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The Ethics of Competition

How a Competitive Society is Good for All

Christoph Lütge

The concept of competition is frequently regarded with ambivalence. While its champions wholeheartedly endorse it for reasons of efficiency, critics believe competition undermines ethics. They denounce competitive thinking, call for modesty in profit-making, and rail against economisation. However, Christoph Lütge argues convincingly that intensified competition can work in favour of ethical goals, and that many criticisms of competition stem from an inadequate understanding of how modern societies and economies function. The author illustrates his view with examples from ecology, healthcare and education, and concludes with a call for more entrepreneurial spirit.
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Salla Sissonen

As an afterthought to the chapters in the book, this epilogue plays with the idea of looking to the future by briefly examining what is happening at earlier stages of education today. By understanding some of the objectives of the Finnish national core curriculum 2014 and taking a look at the practices at school, we can imagine the optimal skillsets that a now 12-year-old child will have when they enter higher education in a few years’ time. Optimally, we will be faced with a person with a developed understanding of how they learn best, a creative learner and problem-solver with skills in meaningful use of technology. This chapter argues that it does not mean the efficient future learners will not require teaching; on the contrary, we will continue to need competent pedagogical thinkers to guide the students on their individual paths to lifelong-learning.

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Higher Education in the Digital Age

Moving Academia Online

Edited by Annika Zorn, Jeff Haywood and Jean-Michel Glachant

The European higher education sector is moving online, but to what extent? Are the digital disruptions seen in other sectors of relevance for both academics and management in higher education? How far are we from fully seizing the opportunities that an online transition could offer? This insightful book presents a broad perspective on existing academic practices, and discusses how and where the move online has been successful, and the lessons that can be learned.
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Annika Zorn, Jeff Haywood and Jean-Michel Glachant

The introduction discusses how the digital trend that has substantially disrupted other sectors is transforming the higher education sector or even posing a threat to academic institutions’ core business. What could be the rationale for higher education institutions to incorporate a comprehensive digital agenda into their core strategy? Outlining the main developments over the past years in the areas of education, research and knowledge sharing, the authors argue that academic institutions are still far from grasping the full potential of what the digital offers to the academy. Not only does the adoption of online and open practices allow universities to respond to major challenges facing them today, but a digital vision also allows higher education institutions to re-define their role in society. Subsequently, the authors outline how the examples discussed in the book, stemming from a variety of academic contexts, will enrich our understanding of what ‘moving online’ might entail and how to make it work in practice.

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Alexander Styhre

Chapter 4 discusses the governance of markets, and more specifically the finance market and the finance industry. Using two cases, the securities market and the commodities trade market, the chapter examines how the finance industry has persistently lobbied to accomplish the de-regulation that has benefitted its interests. In the case of the expansion of the securities market, externalities in terms of predatory lending by thinly capitalized, late market entrants resulted in overbearing systemic risks, leading to the global finance industry collapse in 2008. In the case of commodities trade, to date less attended to by media and commentators, major finance industry actors are simultaneously granted the licence to both trade with commodities and issue financial instruments that enable speculation on commodities price volatility. Such licences are most likely to result in systemic risks whose cost are carried by third parties, in many cases some of the world’s poorest people suffering from soaring food prices when commodities become subject to speculation. The chapter concludes that the finance industry generates net economic welfare only when being monitored by state agencies and transnational agencies, and when its right to conduct business upstream is limited.

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Alexander Styhre

Chapter 1 introduces governance as a legal issue, ultimately grounded in the philosophy of right, a branch of philosophy. Early legal theorists such as Hugo Grotius sketched versions of what is today called governance, and there is today a line of demarcation drawn between liberal economies of the Anglo-American type, and continental and Scandinavian embedded economies wherein the state is recognized as a major agent influencing the economic system. The chapter discusses the differences between John Locke’s liberal view of, e.g., ownership rights, and George Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel’s philosophy of right, developed 14 decades later. Whereas Locke emphasizes a “minimal theory” of ownership rights, serving as the foundation for liberalism, Hegel too recognizes ownership as a fundamental right but locates ownership rights within the realm of the state. Consequently, the intellectual roots of liberal economies and embedded economies share certain assumptions but also diverge regarding assumptions about the role of the state. The second half of the chapter examines the creation of the Berle–Means firm, a key legal vehicle in the liberal economy and in its governance.

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Alexander Styhre

Chapter 2 examines the components of the shareholder primacy governance model that has dominated corporate governance scholarship since the early 1980s. Tracing the roots of the economic theory that justifies shareholder governance to the cold war era and what has been called cold war rationality, the chapter stresses how rational choice theory has informed corporate governance through, e.g., agency theory and other economic theories stipulating instrumental rationality as a privileged analytical model. The cold war heritage has been criticized for overstating experimental data and for ignoring rational responses from experimental subjects, resulting in an overtly negative view of human decision making capacities. When transferring such analytical models to, e.g., corporate governance affairs, salaried managers, e.g., are at risk of being portrayed in unfavourable ways to justify the market for management control, in turn resulting in shareholder primacy governance. The chapter concludes that the efficiency criterion that economic theory stipulates is too one-dimensional to serve its purpose and calls for novel analytical models to better assist corporate governance activities.

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Alexander Styhre

Chapter 3 examines the governance of the university sector, and stresses how, e.g., the uses of “big data” and algorithms in what is referred to as algorithm governance is now commonplace to commensurate heterogeneous entities, a process integral to market making. The chapter discusses “the politics of measuring,” now pervading all spheres of social life, resulting in new metrics being constitutive of agency. Using the specific case of credit rating on the basis of so-called FICO-scores, determining degrees of creditworthiness in American society, the politics of measuring is today an ongoing and ceaseless control mechanism. The second half of the chapter examines university ranking, another case of measurement to determine the status and position of higher education institutions. The chapter concludes that contemporary university governance is riddled with problems and inconsistencies, not least the problem of handling reactivity, agents’ rent-seeking work within existing governance models.

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Alexander Styhre

This chapter introduces the concept of governance as a key term when examining the current economic situation, including growing economic inequality. In order to understand such an economic and social phenomenon, analytical terms that bridge public companies, state-controlled agencies, and transnational regulators need to be introduced. The chapter introduces and critically discusses key terms in the governance literature, including corporate governance, transnational governance, and related terms such as accountability.

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Alexander Styhre