Spring Quarter 2011

April 4

Ashley Mears, Boston University

Superstars in an Age of Global Cultural Production: Evidence from Fashion Week

Time and Location: (Co-hosted with WTO) Please note: Talk will take place from 12-1:15PM in Nano 232.

How do cultural workers become superstars in globalized culture industries? In the fashion modeling industry, globalization and technology have dramatically expanded the pool of candidates for modeling jobs, resulting in models’ shortened shelf lives, increased uncertainty, and clusters of candidates from shared national origins fueled by the global scouting industry. Based on fieldwork in the modeling industry, we observe newcomers and incumbents jockeying for opportunities of being booked for Fashion Week shows. Since status leaks among models and between clients, we expect models’ centrality in the global fashion network and the size of their national cohorts to increase their “staying power” on the catwalk, but only to a point for centrality. Once a threshold of centrality is reached, these cultural workers are more likely to “fall out” of fashion. We test these observations with a comprehensive network and longitudinal dataset of Fashion Week records reported over a ten-year period—21 fashion seasons—on Style.com and data from the Fashion Model Directory (FMD). We conclude with implications for careers in cultural production in a globalized economy. 



April 11

Anne Kovalainen, University of Turku

The ways to analyze gender and power – from hierarchies and positions to embedded practices

Gender permeates the economy in many ways. Economy and economic organizations in contemporary society are the new arenas for gender dynamics, gender relations and gender ordering to take place. Economic power is one of the most fundamental measures for gender equality. However, it is also the most difficult and elusive aspect of it, ranging from micro-economic levels or economic power within families and households to macro-economic levels or the use of formal power in transnational corporations, state organizations and global agencies. When looking at economic power and gender outside of the political power institutions, in corporations, the share of women is lower than that of men at all levels of the managerial and decision-making hierarchy. This is especially true in the highest positions in the corporations, where only a small minority of CEOs and board members are women despite equally high levels of competence and women’s higher level of education compared to men on a European/US scale. The same concerns also US corporations.

When analyzing corporation career patterns, it emerges that there is only a small number of women in line management positions that lead to the top – in particular, those with profit and loss or revenue-generating responsibilities. Explanations for these divisions range from a patriarchal gender system, where the argument relates most of the segregation to the patriarchy as prevailing stabilized system, to individual level explanations, where the argument goes that women are not trained for and offered middle-level line management positions that would prepare them for the top positions especially in male-dominated industries. Other explanations range from the equations of gender to biological essentialisms, to those which emphasize the processual nature of doing gender. 

We have analyzed gender and power both nationally with rather unique data set (Kotiranta, Kovalainen, Rouvinen 2007, 2008, 2010) and internationally (NIKK project 2009, 2010) with national comparable data from Nordic countries. With the corporate data from one country, Finland, we show how gender of the CEO matters, with the high correlation between gender of CEO and gender of board membership and company profitability, when other variables are held constant. In the Nordic data we analyze the changing relationships between gender and power positions in politics and in economy across the Nordic countries. In the talk, I will shortly discuss the key results in relation to the ways the different explanations look at the gender and power, with the aim of excavating ‘the shadow boxing’ (cf. Poutanen 2007), of the competing explanations based on differing epistemic assumptions. 


April 18

Seppo Poutanen, University of Turku

Epistemic Communities Facing a New Type of Agora? Centres of Science, Technology and Innovation as Defining the New Research Landscape in Finland

I analyze the question of what role and positions epistemic communities have in the agora, and more specifically in the new mediating organizations that are established at the interface of the state, businesses and universities. These new organizational structures embody the present politics of knowledge that reign in national science policy globally. The new organizational structures, as potentially new agoras, also epitomize several of the changes that have
taken place in the science and industry landscape of the past decades all over Europe and the world. I am interested in understanding how epistemic communities are situated vis-à-vis agora in knowledge production. The empirical example comes from Finland, where major new institutional reforms in science policy, the new strategic centres of science, technology and
innovations, have been implemented to create possibilities for new knowledge creation and new product and service development. These centres of science, technology and innovations (CSTIs) were originally planned as functioning agoras, open, simultaneous and joint platforms for the state, businesses, researchers and universities. I aim to show how the organizational structure and decision making processes adopted in the CSTIs have changed the original idea of agora, thus changing also the position of epistemic communities involved. 



April 25

Ross Bassett, North Carolina State University

The Many Avatars of Mahatma Gandhi: Gandhi as Engineer and Entrepreneur

Time and Location: (Co-hosted with WTO) Please note: Talk will take place from 12-1:15PM in Nano 232.

