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Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Copyright © 2007, Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Welcome to issue 2 of Volume 3 of critical perspectives on international business. In this first general issue of 2007 we present a diverse range of contributions which question business and academic conceptions of issues concerning international business in the contemporary world. Included in this issue are three academic refereed papers, the first focused on the growing inequalities arising from globalisation and how these are accommodated, the second tracing the globalization of Starbucks and the third questioning the notion of “Brazilian culture” as presented in Brazilian literature on organizational culture. In addition to these papers, we include an innovative piece made up of responses from members of the journal’s Editorial Advisory Board stimulated by the circulation of War on Want’s Fashion Victims report published in December 2006. The issue concludes with a review of a book on Transnational Corporations.
In the first paper, “Globalization, Inequalities and the ‘Polanyi Problem’” Martyna Sliwa adopts the methodological approach of using literary fiction to examine the nature and impact of globalization with specific consideration of the mechanisms that lead to the perpetuation and reinforcement of the disparity of wealth of nations and individuals in society. Through a reading of Aldous Huxley’s classic novel, Brave New World, Sliwa provides illustrations of social and organisational processes that guarantee the sustainability and cohesion of societies based on inequality and fragmentation. In particular, Sliwa adopts the metaphor of soma, the drug that ensures stability in Huxley’s Brave New World, to explore a range of social and organisational processes that work to prevent social instability and conflict. She begins by providing a review of discussions of globalisation and inequality in the International Business literature before elaborating on the nature of the “Polanyi problem” in contemporary advanced societies. The use of literary fiction to analyse phenomena in management and organisation is then considered and the author’s choice of the Huxley’s novel is explained. The notion of soma is then used to explore the three processes that according to Sliwa work to ensure stability and cohesion in a world of inequality: firstly, the promotion of conspicuous consumption; secondly, the emphasis on individualism exercised through identification with group norms; and, finally, the de-intellectualization of society. In this way, Sliwa offers an original approach to addressing the Polanyi problem and contributes to the debates on the consequences of globalization.
Like Sliwa, Ann Rippin also draws on a literary text, but one of business history rather than fiction. In the second paper “Space, place and the colonies: re-reading the Starbucks’ story”, Rippin explores the globalisation of a business organisation from a number of perspectives through a close reading of Howard Schultz’s book Pour Your Heart Into It: How Starbucks Built a Company One Cup at a Time. Firstly, Rippin draws parallels between Schultz’s account of the global growth of Starbucks and those provided by Spanish conquistadors about the colonisation of the new world. She then goes on to consider the themes evident in the mythical tale of the mermaid Melusina, an image adopted in the company’s logo, and how these are played out in the physical expansion of Starbucks. The romance of space strategy employed by Starbucks is then considered with Rippin suggesting that the homogenised Starbucks outlets be conceived as the bland spaces that Marc Augé refers to as non-places. Finally, using Henri Lefebvre’s notion of spatial practice, Rippin explores the strategies of a well-known Starbucks anti-globalisation activist, Bill Talen, to show how the colonisation process of global organisations can be can be resisted. Rippin’s analysis of the global expansion of Starbucks provides fresh insights into the colonisation strategies of contemporary business activity.
Rafael Alcadipani and João Marcelo Crubellate adopt a postmodern epistemological perspective to discuss culture in the third paper “The Notion of Brazilian Organizational Culture: Questionable generalizations and vague concepts”. In doing so, they provide a valuable analysis of Brazilian literature about national and organizational culture. They begin with an elaboration of, and explanation for, the postmodern epistemological perspective that they adopt, before providing a review of the main organisational studies of Brazilian culture published in Brazilian periodicals and congresses between 1991 and 2000. Alcadipani and Crubellate then proceed to analyse these studies from a postmodern perspective. Despite the vast social, cultural and ethnic diversity evident in Brazil, the authors find that the majority of studies of Brazilian organizational culture fail to take into account this heterogeneity. Their analysis then leads them to question the notion of “Brazilian culture” as well as the relevance of Geert Hofstede’s contribution to understanding national culture. Finally, their findings lead them to criticise mainstream International Business for its simplistic view of culture.
The final paper of this issue is an innovative attempt to open up debate on the inequalities evident in the global apparel market. In “A discussion of Fashion Victims: Various responses to the report by War on Want” we present the reactions of a number of CPoIB Editorial Advisory Board (EAB) members to the UK Non-governmental Organization (NGO) War on Want’s recently published report, Fashion Victims. This report presents accounts of how three of the top suppliers of low cost fashion clothing in the UK; namely, Primark, Asda and Tesco; source garments from factories in Bangladesh in which audit procedures designed to ensure decent wages and conditions are woefully inadequate. According to War on Want, the true cost of the competition in the UK fashion retail market is the continuing poverty of the workers in low-cost production zones.
The diversity of the EAB members is reflected in the responses submitted and the range of issues that they address. From strategies for development to bring about the end of excessive exploitation from Grazia Ietto-Gillies, and a call for the use of information and communication technologies to provide links between the Fair Trade organisations and workers in the developing world from Margaret Grieco, to Phil Graham’s response from the perspective of a de-industrialised Australia and Martin Parker’s reflections on the opening of a new Primark store in Stoke-on-Trent, UK. Issues of low cost goods and social identity are raised by Heather Höpfl’s reflections on second-hand clothing and charity shops, in response to which Grieco reminds us of the role of eBay as a recycler of goods, and Steve Linstead notes the impact of eBay on charity shops. Brendan McSweeney’s contribution elaborates on the various types of fashion clothing before considering whether outsourcing to cheap labour countries is undesirable, and if boycotting sellers of clothing sourced from sweatshops is advisable. A consensus emerges around the importance of labour movements and regulatory structure rather than consumer boycotts. Together these contributions provide a fertile foundation for the development of detailed critiques of contemporary international business practices as well as the norms of consumers in the developed world.
Finally, this issue concludes with a review of Grazia Ietto-Gillies’s book, Transnational Corporations and International Production: Concepts, Theories and Effects, by Joanne Roberts. This book takes an economic perspective on international business by focusing on the transnational corporation and foreign direct investment. Early and modern approaches to internationalisation are thoroughly reviewed as are the effects of international production on performance, labour, trade and the balance of payments.
We hope that readers will find this issue to be interesting and thought provoking. Our thanks go to all contributors, including authors, reviewers, and the EAB members. We encourage readers to contribute to the journal. We welcome academic paper submission, viewpoint pieces, reviews and review essays and as well as suggestions and proposals for special issues. We look forward to seeing readers and contributors at a number of conferences in 2007 including the Fifth Critical Management Studies Conference in July at Manchester Business School, UK.
George Cairns, Joanne Roberts