Sunday, September 30, 2012

Administrative Bloat and Institutional Power Structures

I have been struck recently by the relationship between the construction of administrative apparatus and its direct effects on the power relations among important stakeholders in an organization.  More importantly, I have noticed the way that manipulation of administrative structures can successfully change governance cultures from ones that are more collegial and transparent to ones that are more hierarchical and closed.  And most important, I would posit that these changes can be undertaken without changing the outward structure of institutional norms. I had thought this set of relationships were unique to the institutional transitions from Republic and Imperial organization in Rome, but I am beginning to think there is much to learn there.

 (Pix (c) Larry Catá Backer 20'12)

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Conflict, Competition and Reputation--Structuring Market Behavior Within Risk or Regulatory Models

"Maintaining a strong reputation is critical for a company’s sustained success. Yet, almost every day a new crisis makes the headlines. These developments indicate a fundamental misalignment between growing reputational risk and its management." (Daniel Diermeier, The Need For Reputation Management Capabilities, The European Business Review 2012)

 (Daniel Diermeier, The Need For Reputation Management Capabilities, The European Business Review 2012)

Business is a risk taking enterprise.  And most forms have lots of competitors, each of which is delighted in enhancing their own markets at the expense of their competitors.  All enterprises have stakeholders whose interests sometimes align and sometimes conflict with those of the enterprise.  Each can affect the reputation of the others.  The new arena of conflict and competition centers on what had been a business backwater--corporate social responsibility--and its increasing significance in the economic decision making of enterprises.  This can pit national law against international standards and corporate against international regulatory frameworks. (Backer, Larry Catá, Multinational Corporations, Transnational Law: The United Nation's Norms on the Responsibilities of Transnational Corporations as Harbinger of Corporate Responsibility in International Law. Columbia Human Rights Law Review, Vol. 37, 2006).  Nonetheless, the adverse effects of business activities on social, environmental or human rights interests of others is now an important component of business operation--and is assessed in part by its reputation. Still, there is a risk to a conflation of competition and conflict with reputation stress. Where reputation enhancement involves strategies that minimize risk taking, the result can be a move from a competitive to a regulatory/managed market environment.  That change in fundamental behavior approaches of enterprises can affect the nature and character of globalization in important ways. 

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Ruminations 41: On the Social Construction of Preservation and Transparency in the Digital Age

 “We believe the way to protect books is you hold them close, and the way you protect digital data is you give it away.

(Doug Emery, an independent database handler, quoted in Mark Schrope,  "Raiders of the Lost Text: What Secretes Lie in the World's Oldest Library?, The Washington Post  Magazine, Sept. 9, 2012)

(Pix from Digital Collections / Archives, Mid Continent Public Library)

Consider the social construction of the preservation of knowledge in a digital age.  Preservation veils a highly charged issue of social ordering beneath the technical language of the techniques by which preservation is achieved.  Yet a closer look at preservation at this moment, when technology itself challenges the unquestioned connection between preservation and the power of the commodification of knowledge within the vessels in which they were preserved (e.g., physically tangible objects, like books) to support hierarchical social structures.  To speak of preservation of knowledge, then, is to understand the structures for the preservation of social order.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Nichola Gutgold on "Women and The US Presidency: From Symbolic to Viable"

Nichola D. Gutgold is an associate professor of Communication Arts and Sciences at Penn State Lehigh Valley.   She is a global leader in the study of women's communication styles in male dominated fields. She currently serves as Associate Professor of Communication Arts at Pennsylvania State University.  Professor Gutgold is author of a number of important books in this field.  Her books include The Rhetoric of Supreme Court Women: From Obstacles to Options (Lexington Books 2012);  Almost Madam President: Why Hillary Clinton ‘won’ in 2008 (Lexington Books, June, 2009), Seen and Heard: The Women of Television News, (Lexington Books, 2008), and Paving the Way for Madam President (Lexington Books, 2006). With Molly Wertheimer she co-authored, Elizabeth Hanford Dole: Speaking from the Heart (Praeger Press, 2004).

 (Pix (c) Larry Catá Backer 2012))

She has been particularly interested lately in the rhetorical styles of women in politics.  She has just posted "Women and The US Presidency: From Symbolic to Viable" which I cross post here.

