Political, Legal, Technological Environments

Chapter two covers three key environments, political, legal, and technological environments. The beginning case is Google in China one of the major MNCs that is currently battling with Facebook, Microsoft, Amazon, and others for dominance in our newly flattened world driven in part by technological forces. This beginning case highlights the linkage and tensions that changes in technology are having on the political environment. The Google in China Case is the face-off between MNCs providing open access to global information and the need of the totalitarian Peoples Republic of China (PRC) (40-41) need to maintain control over its population. This is not a new challenge for China or for that matter, any political state including the U.S. as she currently struggles with her NSA secrecy issues.

I was teaching at the University Of International Business And Economics (Beijing) in January 1989 when my students and workers began to demonstrate for a more open society. The Chinese government could not stop the news from getting in and out due the fax machines that had recently been brought in by MNCs recently opened offices in the country. On Jung 4, 1989 the Tiananmen Square killing took place and my wife and I were finally able to leave Beijing one week later for Hong Kong after having crossed Tiananmen Avenue where the tank-man incident happened. We returned in September to continue teaching international management but under an even more restricted political environment – marshal law. In addition to the American culture, the Chinese culture will be a special focus we will pursue in the class.

The political environment begins exploring the ideologies of individualism, collectivism, and socialism. These are key ideas that need careful definition and their dynamics explored. We are all individuals living collectively and how these are conceived and managed is important – beginning first with our Self, within a family, in work organizations, in an economic/political community, as a nation, and finally in our global community. So, the concept under investigation is, How does the individual co-exist harmoniously, creatively, and productively in a collective? The objective of this lecturette is to identify these levels needing analysis and begin developing our investigative approach.

Our text begins discussing individualism at the economic/political level, which is defined as those adhering “to the philosophy that people should be free to pursue economic and political endeavor without constraint” (37).  This is a continuation of the global economic systems of market, command, and mixed economies that were presented in Chapter 1 (17-18). The premise our authors state here is that individualism is, “synonymous with capitalism and is connected with the free-market society, which encourages diversity and competition, compounded with private ownership, to stimulate productivity.” It is argued that “private property is more successful, progressive, and productive than communal property due to increased incentives for maintenance and focus on care for individually owned property”. Luthans and Doh (2012: 37) go on to further support this logic by stating,

The idea of working in a group requires less energy per person to achieve the same goal, but an individual will work as hard as he or she has to in order to survive in a competitive environment. Simply following the status quo will stunt progress, while competing will increase creativity and progress.

This logic needs to be examined especially given the flimsy research support Luthans and Doh present, in sighting that “team performance is negatively influenced by those who consider themselves individualistic: however competition stimulates motivation and encourages increased efforts to achieve goals” (37). When we look at the source used to support this statement, it is a general textbook and we are not given the exact page to check on it (See p. 592, Ch 2 FN 2). What also causes concern is these authors comment that many if not most countries after the fall of the USSR in 1989 are moving “toward the idea of the betterment of society is related to the level of freedom individuals have in pursuing economic goals, along with general individual freedom and self-expression without government constraint” (37). British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher (1979-1990) is suggested as the “true pioneer in the movement toward a capitalistic society” – these authors suggest it has to be obvious that the capitalistic economic system is the true system.

Next compare how Luthans and Doh present their understanding of collectivism, which they suggest “views the needs and goals of society at large as more important than individual desires” (38). Again they cite a general text book for this idea, which should not impress the critical reader. Their next reference is to Plato suggesting that “individual rights should be sacrificed and property should be commonly owned.” This is followed with references to “classless society” and “national socialism” – Fascism with an extended list of its integral parts ending with the suggestion that collectivism is “opposed to economic and political liberalism” (38). After reading these two poorly presented treatments, which side of these ideologies do these authors support and why? What are your thoughts on this?

