Low Interest Rates and Business Investments : Update August 2017

Low Interest Rates and Business Investments : Update August 2017

 

From  Explaining Low Investment Spending

USINVEST

globalinvest

 

Please see my earlier posts.

Business Investments and Low Interest Rates

Mergers and Acquisitions – Long Term Trends and Waves

The Decline in Long Term Real Interest Rates

Short term Thinking in Investment Decisions of Businesses and Financial Markets

Low Interest Rates and Monetary Policy Effectiveness

Low Interest Rates and Banks’ Profitability : Update July 2017

Low Interest Rates and Banks Profitability: Update – December 2016

 

Since my earlier posts on this subject there has been several new studies published highlighting weakness in business investments as one of the cause of slower economic growth and lower interest rates.

Other significant factors impacting interest rates are demographic changes, and slower economic growth.

I argue that there is mutual (circular) causality in weak business investment, slower economic growth, and lower interest rates which reinforce each other.

 

Decreased competition, increased concentration, corporate savings glut, share buybacks, paying dividends are also identified as factors.

Number of public companies have decreased significantly in USA since 1996 due to M&A activity.   See the data below.

Increased Mergers/Acquisitions, Increased Concentration, Decreased Competition, Decreased Number of Public Companies, Share buybacks, and Dividend Payouts are multiple perspectives of same problem.

 

From The Incredible Shrinking Universe of Stocks

The Causes and Consequences of Fewer U.S. Equities

USNUMUSSTAT

 

Key sources of Research:

The Low Level of Global Real Interest Rates

Remarks by
Stanley Fischer
Vice Chairman
Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System

at the
Conference to Celebrate Arminio Fraga’s 60 Years
Casa das Garcas, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

July 31, 2017

The Low Level of Global Real Interest Rates

 

 

INVESTMENT-LESS GROWTH: AN EMPIRICAL INVESTIGATION

German Gutierrez Thomas Philippon

Working Paper 22897

NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138

December 2016

 

INVESTMENT-LESS GROWTH: AN EMPIRICAL INVESTIGATION

 

 

Explaining Low Investment Spending

The NBER Digest
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

February 2017

Explaining Low Investment Spending

 

 

The Secular Stagnation of Investment?

Callum Jones and Thomas Philippon

December 2016

 

The Secular Stagnation of Investment?

 

 

Is there an investment gap in advanced economies? If so, why?

By Robin Dottling, German Gutierrez and Thomas Philippon

 

Is there an investment gap in advanced economies? If so, why?

 

 

The Disappointing Recovery of Output after 2009

JOHN G. FERNALD ROBERT E. HALL

JAMES H. STOCK MARK W. WATSON

May 2, 2017

The Disappointing Recovery of Output after 2009

 

 

Declining Competition and Investment in the U.S.

German Gutierrez and Thomas Philippon

NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

July 2017

 

Declining Competition and Investment in the U.S

 

 

Real Interest Rates Over the Long Run : Decline and convergence since the 1980s

Kei-Mu Yi   Jing Zhang

ECONOMIC POLICY PAPER 16-10 SEPTEMBER 2016

FEDERAL RESERVE BANK of MINNEAPOLIS

Real Interest Rates over the Long Run Decline and convergence since the 1980s, due significantly to factors causing lower investment demand

 

 

Understanding global trends in long-run real interest rates

Kei-Mu Yi and Jing Zhang

Economic Perspectives, Vol. 41, No. 2, 2017
Chicago Fed Reserve Bank

 

Understanding Global Trends in Long-run Real Interest Rates

 

 

Weakness in Investment Growth: Causes, Implications and Policy Responses

CAMA Working Paper 19/2017 March 2017

M. Ayhan Kose

Franziska Ohnsorge

Lei Sandy Ye

Ergys Islamaj

 

Weakness in Investment Growth: Causes, Implications and Policy Responses

 

 

Are US Industries Becoming More Concentrated?

Gustavo Grullon, Yelena Larkin and Roni Michaely

October 2016

 

Are US Industries Becoming More Concentrated?

 

 

Why Is Global Business Investment So Weak? Some Insights from Advanced Economies

 

Robert Fay, Justin-Damien Guénette, Martin Leduc and Louis Morel,

International Economic Analysis Department

Bank of Canada Review Spring 2017

 

Why Is Global Business Investment So Weak? Some Insights from Advanced Economies

 

 

What Is Behind the Weakness in Global Investment?

by Maxime Leboeuf and Bob Fay

2016

Bank of Canada

 

What Is Behind the Weakness in Global Investment?

 A Structural Interpretation of the Recent Weakness in Business Investment

by Russell Barnett and Rhys Mendes

 The Corporate Saving Glut in the Aftermath of the Global Financial Crisis

 

Gruber, Joseph W., and Steven B. Kamin

International Finance Discussion Papers
Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System
Number 1150 October 2015

 

The Corporate Saving Glut in the Aftermath of the Global Financial Crisis

 

 

The Incredible Shrinking Universe of Stocks

The Causes and Consequences of Fewer U.S. Equities

March 22, 2017

GLOBAL FINANCIAL STRATEGIES

http://www.credit-suisse.com

 

The Incredible Shrinking Universe of Stocks The Causes and Consequences of Fewer U.S. Equities

 

 

They Just Get Bigger: How Corporate Mergers Strangle the Economy

Jordan Brennan

2017 February 19

They Just Get Bigger: How Corporate Mergers Strangle the Economy

 

 

Rising Corporate Concentration, Declining Trade Union Power, and the Growing Income Gap: American Prosperity in Historical Perspective

Jordan Brennan

March 2016

 

Rising Corporate Concentration, Declining Trade Union Power, and the Growing Income Gap: American Prosperity in Historical Perspective

Short term Thinking in Investment Decisions of Businesses and Financial Markets

Short term Thinking in Investment Decisions of Businesses and Financial Markets

 

When companies buyback shares and pay dividends rather than investing in new capacity, it leads to low economic growth and low aggregate demand.

Central Banks respond by cutting interest rates.  Yet Businesses do not invest in new capacity.

Many studies attribute this to short term thinking dominant in corporate investment decisions.  Pressures from shareholders push corporate managers to be short term oriented.

Many economists and thinkers have criticized this recently as advanced economies are suffering from anemic growth.

Larry Summers has invoked Secular Stagnation.  He says one of the reason for Secular Stagnation is short term thinking.

Andy Haldane of Bank of England has criticized short term thinking as it prevents investments and causes low economic growth.