In 1928, Richard Gregg, an American associate of Mahatma Gandhi, wrote a book on his program of handspinning where he called called Gandhi “a great industrial engineer.” While scholars have written at length about Gandhi as a figure in the realms of politics, philosophy and religion, they have typically ignored his efforts in technology. This paper builds on the work of Susanne and Lloyd Rudolph to examine Gandhi as an engineer and entrepreneur—someone who disciplined himself, those around him and the world for effective operation. Gandhi the engineer suggests a relation to modern industrial society more ambiguous than commonly acknowledged. 



May 2

Bruce Carruthers, Northwestern University

An Economy of Promises: The Origins of Credit Rating in 19th-century America

Time and Location: Cohosted with Sociology, Mendenhall 101B at 12:30 with a light lunch at noon

Credit ratings offer quantified measures of risk which allow investors and lenders to assess the creditworthiness of debtors and trading partners. The failures of rating agencies figured prominently in the current financial crisis. Credit ratings originated in the U.S. during the 19th-century. Analyzing data from a sample of 247 Chicago dry goods firms from 1879, I examine how well early credit ratings could predict undesirable outcomes like failure, insolvency and bankruptcy. Results suggest that published ratings were unreliable and variably useful predictors of failure. I consider alternative uses of credit rating information that may explain its rapid spread, despite its predictive deficiencies, and show how these foreshadow rating agencies' recent problems

May 9

Kristian Kreiner, Copenhagen Business School

Architectural competitions – and what they may teach us about learning in stochastic worlds

Based on close empirical studies of architectural competitions, it can legitimately be suggested that winning such competitions is a stochastic event. Learning from stochastic events is problematic, and the implications drawn from the experience of success or failure are probably wrong. However, such pessimism on behalf of learning from experience is justified only when we assume that what we want to learn is how to win in the future. There may be other types of lessons from experience that validly can be gained, even from competitions with stochastic outcomes. Based on observations of actual competition behavior, and based on a simple simulation model of architectural competitions, I will present and analyze other domains of knowledge that are immune to – or even enabled by – the randomness of competition outcomes. Possible implications for competitive strategy and practice will be discussed. 



May 16

Georg Kruecken, German University of Administrative Science Speyer

The Managerial Turn in Higher Education? On the Interplay of Organizational and Occupational Change in German Academia

In a range of very different national systems, the university as an organization is currently transforming into an organizational actor, i.e. an integrated, goal-oriented, and competitive entity in which management and leadership play an ever more important role. In this, one can see a striking parallel to the inception and development of industrial management. Based on empirical data gathered from a sample that includes all German universities, we can give a fine-grained account of the managerial turn in higher education. What we can clearly see is that whole new categories of academic management positions have been created over the last years. Furthermore, within the non-academic staff we can see a profound restructuration. Lower-level positions like those for clerical work decreased, while higher-level positions in the administration increased. However, and in contrast to studies of countries, we do not observe a general shift from academic to non-academic positions. In addition to the statistical analysis of survey data and personnel data we conducted seventy in-depth interviews with heads of managerial units, in particular those being created over the last two decades, for example on quality control, technology transfer, and career service. In contrast to industrial management, the power of these middle managers vis-à-vis other actors in the organization is very limited. Although we clearly see a managerial turn in higher education, core characteristics of a professional organization whose basic processes are ultimately controlled by academics and not by managers have been retained. These findings call for further cross-sectoral and cross-national research. 



May 23

Anita Engels, Universität Hamburg

Corporate Greening – Greenwashing, partial adaptation or “deep” transformation?

Corporate greening has been observed over the past decades as a striking phenomenon in the business world: companies often do more to protect the environment or to reduce their environmental impacts than they are required to do by environmental regulation, even though these activities are costly and often do not pay off directly. This is considered to be a puzzle for organizational research, and scholars from various academic disciplines have been struggling with an analysis of the depth of this phenomenon, and with explaining the mechanisms that are driving the process. The paper will look at several competing theoretical frameworks both at the level of the corporate organization and at the societal level: institutional pressures and loose coupling, economic performance and cost effectiveness, ecological modernization, and the neo-marxist treadmill of production theory. The theoretical frameworks will be confronted with an overview of empirical evidence so far. The paper aims at showing that currently several processes of corporate greening take place, but that in spite of all the evidence for greening effects beyond green-washing, we are still far from an ecological transformation of the business world.