Monday, September 10, 2012

"Always Uphold and Fully Utilize the Unique Advantages of the Party" (始终坚持和充分发挥党的独特优势) : Xi Jinping (习近平) and the Institutionalization of Intra-Party Democracy With Chinese Characteristics in the Chinese Communist Party

The 18th National Congress of the Communist Party of China (simplified Chinese: 中国共产党第十八次全国代表大会; traditional Chinese: 中國共產黨第十八次全國代表大會 will be the next major Communist Party Congress in China, which will likely be held in the sutom of 2012 in the Great Hall of the People in Beijing. It is widely expected that  Xi Jinping (习近平) and Li Keqiang (李克強) will succeed Hu Jintao and Wen Jiabao as top Politburo Standing Committee members by October/November 2012, and take over the Presidency and Premiership in March 2013 at the National People's Congress.
It is not surprising, then, that Xi Jinping would make a major policy speech in advance of the Party Congress, one that would build on the theoretical lines developed by his predecessors from the foundational theory of the Chinese Communist Party and state and then seek to further develop these ideas. Xi Jinping did that in "remarks at the closing ceremony of a high-profile seminar attended by provincial and ministerial-level officials, ahead of the CPC's upcoming 18th National Congress."  Vice President stresses socialism with Chinese characteristics, Party building, Xinhua, July 24, 2012.  The speech, Always Uphold and Fully Utilize the Unique Advantages of the Party (始终坚持和充分发挥党的独特优势) was published in the  Qiushi Journal and remains unavailable in English.  A description was made available in English.  That article noted:
Xi said the cause of building socialism with Chinese characteristics is a developing undertaking which links the past and the future.

"We should adhere to the guidance of Deng Xiaoping's Theory and the important thought of the Three Represents, implemented the Scientific Outlook on Development, further emancipate the mind and firmly promote reform and opening-up," Xi said." (Ibid).
The central focus of the speech was on the institutional development of the Communist Party and of its role  in China. The speech is most significant le for the development of what is likely to be the animating statement on which policy will be developed--the Communist Party's "Five Advantages": theoretical advantage, political advantage, organizational advantage, and the advantage of close ties with the masses (回顾我们党的历史可以清楚地看到,在长期奋斗中党所形成的独特优势是全面的,包括理论 优势、政治优势、组织优势、制度优势和密切联系群众的优 势。).
This post seeks to make Xi Jinping's speech available to English speaking audiences.  It provides a partial translation of the Quishi Journal article focusing on its critical parts and summarizing the rest. A detailed analysis will be forthcoming.  I note, though, the strong connection between Deng Xiaoping's Four Cardinal Principles (Uphold the Four Cardinal Principles, March 30, 1979), the Three Represents (Sange Daibiao) and the Scientific Development and harmonious society principles that have each sought to add depth to Chinese constitutional theory. (e.g., Backer, Larry Catá, Party, People, Government, and State: On Constitutional Values and the Legitimacy of the Chinese State-Party Rule of Law System (January 12, 2012). Boston University International Law Journal, Vol. 30, 2012). My thanks to my research assistant Keren Wang (Penn State International Affairs MIA 2012 expected) for his translation.

The Consequences of Failures of "Engagement Transparency" and "Communicative Transparency"--An example from the University Sector

I am been working through the evolving conception of transparency.  Transparency is no longer merely a means of describing the discretionary choice of institutions to share information.  Nor is transparency only understood as a technique of post data harvesting utilization.  Transparency has both substantive and normative characteristics; it is an expression of power and of the means of managing relationships and behaviors within an institution and between an institution and its stakeholder.  (e.g., Backer, Larry Catá, Transparency and Business in International Law — Governance between Norm and Technique;  Backer, Larry Catá, Transparency and Business in International Environmental Law. Minnesota Journal of International Law (2012);  Backer, Larry Catá, From Moral Obligation to International Law: Disclosure Systems, Markets and the Regulation of Multinational Corporations. Georgetown Journal of International Law, Vol. 39, 2008). 