Key Terms:

  • Quarterly Capitalism
  • Secular Stagnation
  • Short Term Thinking
  • Low Economic Growth
  • Business Investments
  • Real Interest Rates
  • Monetary Policy
  • Income and Wealth Inequality
  • Aggregate Demand
  • Productive Capacity
  • Productivity growth
  • Long Term Investments
  • Share Buybacks
  • Dividends
  • Corporate Cash Pools

 

Capitalism for the Long Term

The near meltdown of the financial system and the ensuing Great Recession have been, and will remain, the defining issue for the current generation of executives. Now that the worst seems to be behind us, it’s tempting to feel deep relief—and a strong desire to return to the comfort of business as usual. But that is simply not an option. In the past three years we’ve already seen a dramatic acceleration in the shifting balance of power between the developed West and the emerging East, a rise in populist politics and social stresses in a number of countries, and significant strains on global governance systems. As the fallout from the crisis continues, we’re likely to see increased geopolitical rivalries, new international security challenges, and rising tensions from trade, migration, and resource competition. For business leaders, however, the most consequential outcome of the crisis is the challenge to capitalism itself.

That challenge did not just arise in the wake of the Great Recession. Recall that trust in business hit historically low levels more than a decade ago. But the crisis and the surge in public antagonism it unleashed have exacerbated the friction between business and society. On top of anxiety about persistent problems such as rising income inequality, we now confront understandable anger over high unemployment, spiraling budget deficits, and a host of other issues. Governments feel pressure to reach ever deeper inside businesses to exert control and prevent another system-shattering event.

My goal here is not to offer yet another assessment of the actions policymakers have taken or will take as they try to help restart global growth. The audience I want to engage is my fellow business leaders. After all, much of what went awry before and after the crisis stemmed from failures of governance, decision making, and leadership within companies. These are failures we can and should address ourselves.

In an ongoing effort that started 18 months ago, I’ve met with more than 400 business and government leaders across the globe. Those conversations have reinforced my strong sense that, despite a certain amount of frustration on each side, the two groups share the belief that capitalism has been and can continue to be the greatest engine of prosperity ever devised—and that we will need it to be at the top of its job-creating, wealth-generating game in the years to come. At the same time, there is growing concern that if the fundamental issues revealed in the crisis remain unaddressed and the system fails again, the social contract between the capitalist system and the citizenry may truly rupture, with unpredictable but severely damaging results.

Most important, the dialogue has clarified for me the nature of the deep reform that I believe business must lead—nothing less than a shift from what I call quarterly capitalism to what might be referred to as long-term capitalism. (For a rough definition of “long term,” think of the time required to invest in and build a profitable new business, which McKinsey research suggests is at least five to seven years.) This shift is not just about persistently thinking and acting with a next-generation view—although that’s a key part of it. It’s about rewiring the fundamental ways we govern, manage, and lead corporations. It’s also about changing how we view business’s value and its role in society.

There are three essential elements of the shift. First, business and finance must jettison their short-term orientation and revamp incentives and structures in order to focus their organizations on the long term. Second, executives must infuse their organizations with the perspective that serving the interests of all major stakeholders—employees, suppliers, customers, creditors, communities, the environment—is not at odds with the goal of maximizing corporate value; on the contrary, it’s essential to achieving that goal. Third, public companies must cure the ills stemming from dispersed and disengaged ownership by bolstering boards’ ability to govern like owners.

When making major decisions, Asians typically think in terms of at least 10 to 15 years. In the U.S. and Europe, nearsightedness is the norm.

None of these ideas, or the specific proposals that follow, are new. What is new is the urgency of the challenge. Business leaders today face a choice: We can reform capitalism, or we can let capitalism be reformed for us, through political measures and the pressures of an angry public. The good news is that the reforms will not only increase trust in the system; they will also strengthen the system itself. They will unleash the innovation needed to tackle the world’s grand challenges, pave the way for a new era of shared prosperity, and restore public faith in business.

1. Fight the Tyranny of Short-Termism

As a Canadian who for 25 years has counseled business, public sector, and nonprofit leaders across the globe (I’ve lived in Toronto, Sydney, Seoul, Shanghai, and now London), I’ve had a privileged glimpse into different societies’ values and how leaders in various cultures think. In my view, the most striking difference between East and West is the time frame leaders consider when making major decisions. Asians typically think in terms of at least 10 to 15 years. For example, in my discussions with the South Korean president Lee Myung-bak shortly after his election in 2008, he asked us to help come up with a 60-year view of his country’s future (though we settled for producing a study called National Vision 2020.) In the U.S. and Europe, nearsightedness is the norm. I believe that having a long-term perspective is the competitive advantage of many Asian economies and businesses today.

Myopia plagues Western institutions in every sector. In business, the mania over quarterly earnings consumes extraordinary amounts of senior time and attention. Average CEO tenure has dropped from 10 to six years since 1995, even as the complexity and scale of firms have grown. In politics, democracies lurch from election to election, with candidates proffering dubious short-term panaceas while letting long-term woes in areas such as economic competitiveness, health, and education fester. Even philanthropy often exhibits a fetish for the short term and the new, with grantees expected to become self-sustaining in just a few years.

Lost in the frenzy is the notion that long-term thinking is essential for long-term success. Consider Toyota, whose journey to world-class manufacturing excellence was years in the making. Throughout the 1950s and 1960s it endured low to nonexistent sales in the U.S.—and it even stopped exporting altogether for one bleak four-year period—before finally emerging in the following decades as a global leader. Think of Hyundai, which experienced quality problems in the late 1990s but made a comeback by reengineering its cars for long-term value—a strategy exemplified by its unprecedented introduction, in 1999, of a 10-year car warranty. That radical move, viewed by some observers as a formula for disaster, helped Hyundai quadruple U.S. sales in three years and paved the way for its surprising entry into the luxury market.

To be sure, long-term perspectives can be found in the West as well. For example, in 1985, in the face of fierce Japanese competition, Intel famously decided to abandon its core business, memory chips, and focus on the then-emerging business of microprocessors. This “wrenching” decision was “nearly inconceivable” at the time, says Andy Grove, who was then the company’s president. Yet by making it, Intel emerged in a few years on top of a new multi-billion-dollar industry. Apple represents another case in point. The iPod, released in 2001, sold just 400,000 units in its first year, during which Apple’s share price fell by roughly 25%. But the board took the long view. By late 2009 the company had sold 220 million iPods—and revolutionized the music business.

