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Donald Frey, review - Gabriel Abend, Moral Background: An Inquiry into the History of Business Ethics (2014) | EH.net Review - August 2014
Princeton University Press, 2014. ix + 399 pp., ISBN: 978-0-691-15944-7. -- Donald E. Frey, Department of Economics, Wake Forest University, author of America’s Economic Moralists: A History of Rival Ethics and Economics (SUNY Press, 2009). -- Gabriel Abend argues that a range of cultural beliefs and thought patterns provide an influential “moral background” as context for the more obvious everyday morality. Most of his book looks at business ethics during the period from the 1850s through the 1930s through the lens of the moral background concept. (..) In my own work on economic moralists, something like a “moral background” appeared to be enlightening. My thesis was that economic moralities (yes, two competing moralities, just as Abend deals with two competing business ethics) drew support from alternative economic theories (again differing economic theories, just as Abend has different moral backgrounds). Perhaps economic theory is a much narrower kind of “moral background” than Abend envisions, but it is a reasonable proxy for a moral background. It is a distinct body of thought, often familiar — in one form or another — to much of the population. And economic theory can indeed support or undermine some kinds of moralities (for example, if economic outcomes are viewed as the efficient work of impersonal markets, moral concerns for equity are put on the defensive). I think Abend might have described a convincing moral foundation in Chapter 6, perhaps by linking the Standards school to antecedents such as Benjamin Franklin (briefly noted in Chapter 2), and to ideas that were abroad in economics. Abend, I think, has a good concept, and is at least partially successful.
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january 2015 by dunnettreader
Michael Hudson - Veblen’s Institutionalist Elaboration of Rent Theory - Working Paper No. 729 | Levy Economics Institute - August 2012
As the heirs to classical political economy and the German historical school, the American institutionalists retained rent theory and its corollary idea of unearned income. More than any other institutionalist, Thorstein Veblen emphasized the dynamics of banks financing real estate speculation and Wall Street maneuvering to organize monopolies and trusts. Yet despite the popularity of his writings with the reading public, his contribution has remained isolated from the academic mainstream, and he did not leave behind a “school.” Veblen criticized academic economists for having fallen subject to “trained incapacity” as a result of being turned into factotums to defend rentier interests. Business schools were painting an unrealistic happy-face picture of the economy, teaching financial techniques but leaving out of account the need to reform the economy’s practices and institutions. In emphasizing how financial “predation” was hijacking the economy’s technological potential, Veblen’s vision was as materialist and culturally broad as that of the Marxists, and as dismissive of the status quo. Technological innovation was reducing costs but breeding monopolies as the finance, insurance, and real estate (FIRE) sectors joined forces to create a financial symbiosis cemented by political-insider dealings—and a trivialization of economic theory as it seeks to avoid dealing with society’s failure to achieve its technological potential. The fruits of rising productivity were used to finance robber barons who had no better use of their wealth than to reduce great artworks to the status of ownership trophies and achieve leisure-class status by funding business schools and colleges to promote a self-congratulatory but deceptive portrayal of their wealth-grabbing behavior. -- Associated Program: Explorations in Theory and Empirical Analysis -- downloaded pdf to Note
paper  intellectual_history  19thC  20thC  Veblen  entre_deux_guerres  economic_history  economic_theory  institutional_economics  political_economy  classical_economics  neoclassical_economics  marginalists  German_historical_school  professionalization  academia  philanthropy  Gilded_Age  robber_barons  finance_capital  technology  investment  monopolies  speculative_finance  financial_system  financialization  antitrust  history-and-social_sciences  rentiers  rent-seeking  business-and-politics  business-norms  busisness-ethics  business_schools  downloaded  EF-add 
october 2014 by dunnettreader

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