If this is not sufficient to determine the ideological bias of our authors, we can dissect next their treatment of socialism, where they state socialism is all about government ownership not interested in profits as the ultimate goal. This does not square with Deng Xiaoping, China’s Premier in 1980, crafting China’s modernization drive saying, “It doesn’t matter if a cat is black or white as long as she catches mice.” Luthans and Doh next bring to the reader’s attention the communist states of China, North Korea, Cuba, and the more moderate but still frightening reddish idea to most Americans of democratic socialism. The next level of fright introduced is with the names of Karl Marx, Fredrick Engels, and Vladimir Lenin – just the mentioning these names and most Americans go into a frenzy not having a realistic idea of their thought. Consider this Wikipedia definition of communism and what part of it do we not accept:

Communism is a revolutionary socialist movement to create a classless, moneyless[1][2] and stateless social order structured upon common ownership of the means of production, as well as a social, political and economic ideology that aims at the establishment of this social order.

We can identify the ideological preferences of our authors and need to begin defending our own. Okay, let’s lighten up and consult these serious authors’ explanation of socialism.

Marx did not believe that governments should own businesses but that its workers should. However, Luthans and Doh did get this right “in a capitalist society only a few would benefit and it would probably be at the expense of others in the form of not paying wages due to laborers” (38). Most do not realize that Marx’s magnum opus Das Kapital: Critique of Political Economy, is a critique written about capitalism, not on Communism. One ought to expect this would be required reading in B-Schools – but it is not, not even at the doctoral level, again why not? What Marx says about capitalism in 1843 is in many ways the same then and now in 2013. So, let’s consider how David Harvey approaches the latest crisis of capitalism with his presentation of a Marxian 7 variable model to investigate moving to a deeper understanding of evolving global corporate capitalism. Marx suggests here that anything is possible, if we only “get off our asses” and to do this requires us to be radical, which he defines as “grasping the root of the problem which is us.” For discussion what does this mean – “the root of the problem is us”?

The next section of the text addresses democracy and totalitarian political systems. Luthans and Doh (2012: 40) define democracy as a “system in which the government is controlled by the citizens either directly or through elections.” They go on to state this interesting point, “every citizen should be involved in decision-making processes” because this “ensures individual freedom since anyone is eligible may have a voice in the choices made.” Okay, but then this U.S.  democratic system charted the corporation to be ruled by a select class of individuals, which excluded the worker from actively participating in decisions affecting his/her economic well being. How can the any system define itself as democratic when it excludes most individuals form directly participating in making decisions about his or her work? It cannot and I suggest it is just as totalitarian as “systems in which there is only one reprehensive party which exhibits control over every facet of political and human life” (40). The rest of the description of democracy the authors serve up like “once elected, the representative is held accountable to the electorate for his or her actions and this ultimately limits governmental power” is laughable!

In this Pinky Show clip, defending globalization, Pinky points a finger directly at B-School faculty members and their students, who are described as fishes that cannot see the muddy waters of capitalism they swim in. This leads to economist Richard Wolff’s interview with Bill Moyers on Fighting for Economic Justice and Fair Wages, which examines capitalism’s behavior and its stance against economic justice for its workers. Wolff tells Moyers that the disparity in income between the owners of capital and their workers is “getting wider and wider between those for whom capitalism continues to deliver the goods by all means, [and] a growing majority in this society facing harder and harder times, and that’s what provokes some of us to begin indentifying it as capitalism’s systemic risk issue.” A full list of Moyers interviews with Wolff is available at BillMoyers.com. Prepare to digest these thoughts for class discussion and journal entry.

So, what is your political economic ideology. How do you describe my political economic ideology? A more challenging question for me is how did I come by this viewpoint and why? Answering this takes getting off my ass and grasping the root of the problem, which Marx says is in US – what does this mean?

References

Jones, Gareth R. and George, Jennifer M. (2009). Contemporary Management, 6th Ed. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill Irwin.

Wolff, Richard. (2009).  Capitalism Hits the Fan: The Global Economic Meltdown and What to Do About It, Northanpton, Mass., Oliver Press.

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