It’s fair to say, however, that such stories are countercultural. In the 1970s the average holding period for U.S. equities was about seven years; now it’s more like seven months. According to a recent paper by Andrew Haldane, of the Bank of England, such churning has made markets far more volatile and produced yawning gaps between corporations’ market price and their actual value. Then there are the “hyperspeed” traders (some of whom hold stocks for only a few seconds), who now account for 70% of all U.S. equities trading, by one estimate. In response to these trends, executives must do a better job of filtering input, and should give more weight to the views of investors with a longer-term, buy-and-hold orientation.

If they don’t, short-term capital will beget short-term management through a natural chain of incentives and influence. If CEOs miss their quarterly earnings targets, some big investors agitate for their removal. As a result, CEOs and their top teams work overtime to meet those targets. The unintended upshot is that they manage for only a small portion of their firm’s value. When McKinsey’s finance experts deconstruct the value expectations embedded in share prices, we typically find that 70% to 90% of a company’s value is related to cash flows expected three or more years out. If the vast majority of most firms’ value depends on results more than three years from now, but management is preoccupied with what’s reportable three months from now, then capitalism has a problem.

Roughly 70% of all U.S. equities trading is now done by “hyperspeed” traders—some of whom hold stocks for only a few seconds.

Some rightly resist playing this game. Unilever, Coca-Cola, and Ford, to name just a few, have stopped issuing earnings guidance altogether. Google never did. IBM has created five-year road maps to encourage investors to focus more on whether it will reach its long-term earnings targets than on whether it exceeds or misses this quarter’s target by a few pennies. “I can easily make my numbers by cutting SG&A or R&D, but then we wouldn’t get the innovations we need,” IBM’s CEO, Sam Palmisano, told us recently. Mark Wiseman, executive vice president at the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board, advocates investing “for the next quarter century,” not the next quarter. And Warren Buffett has quipped that his ideal holding period is “forever.” Still, these remain admirable exceptions.

To break free of the tyranny of short-termism, we must start with those who provide capital. Taken together, pension funds, insurance companies, mutual funds, and sovereign wealth funds hold $65 trillion, or roughly 35% of the world’s financial assets. If these players focus too much attention on the short term, capitalism as a whole will, too.

In theory they shouldn’t, because the beneficiaries of these funds have an obvious interest in long-term value creation. But although today’s standard practices arose from the desire to have a defensible, measurable approach to portfolio management, they have ended up encouraging shortsightedness. Fund trustees, often advised by investment consultants, assess their money managers’ performance relative to benchmark indices and offer only short-term contracts. Those managers’ compensation is linked to the amount of assets they manage, which typically rises when short-term performance is strong. Not surprisingly, then, money managers focus on such performance—and pass this emphasis along to the companies in which they invest. And so it goes, on down the line.

Only 45% of those surveyed in the U.S. and the UK expressed trust in business. This stands in stark contrast to developing countries: For example, the figure is 61% in China, 70% in India, and 81% in Brazil.

As the stewardship advocate Simon Wong points out, under the current system pension funds deem an asset manager who returns 10% to have underperformed if the relevant benchmark index rises by 12%. Would it be unthinkable for institutional investors instead to live with absolute gains on the (perfectly healthy) order of 10%—especially if they like the approach that delivered those gains—and review performance every three or five years, instead of dropping the 10-percenter? Might these big funds set targets for the number of holdings and rates of turnover, at least within the “fundamental investing” portion of their portfolios, and more aggressively monitor those targets? More radically, might they end the practice of holding thousands of stocks and achieve the benefits of diversification with fewer than a hundred—thereby increasing their capacity to effectively engage with the businesses they own and improve long-term performance? Finally, could institutional investors beef up their internal skills and staff to better execute such an agenda? These are the kinds of questions we need to address if we want to align capital’s interests more closely with capitalism’s.

2. Serve Stakeholders, Enrich Shareholders

The second imperative for renewing capitalism is disseminating the idea that serving stakeholders is essential to maximizing corporate value. Too often these aims are presented as being in tension: You’re either a champion of shareholder value or you’re a fan of the stakeholders. This is a false choice.

The inspiration for shareholder-value maximization, an idea that took hold in the 1970s and 1980s, was reasonable: Without some overarching financial goal with which to guide and gauge a firm’s performance, critics feared, managers could divert corporate resources to serve their own interests rather than the owners’. In fact, in the absence of concrete targets, management might become an exercise in politics and stakeholder engagement an excuse for inefficiency. Although this thinking was quickly caricatured in popular culture as the doctrine of “greed is good,” and was further tarnished by some companies’ destructive practices in its name, in truth there was never any inherent tension between creating value and serving the interests of employees, suppliers, customers, creditors, communities, and the environment. Indeed, thoughtful advocates of value maximization have always insisted that it is long-term value that has to be maximized.

Capitalism’s founding philosopher voiced an even bolder aspiration. “All the members of human society stand in need of each others assistance, and are likewise exposed to mutual injuries,” Adam Smith wrote in his 1759 work, The Theory of Moral Sentiments. “The wise and virtuous man,” he added, “is at all times willing that his own private interest should be sacrificed to the public interest,” should circumstances so demand.

Smith’s insight into the profound interdependence between business and society, and how that interdependence relates to long-term value creation, still reverberates. In 2008 and again in 2010, McKinsey surveyed nearly 2,000 executives and investors; more than 75% said that environmental, social, and governance (ESG) initiatives create corporate value in the long term. Companies that bring a real stakeholder perspective into corporate strategy can generate tangible value even sooner. (See the sidebar “Who’s Getting It Right?”)

Creating direct business value, however, is not the only or even the strongest argument for taking a societal perspective. Capitalism depends on public trust for its legitimacy and its very survival. According to the Edelman public relations agency’s just-released 2011 Trust Barometer, trust in business in the U.S. and the UK (although up from mid-crisis record lows) is only in the vicinity of 45%. This stands in stark contrast to developing countries: For example, the figure is 61% in China, 70% in India, and 81% in Brazil. The picture is equally bleak for individual corporations in the Anglo-American world, “which saw their trust rankings drop again last year to near-crisis lows,” says Richard Edelman.

How can business leaders restore the public’s trust? Many Western executives find that nothing in their careers has prepared them for this new challenge. Lee Scott, Walmart’s former CEO, has been refreshingly candid about arriving in the top job with a serious blind spot. He was plenty busy minding the store, he says, and had little feel for the need to engage as a statesman with groups that expected something more from the world’s largest company. Fortunately, Scott was a fast learner, and Walmart has become a leader in environmental and health care issues.

