Winter Quarter 2010

March 8

Haldor Byrkjeflot, Project Manager, Stein Rokkan Centre for Social Studies (with Paul du Gay, IOA, Copenhagen Business School)

Bureaucracy; an idea whose time has come (again)

Even now, in the aftermath of a remarkable economic and regime crisis, whose anti-bureaucratic roots are not too difficult to discern or trace, bureaucracy is still a word that appears to be unnameable to positive political coding. Bureaucracy has been treated as an anachronism. This comes partly as a consequence of the success of the New Public Management Movement, and its association with an epochalist frame of thinking, leading to organizational amnesia and an emphasis on learning fast and forgetting even faster. We focus attention upon the stabilizing functions of public bureaux, and examine some of the consequences attendant upon attempts to make them more ‘flexible’ and ‘transparent’, in the name of various epochal imperatives of ‘change’ or ‘modernization’. In so doing, we seek to evidence the ways in which what are represented as anachronistic practices in government may actually provide political life with particular required ‘constituting’ qualities. While such practices have been negatively coded by reformers as ‘conservative’, we hope to show that their very conservatism may serve positive political purposes, not the least of which is in the constitution of what we call ‘responsible’ (as opposed to simply ‘responsive’) government. Finally, through a critical interrogation of certain key tropes of contemporary programmes of modernization and reform, specifically ‘flexibility’ and ‘transparency’, we indicate how these programs are blind to the critical role of bureaucracy in setting the standards that enable governmental institutions to act in a flexible and transparent way.  

March 1

Silviya Svejenova, Associate Professor, Strategy and Entrepreneurship, Business Policy Department, ESADE Business School (with Marcel Planellas and Luis Vives ESADE Business School)

An Individual Business Model in the Making: A Chef’s Quest for Creative Freedom

This article extends the study of business models by exploring a type rarely considered – the individual business model – and investigates the set of activities, organizing, and strategic resources individuals employ to create and capture value while pursuing their interests and motivations. Insights are drawn from an in-depth longitudinal inductive case study to examine the triggers, mechanisms and changes in the evolving individual business model developed by chef and gastronomic innovator Ferran Adrià. His quest for creative freedom is identified as the main trigger across four periods of business model evolution, and creative responses as the principal mechanism driving business model changes. Period-specific triggers – such as the quest for authenticity, recognition and influence - and mechanisms including alertness, intent, codification, decoupling and balancing core and periphery - are specified as business model changes are outlined. Distinction is made between the creation, capture, sharing and slippage of value, and implications are proposed for the development of individual business models by professionals and other ‘creatives’.  

February 22

David Stark, Arthur Lehman Professor of Sociology & International Affairs, and Chair, Dept of Sociology, Columbia University (with Daniel Beunza, Dept of Management, London School of Economics)

Backing out, Locking in: Financial Models and the Social Dynamics of Arbitrage Disasters

Time and Location: Seminar joint with STS and WTO, Terman 217, 12:00 noon

This study analyzes the opportunities and dangers created by financial models. Through ethnographic observations in the derivatives trading room of a major investment bank, we found that traders use models in reverse to look out for possible errors in their financial estimates. We refer to this practice as reflexive modeling. The strength of reflexive modeling resides in leveraging the cognitive independence among dispersed, anonymous actors. But as our analysis demonstrates, it can also give rise to cognitive interdependence. When enough traders overlook a key issue, their positions send the wrong message to the rest of the market. The resulting lock-in leads to arbitrage disasters. Our analysis challenges behavioral finance by locating the root of systemic risk in the calculative tools used by the actors, rather than in their individual biases and limitations. 

February 8

Michael Dahl, Associate Professor, Department of Business Studies, Aalborg University

Organizational Change and Employee Stress

This paper analyses the relationship between core organizational change and the health of employees involved to illuminate the potential negative outcomes of change. It relates to the ongoing debate on how employees react and respond to organization change. I hypothesize that change increases the risk of stress of employees and test this using unusually comprehensive panel data on all stress-related medicine prescriptions for 92,952 employees in 1,588 organizations. I find that the risk of stress increases significantly for employees in organizations that change, especially for broad changes of core organizational structures. This illustrates that organizational changes are associated with significant risks of organizational destabilization and employee health problems. 

February 1

No seminar

January 25

Daniel Kleinman, Professor of Sociology, University of Wisconsin (with Jacob Habinek, University of Wisconsin)

Codes of Commerce: The Uses of Business Rhetoric in the American Academy, 1960-2000

Time and Location: Seminar joint with STS, 12:00 noon, Encina East 207, CISAC's conference room

The commercialization of university research has provoked sharp debate over the implications of university-industry relationships (UIRs) for core academic ideals. In the absence of careful historical analysis, however, this debate has has often rested on unexamined assumptions concerning the actual trajectory of corporate influence over higher education. Seeking to place the debate over UIRs on a firmer historical footing, this paper makes a first pass at understanding change and continuity in the incursion of the world of industry into American academia. Examining trends in the discursive patterns found within two nationally prominent, administratively-oriented periodicals during the years 1960-2000, the paper yields several important conclusions. First, contrary to commonly held assumptions, commercially oriented talk has never been entirely absent from academic concerns, but was instead clearly manifest as early as the 1960s and 1970s. Second, the 1980s were characterized not by the emergence of commercial talk, but by the consolidation of commercial discourse, which became increasingly distinct from purely administrative concerns. Third, by the 1990s, commercial talk within the academy had become more fully doxic, or institutionalized, despite sporadic challenges. This analysis suggests that commercial discourse has been more trenchant or deeply rooted than previous analysis has presumed.  

January 11

James Evans, Assistant Professor of Sociology, University of Chicago

The Google Effect on Knowledge and Culture : By broadening individual reach, the Internet narrows global understanding

Time and Location: Seminar joint with STS and WTO, 3:00 pm CERAS 527

Internet optimists and evangelists laud the Internet’s power to extend knowledge and culture globally, but how does it influence the ideas it unleashes? And is the promise of expanding knowledge and culture the same for individuals and for society or are the two mutually exclusive? I argue that the relationship between individual Internet search, collaborative practices and their combination into global patterns holds the key to an essential irony: As the Internet broadens individual reach it diminishes the global pool of knowledge and culture from which individuals draw. I demonstrate this with the case of global science and scholarship using a database of 34 million articles, their citations (1945 to 2005), and online availability (1998 to 2005). Even as the Internet influences scientists and humanists to become more interdisciplinary and cosmopolitan, they converge on the same central hubs of research, which narrows the global span of knowledge and culture considered in subsequent generations.