others.