Tomorrow’s CEOs will have to be, in Joseph Nye’s apt phrase, “tri-sector athletes”: able and experienced in business, government, and the social sector. But the pervading mind-set gets in the way of building those leadership and management muscles. “Analysts and investors are focused on the short term,” one executive told me recently. “They believe social initiatives don’t create value in the near term.” In other words, although a large majority of executives believe that social initiatives create value in the long term, they don’t act on this belief, out of fear that financial markets might frown. Getting capital more aligned with capitalism should help businesses enrich shareholders by better serving stakeholders.

3. Act Like You Own the Place

As the financial sector’s troubles vividly exposed, when ownership is broadly fragmented, no one acts like he’s in charge. Boards, as they currently operate, don’t begin to serve as a sufficient proxy. All the Devils Are Here, by Bethany McLean and Joe Nocera, describes how little awareness Merrill Lynch’s board had of the firm’s soaring exposure to subprime mortgage instruments until it was too late. “I actually don’t think risk management failed,” Larry Fink, the CEO of the investment firm BlackRock, said during a 2009 debate about the future of capitalism, sponsored by the Financial Times. “I think corporate governance failed, because…the boards didn’t ask the right questions.”

What McKinsey has learned from studying successful family-owned companies suggests a way forward: The most effective ownership structure tends to combine some exposure in the public markets (for the discipline and capital access that exposure helps provide) with a significant, committed, long-term owner. Most large public companies, however, have extremely dispersed ownership, and boards rarely perform the single-owner-proxy role. As a result, CEOs too often listen to the investors (and members of the media) who make the most noise. Unfortunately, those parties tend to be the most nearsighted ones. And so the tyranny of the short term is reinforced.

The answer is to renew corporate governance by rooting it in committed owners and by giving those owners effective mechanisms with which to influence management. We call this ownership-based governance, and it requires three things:

Just 43% of the nonexecutive directors of public companies believe they significantly influence strategy. For this to change, board members must devote much more time to their roles.

More-effective boards.

In the absence of a dominant shareholder (and many times when there is one), the board must represent a firm’s owners and serve as the agent of long-term value creation. Even among family firms, the executives of the top-performing companies wield their influence through the board. But only 43% of the nonexecutive directors of public companies believe they significantly influence strategy. For this to change, board members must devote much more time to their roles. A government-commissioned review of the governance of British banks last year recommended an enormous increase in the time required of nonexecutive directors of banks—from the current average, between 12 and 20 days annually, to between 30 and 36 days annually. What’s especially needed is an increase in the informal time board members spend with investors and executives. The nonexecutive board directors of companies owned by private equity firms spend 54 days a year, on average, attending to the company’s business, and 70% of that time consists of informal meetings and conversations. Four to five days a month obviously give a board member much greater understanding and impact than the three days a quarter (of which two may be spent in transit) devoted by the typical board member of a public company.

Boards also need much more relevant experience. Industry knowledge—which four of five nonexecutive directors of big companies lack—helps boards identify immediate opportunities and reduce risk. Contextual knowledge about the development path of an industry—for example, whether the industry is facing consolidation, disruption from new technologies, or increased regulation—is highly valuable, too. Such insight is often obtained from experience with other industries that have undergone a similar evolution.

In addition, boards need more-effective committee structures—obtainable through, for example, the establishment of a strategy committee or of dedicated committees for large business units. Directors also need the resources to allow them to form independent views on strategy, risk, and performance (perhaps by having a small analytical staff that reports only to them). This agenda implies a certain professionalization of nonexecutive directorships and a more meaningful strategic partnership between boards and top management. It may not please some executive teams accustomed to boards they can easily “manage.” But given the failures of governance to date, it is a necessary change.

More-sensible CEO pay.

An important task of governance is setting executive compensation. Although 70% of board directors say that pay should be tied more closely to performance, CEO pay is too often structured to reward a leader simply for having made it to the top, not for what he or she does once there. Meanwhile, polls show that the disconnect between pay and performance is contributing to the decline in public esteem for business.

Companies should create real risk for executives.Some experts privately suggest mandating that new executives invest a year’s salary in the company.

CEOs and other executives should be paid to act like owners. Once upon a time we thought that stock options would achieve this result, but stock-option- based compensation schemes have largely incentivized the wrong behavior. When short-dated, options lead to a focus on meeting quarterly earnings estimates; even when long-dated (those that vest after three years or more), they can reward managers for simply surfing industry- or economy-wide trends (although reviewing performance against an appropriate peer index can help minimize free rides). Moreover, few compensation schemes carry consequences for failure—something that became clear during the financial crisis, when many of the leaders of failed institutions retired as wealthy people.

There will never be a one-size-fits-all solution to this complex issue, but companies should push for change in three key areas:

• They should link compensation to the fundamental drivers of long-term value, such as innovation and efficiency, not just to share price.

• They should extend the time frame for executive evaluations—for example, using rolling three-year performance evaluations, or requiring five-year plans and tracking performance relative to plan. This would, of course, require an effective board that is engaged in strategy formation.

• They should create real downside risk for executives, perhaps by requiring them to put some skin in the game. Some experts we’ve surveyed have privately suggested mandating that new executives invest a year’s salary in the company.

Redefined shareholder “democracy.”

The huge increase in equity churn in recent decades has spawned an anomaly of governance: At any annual meeting, a large number of those voting may soon no longer be shareholders. The advent of high-frequency trading will only worsen this trend. High churn rates, short holding periods, and vote-buying practices may mean the demise of the “one share, one vote” principle of governance, at least in some circumstances. Indeed, many large, top-performing companies, such as Google, have never adhered to it. Maybe it’s time for new rules that would give greater weight to long-term owners, like the rule in some French companies that gives two votes to shares held longer than a year. Or maybe it would make sense to assign voting rights based on the average turnover of an investor’s portfolio. If we want capitalism to focus on the long term, updating our notions of shareholder democracy in such ways will soon seem less like heresy and more like common sense.

While I remain convinced that capitalism is the economic system best suited to advancing the human condition, I’m equally persuaded that it must be renewed, both to deal with the stresses and volatility ahead and to restore business’s standing as a force for good, worthy of the public’s trust. The deficiencies of the quarterly capitalism of the past few decades were not deficiencies in capitalism itself—just in that particular variant. By rebuilding capitalism for the long term, we can make it stronger, more resilient, more equitable, and better able to deliver the sustainable growth the world needs. The three imperatives outlined above can be a start along this path and, I hope, a way to launch the conversation; others will have their own ideas to add.

The kind of deep-seated, systemic changes I’m calling for can be achieved only if boards, business executives, and investors around the world take responsibility for bettering the system they lead. Such changes will not be easy; they are bound to encounter resistance, and business leaders today have more than enough to do just to keep their companies running well. We must make the effort regardless. If capitalism emerges from the crisis vibrant and renewed, future generations will thank us. But if we merely paper over the cracks and return to our precrisis views, we will not want to read what the historians of the future will write. The time to reflect—and to act—is now.