(Pix (c) Larry Catá Backer 2012)

The  evolving role and importance of transparency as norm and technique has reached all sorts of institutions--nor merely large enterprises and states, but also civil society actors and academic institutions. Particularly illustrative of the power of transparency and the consequences of failing to understand and deploy it in its engagement and communicative forms, is Penn State University.  Penn State has been engaged in a massive project of communicative transparency to outside stakeholders:  Progress at Penn State; and also a bit of communicative transparency among internal constituencies.  It is struggling with embedding engagement transparency systemically, still approaching this sort of transparency as an episodic, discretionary and top down derogation from standard operating procedure. The result, not surprising, is greater difficulty in managing the participation of important inside and outside stakeholders and more importantly, in affirming the legitimacy of its processes and decisions. The difficulties it is facing as it seeks to extract itself from a crisis precipitated by the arrest of a former employee for pedophilia suggests both the power of transparency in modern institutional behavior.  What follows is cross posted from the site I maintain for issues connected with my role as Chair of the Penn State University Faculty Senate.

Saturday, September 08, 2012

The Qatari Sovereign Wealth Fund and Sovereign Investing (SWF Activism Continued)

The principal focus of sovereign wealth fund inquiry tends to the more transparent funds, and those whose interests are geared toward portfolio investment. (e.g., Considering Fabio Bassan's New Book: The Law of Sovereign Wealth Funds). This is certainly an important project.  But sovereign investing through SWFs is also taking another turn, especially, it seems, by the less transparent (and harder to study) SWFs.  These may be moving aggressively toward another model of sovereign investing, one in which the conflation of state and private actors becomes more confused and where the lines between sovereign state, national sovereign, sovereign funds, private enterprise and public actors becomes more cloudy.

(Pix from Qatar in the spotlight over Glenstrata activism, Financial Times, July 1, 2012 ("Qatar's new-found activist approach to the $58bn merger of Xstrata and Glencore has further distanced Qatar Holding from its regional sovereign wealth fund peers and placed it firmly in the spotlight.") full story HERE)

This is nicely illustrated by recent activity of the Qatari SWF though Qatar Holdings LLC "a global investment house established in 2006, founded by the Qatar Investment Authority [which] invests internationally and locally in strategic private and public equity as well as in other direct investments." I have written about the Qatar Holdings more aggressive stance in the battle over control over Xstrata in a prior post.  (e.g., Sovereign Wealth Funds Get More Aggressive).  That battle continues.  This post includes  an update of that battle for control, and the Qatari role in  it (Clara Ferreira-Marques and Emma Farge, Glencore raises offer for Xstrata to salvage deal, Yahoo Finance (Sept. 7, 2012)) and a short assessment of its consequences.

Thursday, September 06, 2012

Sara Seck on the Possibilities and Limits of Extraterritoriality in a Corporate Social Resonsibility and Human Rights Context

Sara Seck is an Assistant Professor at the University of Western Ontario.  She has been wrestling with the issue of extra-territoriality in some interesting and thoughtful new ways.

This post considers the developmet of Professor Seck's thinking about extra territoriality at the intersection of the ideology of the law-state, of the insights of Third World Approaches to International Law (TWAIL) and the markets-based ideology of globalization. 

Sunday, September 02, 2012

Considering Fabio Bassan's New Book: The Law of Sovereign Wealth Funds

Though sovereign wealth funds no longer attract the attention they did before the Arab Spring and the American presidential elections distracted the media and political elites, they remain an important and increasingly significant actor in the evolution of economic globalization and its consequences for the role of states and non-state enterprises in economic markets.  See, e.g., Nigeria to start $1B sovereign wealth fund,, August 31, 2012 ("Nigerian authorities pushed for the creation of a sovereign wealth fund as a means to better save the billions of dollars the nation annually earns annual from oil revenues. Opaque budgeting and corruption sees much of the money siphoned away.").

But, despite the relative quiet, important work continues to be produced.  This post considers one of them, an important new book from Fabio Bassan, a professor in the faculty of economics at Roma Tre, and the founding director of the Sovereign Wealth Funds Centre. Fabio Bassan, The Law of Sovereign Wealth Funds ((Cheltenham, Eng.: Edward Elgar, 2011).  This post considers this work.