 

Please see my other related posts.

Business Investments and Low Interest Rates

Mergers and Acquisitions – Long Term Trends and Waves

 

 

Key sources of Research:

Secular stagnation and low investment: Breaking the vicious cycle—a discussion paper

McKinsey

http://www.mckinsey.com/global-themes/europe/secular-stagnation-and-low-investment-breaking-the-vicious-cycle

Case Still Out on Whether Corporate Short-Termism Is a Problem

Larry Summers

http://larrysummers.com/2017/02/09/case-still-out-on-whether-corporate-short-termism-is-a-problem/

Where companies with a long-term view outperform their peers

McKinsey

http://www.mckinsey.com/global-themes/long-term-capitalism/where-companies-with-a-long-term-view-outperform-their-peers

How short-term thinking hampers long-term economic growth

FT

https://www.ft.com/content/8c868a98-b821-11e4-b6a5-00144feab7de

Anthony Hilton: Short-term thinking hits nations as a whole, not just big business

http://www.standard.co.uk/comment/comment/anthony-hilton-short-term-thinking-hits-nations-as-a-whole-not-just-big-business-10427294.html

Short-termism in business: causes, mechanisms and consequences

EY Poland Report

http://www.ey.com/Publication/vwLUAssets/EY_Poland_Report/$FILE/Short-termism_raport_EY.pdf

Overcoming the Barriers to Long-term Thinking in Financial Markets

Ruth Curran and Alice Chapple
Forum for the Future

https://www.forumforthefuture.org/sites/default/files/project/downloads/long-term-thinking-fpf-report-july-11.pdf

Understanding Short-Termism: Questions and Consequences

http://rooseveltinstitute.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/Understanding-Short-Termism.pdf

Ending Short-Termism : An Investment Agenda for Growth

http://rooseveltinstitute.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/Ending-Short-Termism.pdf

The Short Long

Speech by
Andrew G Haldane, Executive Director, Financial Stability, and Richard Davies

Brussels May 2011

http://www.bankofengland.co.uk/archive/Documents/historicpubs/speeches/2011/speech495.pdf

Capitalism for the Long Term

Dominic Barton

From the March 2011 Issue

https://hbr.org/2011/03/capitalism-for-the-long-term

Quarterly capitalism: The pervasive effects of short-termism and austerity

https://currentlyunderdevelopment.wordpress.com/2016/05/10/quarterly-capitalism-the-pervasive-effects-of-short-termism-and-austerity/

Is Short-Term Behavior Jeopardizing the Future Prosperity of Business?

http://www.wlrk.com/docs/IsShortTermBehaviorJeopardizingTheFutureProsperityOfBusiness_CEOStrategicimplications.pdf

Andrew G Haldane: The short long

Speech by Mr Andrew Haldane, Executive Director, Financial Stability, and Mr Richard
Davies, Economist, Financial Institutions Division, Bank of England,
at the 29th Société
Universitaire Européene de Recherches Financières Colloquium,
Brussels, 11 May 2011

http://www.bis.org/review/r110511e.pdf

THE UNEASY CASE FOR FAVORING LONG-TERM SHAREHOLDERS

Jesse M. Fried

https://dash.harvard.edu/bitstream/handle/1/17985223/Fried_795.pdf?sequence=1

The fringe economic theory that might get traction in the 2016 campaign

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2015/03/02/the-fringe-economic-theory-that-might-get-traction-in-the-2016-campaign/?utm_term=.932bc0b97758

FCLT Global:  Focusing Capital on the Long Term

Publications

http://www.fcltglobal.org/insights/publications

Finally, Evidence That Managing for the Long Term Pays Off

Dominic Barton

James Manyika

Sarah Keohane Williamson

February 07, 2017 UPDATED February 09, 2017

https://hbr.org/2017/02/finally-proof-that-managing-for-the-long-term-pays-off

Focusing Capital on the Long Term

Dominic Barton

Mark Wiseman

From the January–February 2014 Issue

Is Corporate Short-Termism Really a Problem? The Jury’s Still Out

Lawrence H. Summers

February 16, 2017

Yes, Short-Termism Really Is a Problem

Roger L. Martin

October 09, 2015

Long-Termism or Lemons

The Role of Public Policy in Promoting Long-Term Investments

By Marc Jarsulic, Brendan V. Duke, and Michael Madowitz October 2015

Center for American Progress

https://cdn.americanprogress.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/21060054/LongTermism-reportB.pdf

 

Overcoming Short-termism: A Call for A More Responsible Approach to Investment and Business Management

https://corpgov.law.harvard.edu/2009/09/11/overcoming-short-termism-a-call-for-a-more-responsible-approach-to-investment-and-business-management/

 

 

Focusing capital on the Long Term

Jean-Hugues Monier – Senior Parter – McKinsey & Company

Princeton University – November 2016

http://jrc.princeton.edu/sites/jrc/files/jean-hugues_j._monier_slides_final.pdf

Hierarchy Theory in Biology, Ecology and Evolution

Hierarchy Theory in Biology, Ecology and Evolution

 

I have always been intrigued by multi-level thinking whether it is in organizations, biology, ecology, and evolutionary theory.

  • Plant – Division – Corporate – Industry – Macro-economy
  • Molecules – Organelles – Cells – Tissue – Organs – Whole body
  • Organism – Populations – Communities – Ecosystem –  Bio-Sphere

 

How does human body forms from Molecules?  Is it all evolutionary?  or is there a role for Vitalism?

How to integrate decision making in organizations at multi levels?  From Corporate level to Plant Level.

How does an Individual fits in Groups, Communities, Society, and Ecosystem?

What is the role of fractals thinking in Evolutionary Biology?

 

A SUMMARY OF THE PRINCIPLES OF HIERARCHY THEORY

The Hierarchy theory is a dialect of general systems theory. It has emerged as part of a movement toward a general science of complexity. Rooted in the work of economist, Herbert Simon, chemist, Ilya Prigogine, and psychologist, Jean Piaget, hierarchy theory focuses upon levels of organization and issues of scale. There is significant emphasis upon the observer in the system.

Hierarchies occur in social systems, biological structures, and in the biological taxonomies. Since scholars and laypersons use hierarchy and hierarchical concepts commonly, it would seem reasonable to have a theory of hierarchies. Hierarchy theory uses a relatively small set of principles to keep track of the complex structure and a behavior of systems with multiple levels. A set of definitions and principles follows immediately:

Hierarchy: in mathematical terms, it is a partially ordered set. In less austere terms, a hierarchy is a collection of parts with ordered asymmetric relationships inside a whole. That is to say, upper levels are above lower levels, and the relationship upwards is asymmetric with the relationships downwards.

Hierarchical levels: levels are populated by entities whose properties characterize the level in question. A given entity may belong to any number of levels, depending on the criteria used to link levels above and below. For example, an individual human being may be a member of the level i) human, ii) primate, iii) organism or iv) host of a parasite, depending on the relationship of the level in question to those above and below.

Level of organization: this type of level fits into its hierarchy by virtue of set of definitions that lock the level in question to those above and below. For example, a biological population level is an aggregate of entities from the organism level of organization, but it is only so by definition. There is no particular scale involved in the population level of organization, in that some organisms are larger than some populations, as in the case of skin parasites.

Level of observation: this type of level fits into its hierarchy by virtue of relative scaling considerations. For example, the host of a skin parasite represents the context for the population of parasites; it is a landscape, even though the host may be seen as belonging to a level of organization, organism, that is lower than the collection of parasites, a population.

The criterion for observation: when a system is observed, there are two separate considerations. One is the spatiotemporal scale at which the observations are made. The other is the criterion for observation, which defines the system in the foreground away from all the rest in the background. The criterion for observation uses the types of parts and their relationships to each other to characterize the system in the foreground. If criteria for observation are linked together in an asymmetric fashion, then the criteria lead to levels of organization. Otherwise, criteria for observation merely generate isolated classes.

The ordering of levels: there are several criteria whereby other levels reside above lower levels. These criteria often run in parallel, but sometimes only one or a few of them apply. Upper levels are above lower levels by virtue of: 1) being the context of, 2) offering constraint to, 3) behaving more slowly at a lower frequency than, 4) being populated by entities with greater integrity and higher bond strength than, and 5), containing and being made of – lower levels.

Nested and non-nested hierarchies: nested hierarchies involve levels which consist of, and contain, lower levels. Non-nested hierarchies are more general in that the requirement of containment of lower levels is relaxed. For example, an army consists of a collection of soldiers and is made up of them. Thus an army is a nested hierarchy. On the other hand, the general at the top of a military command does not consist of his soldiers and so the military command is a non-nested hierarchy with regard to the soldiers in the army. Pecking orders and a food chains are also non-nested hierarchies.

Duality in hierarchies: the dualism in hierarchies appears to come from a set of complementarities that line up with: observer-observed, process-structure, rate-dependent versus rate-independent, and part-whole. Arthur Koestler in his “Ghost in The Machine” referred to the notion of holon, which means an entity in a hierarchy that is at once a whole and at the same time a part. Thus a holon at once operates as a quasi-autonomous whole that integrates its parts, while working to integrate itself into an upper level purpose or role. The lower level answers the question “How?” and the upper level answers the question, “So what?”

Constraint versus possibilities: when one looks at a system there are two separate reasons behind what one sees. First, it is not possible to see something if the parts of the system cannot do what is required of them to achieve the arrangement in the whole. These are the limits of physical possibility. The limits of possibility come from lower levels in the hierarchy. The second entirely separate reason for what one sees is to do with what is allowed by the upper level constraints. An example here would be that mammals have five digits. There is no physical reason for mammals having five digits on their hands and feet, because it comes not from physical limits, but from the constraints of having a mammal heritage. Any number of the digits is possible within the physical limits, but in mammals only five digits are allowed by the biological constraints. Constraints come from above, while the limits as to what is possible come from below. The concept of hierarchy becomes confused unless one makes the distinction between limits from below and limits from above. The distinction between mechanisms below and purposes above turn on the issue of constraint versus possibility. Forget the distinction, and biology becomes pointlessly confused, impossibly complicated chemistry, while chemistry becomes unwieldy physics.

Complexity and self-simplification: Howard Pattee has identified that as a system becomes more elaborately hierarchical its behavior becomes simple. The reason is that, with the emergence of intermediate levels, the lowest level entities become constrained to be far from equilibrium. As a result, the lowest level entities lose degrees of freedom and are held against the upper level constraint to give constant behavior. Deep hierarchical structure indicates elaborate organization, and deep hierarchies are often considered as complex systems by virtue of hierarchical depth.

Complexity versus complicatedness: a hierarchical structure with a large number of lowest level entities, but with simple organization, offers a low flat hierarchy that is complicated rather than complex. The behavior of structurally complicated systems is behaviorally elaborate and so complicated, whereas the behavior of deep hierarchically complex systems is simple.

Hierarchy theory is as much as anything a theory of observation. It has been significantly operationalized in ecology, but has been applied relatively infrequently outside that science. There is a negative reaction to hierarchy theory in the social sciences, by virtue of implications of rigid autocratic systems or authority. When applied in a more general fashion, even liberal and non-authoritarian systems can be described effectively in hierarchical terms. There is a politically correct set of labels that avoid the word hierarchy, but they unnecessarily introduce jargon into a field that has enough special vocabulary as it is.

A SHORT ANNOTATED BIBLIOGRAPHY OF HIERARCHY THEORY.

This bibliography is in chronological order, so that the reader can identify the early classics as opposed to the later refinements. If you must choose just one book to read, turn to the last reference in this bibliography, Ahl and Allen, 1996. Simon, H.. A. 1962. The architecture of complexity. Proceedings of the American philosophical society 106: 467-82. This is the foundation paper of hierarchy theory originating from an economist. It was a re-published in “Sciences of the Artificial” by Simon. It introduces the idea of near-decomposability. If systems were completely decomposable, then there would be no emergent whole, because the parts would exist only separately. The “near” in near-decomposable allows the upper level to emerge from the fact that the parts anre not completely separate.

Koestler, Arthur. 1967. The ghost in the machine. Macmillan, New York. This is a long hard look at human social structure in hierarchical terms. The notion of holon first occurs in this work. This is a classic work, but is easily accessible to the lay public.

Whyte, L.. L.., A. G. Wilson and D. Wilson (eds.). 1969. Hierarchical structures. American Elsevier, New York. This is a classic collection of early scholarly works by some of the founders of hierarchical thinking.

Pattee, H.. H. (ed.) 1973. Hierarchy theory: the challenge or complex systems. Braziller, New York. This edited volume has some classic articles by Pattee, Simon and others.

Allen, T. F. H. and T. B. Starr. 1982. Hierarchy: perspectives for ecological complexity. University Chicago Press. This book has a significant ecological component but is much more generally about hierarchical structure. It is abstract and a somewhat technical treatment but has been the foundation work for the application of hierarchy theory in ecology and complex systems theory at large.

Salthe, S. 1985. Evolving Hierarchical Systems: their structure and representation. Columbia University Press, New York. This book has a strong structural bias, in contrast to the process oriented approach of Allen and the other ecologists in this bibliography. Salthe introduces the notion of the Triadic, where there is a focus on 1) the system as both a whole above the levels below and 2) a part belonging to another level above, 3) not forgetting the level of the structure itself in between. While much biological hierarchy theory takes an anti-realist point view, or is at least reality-agnostic, wherein the ultimate reality of hierarchical arrangement is left moot, Salthe’s version of hierarchy theory is concerned with the ultimate reality of structure. The anti-realist view of structure is that it is imposed by the observer, and may or may not correspond to any ultimate reality. If structure does correspond to ultimate, external reality, we could never know that to be so. Salthe’s logic is consistent but always takes a structural and ontological position.

O’Neill, R. V., D. DeAngelis, J. Waide and T. F. H. Allen. 1986. A hierarchical concept of ecosystems. Princeton University Press. This is a distinctly ecological application of hierarchy theory, making the critical distinction between process functional ecosystem approaches as opposed to population and community relationships. It is an application of hierarchy theory to ecosystem analysis.

Allen T. F. H. and T. Hoekstra. 1992. Toward a unified ecology. Columbia University Press. This book turns on hierarchy theory, but is principally a book about ecology. It goes beyond the O’Neill et al book, in that it makes the distinction between many types of ecology (landscape, ecosystem, community, organism, population, and biomes) on the one hand, and scale of ecology on the other hand. It ends with practical applications of hierarchy theory and ecological management.

Ahl, V. and T. F. H. Allen. 1996. Hierarchy theory, a vision, vocabulary and epistemology. Columbia University Press. This slim a volume is an interdisciplinary account of a hierarchy theory, and represents the shallow end of the pool. It is the primer version of Allen and Starr 1982. It is full of graphical images to ease the reader into a hierarchical perspective. It makes the distinction between levels of organization and levels of observation. It takes a moderate anti-realist point of view, wherein there may be an external reality, but it is not relevant to the discourse. We only have access to experience, which must of necessity involve observer values and subjectivity. There are examples from a wide discussion of many disciplines. Included are examples from psychology, ecology, the law, political systems and philosophy. It makes reference to the global and technological problems facing humanity, and offers hierarchy theory as one tool in the struggle. The summary of hierarchy theory in the opening paragraphs above comes from this book.

This summary was compiled by

Timothy F. Allen, Professor of Botany,
University of Wisconsin Madison,
Madison Wisconsin 53706 — 1381.
Email – tfallen@facstaff.wisc.edu

 

 

Key People:

  • James Grier Miller
  • Howard Pattee
  • Stanley Salthe
  • T F Allen
  • Herbert Simon
  • NILES ELDREDGE
  • CS Holling

 

 

Key Sources of Research:

 

A SUMMARY OF THE PRINCIPLES OF HIERARCHY THEORY

T Allen

http://www.isss.org/hierarchy.htm

http://www.botany.wisc.edu/allenlab/AllenLab/Hierarchy.html

 

 

Hierarchy Theory

Paweł Leśniewski

 

http://www.uni-kiel.de/ecology/users/fmueller/salzau2006/ea_presentations/Data/2006-06-28_-_Hierarchy_Theory.pdf

 

 

Summary of the Principles of Hierarchy Theory

S.N. Salthe

 

http://www.nbi.dk/~natphil/salthe/Summary_of_the_Principles_o.pdf

 

 

HOWARD PATTEE’S THEORETICAL BIOLOGY:

A RADICAL EPISTEMOLOGICAL STANCE TO APPROACH LIFE, EVOLUTION ANDCOMPLEXITY.

Jon Umerez

 

http://www.informatics.indiana.edu/rocha/publications/pattee/umerez.pdf

 

 

 

Hierarchy Theory as the Formal Basis of Evolutionary Theory

 

http://www.bbk.ac.uk/tpru/StephenWood/Publications/HierarchyTheoryastheFormalBasisofEvolutionaryTheory.pdf

 

 

The Concept of Levels of Organization in the Biological Sciences

 

PhD Thesis Submitted August 2014 Revised June 2015

Daniel Stephen Brooks

 

http://d-nb.info/1082033960/34

 

 

A spatially explicit hierarchical approach to modeling complex ecological systems: theory and applications

Jianguo Wu , John L. David

 

http://leml.asu.edu/jingle/Web_Pages/Wu_Pubs/PDF_Files/Wu_David_2002.PDF

 

 

What is the Hierarchy Theory of Evolution?

 

http://hierarchygroup.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/07/What-Is-The-Hierarchy-Theory.pdf

 

 

HIERARCHICAL ORGANIZATION OF ECOSYSTEMS

Jackson R. Webster

 

http://coweeta.uga.edu/publications/274.pdf

 

 

Ecological hierarchies and self-organisation – Pattern analysis, modelling and process integration across scales

Hauke Reutera,, Fred Jopp, José M. Blanco-Morenod, Christian Damgaarde, Yiannis Matsinosf, Donald L. DeAngelis

 

http://izt.ciens.ucv.ve/ecologia/Archivos/ECO_POB%202010/ECOPO1_2010/Reuter_etal_BAAE%202010.pdf

 

 

Levels of organization in biology: on the nature and nomenclature of ecology’s fourth level

William Z. Lidicker, Jr

 

http://www.uff.br/ecosed/Artigo4.pdf

 

 

Chapter 24

Hierarchy Theory: An Overview

Jianguo Wu

 

http://izt.ciens.ucv.ve/ecologia/Archivos/ECO_POB%202016/ECOPO7_2016/Jorgensen%20et%20al%202016.pdf

 

 

Heterarchies: Reconciling Networks and Hierarchies

Graeme S. Cumming

https://www.researchgate.net/publication/303508940_Heterarchies_Reconciling_Networks_and_Hierarchies

 

 

Evolutionary Theory

A HIERARCHICAL PERSPECTIVE

EDITED BY NILES ELDREDGE, TELMO PIEVANI, EMANUELE SERRELLI, AND ILYA TEMKIN

 

 

Holons, creaons, genons, environs, in hierarchy theory: Where we have gone

Timothy Allen, Mario Giampietro

http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0304380014002993

 

 

The Evolutionary Foundations of Hierarchy: Status, Dominance, Prestige, and Leadership

Mark van Vugt & Joshua M. Tybur

http://www.professormarkvanvugt.com/images/files/Handbook_of_Evolutionary_Psychologymvv2014rev.pdf

 

 

The Microfoundations of Macroeconomics: An Evolutionary Perspective

Jeroen C.J.M. van den Bergh

John M. Gowdy

 

https://papers.tinbergen.nl/00021.pdf

 

 

Understanding the complexity of Economic, Ecological, and Social Systems

C S Holling

http://www.esf.edu/cue/documents/Holling_Complexity-EconEcol-SocialSys_2001.pdf

 

 

Hierarchical Structures

Stanley N. Salthe

 

https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Salthe_Stanley/publication/257522907_Hierarchical_Structures/links/5768411408ae7f0756a2248c.pdf

 

 

Two Frameworks for Complexity Generation in Biological Systems

Stanley N. Salthe

 

http://www.nbi.dk/natphil/salthe/A-life_Conf_paper_Word.pdf

http://www.nbi.dk/~natphil/salthe/_publ_classified_by_topic.pdf

 

 

Spatial scaling in ecology

J. A. WIENS

 

http://www.functionalecology.org/SpringboardWebApp/userfiles/fec/file/Spatial%20scaling%20in%20ecology%20v3%20n4.pdf

 

 

The Spirit of Evolution

by Roger Walsh

An overview of Ken Wilber’s book Sex, Ecology, Spirituality: The Spirit of Evolution (Shambhala, 1995).

http://cogweb.ucla.edu/CogSci/Walsh_on_Wilber_95.html

Relational Turn in Economic Geography

Relational Turn in Economic Geography

This is an important topic.  Uneven development using orthodox economic and development theories has led researcher to look for alternative explanations.

  • How to properly integrate Global – Regional – National – Local perspectives?
  • How valuable is relational (network) perspective?
  • What is the role of power relations among Actors?
  • How does Institutional, Cultural, and Social embeddedness of Actors impact development and economy?
  • How does actions and interactions of Actors affect local economic environment?

 

From Toward a relational economic geography

During the 1990s, a controversial debate has emerged in economic geography and other social sciences, such as economics and sociology, focusing on the question of what research program, key focus and methodology a novel economic geography should embody (Perrons, 2001). This was, partially, a reaction to the work of Krugman (1991), Fujita et al. (2001), and others who claimed to have developed a new economic geography. This self-proclaimed new economic geography offers an interesting economic perspective on the conventional problems of spatial distribution and equilibrium, based on an analysis of increasing returns, transportation costs, and other traded interdependencies (Martin and Sunley, 1996; Bathelt, 2001). Yet it fails to develop a comprehensive research program as a basis for economic geography because ‘. . . the new economic geography ignores almost as much of the reality they study as old trade theory did’ (Krugman, 2000, p. 50).1 In following Martin and Sunley’s (1996) suggestion, this approach is better classified as geographical economics. While this literature brings economic geography closer to the core ideas of neoclassical economics, Amin and Thrift (2000) have recently suggested another fundamentally different direction for economic geography, capitalizing on concepts and theories from other social sciences. Amin and Thrift (2000, p. 4) provocatively claim that economic geography is no longer able to ‘fire the imagination’ of researchers. Therefore, they ask for a critical reflection and renewal of this field’s basic goals, concepts, and methods. The reactions to their contribution have stimulated a debate, parts of which have been published in a special issue of Antipode in 2001. This debate has unfortunately been dominated by discipline-political arguments, opinions, and claims. In essence, it focuses on the question of whether economic geography should be closely associated with economics or lean towards the social, political, and cultural sciences. In particular, Thrift (2000) has identified a growing interest in the cultural dimension of economic relations, as well as in economic issues of cultural studies. While Amin and Thrift (2000) propose a cultural turn away from neoclassical economics, their critics emphasize existing linkages with and the importance of economic theories as a foundation of economic geography (Martin and Sunley, 2001; Rodriguez- Pose, 2001). We agree with Martin and Sunley (2001) that this debate is partly based on false dualisms, such as economics vs. sociology and quantitative vs. qualitative methodology. In our view, this discussion is unclear because it mixes normative accounts of the discipline’s policy implications with epistemological and methodological arguments. The debate is also somewhat misdirected for it tries to separate those economic and social aspects that are inseparable. The decisive question cannot be whether economic geography should be economized or culturalized. Rather, the economic and the social are fundamentally intertwined. They are dimensions of the same empirical reality which should be studied in a dialogue of perspectives rather than in mutual exclusion and reductionist prioritization (Stark, 2000).

The second transition is characterized by a reformulation of the core concepts of economic geography. In the following sections, discontinuities between relational economic geography and regional science will be identified according to five dimensions of the research design. These dimensions include the conception of space, object of knowledge, conception of action, epistemological perspective, and research goal. From this, we develop a relational framework for analysis which systematically focuses on economic actors and their action and interaction. The basic propositions of this framework will be developed in the remainder of this section (Table 1).

4.1. Conception of space

A relational view of economic geography is based on a relationship between space and economy which is contrary to that of regional science.10 Specifically, regional science views space as a container which confines and determines economic action. It treats space as a separate entity which can be described and theorized independently from economic action. In contrast, a relational approach assumes that economic action transforms the localized material and institutional conditions of future economic action. Similar to Storper and Walker (1989), this approach emphasizes that the economic actors themselves produce their own regional environments. The way in which spatial categories and regional artifacts have an impact on economic action can only be understood if the particular economic and social context of that action is analysed (Bahrenberg, 1987). Spatial structures and processes have, however, been socially and economically underconceptualized in regional science. We contend that space can neither be used as an explanatory factor for economic action nor be treated as a separate research object in isolation from economic and social structures and relations. Consequently, as space is not an object of causal power to explain social or economic action it cannot be theorized (Sayer, 1985; Saunders, 1989; Hard, 1993).11 Of course, economic processes also have material outcomes (e.g. infrastructure) which are localized in certain places and territories and exist over longer time periods. Such structures clearly have an impact on economic action and interaction in these localities. Nonetheless, economic actors and their action and interaction should be at the core of a theoretical framework of economic geography and not space and spatial categories. Spatial scientists, such as Bunge (1973), treat spatiality as the object of knowledge in economic geography. They aim to detect those spatial laws which govern human action without looking at the actors themselves. Instead of treating space as a container, we suggest a conception of space as perspective (Glu¨ ckler, 1999). In other words, we use space as a basis for asking particular questions about economic phenomena but space is not our primary object of knowledge. It is this conception that we refer to as the geographical lens. As part of this, economic exchange becomes the focus of analysis and not space. Similarly, we do not seek to identify spatial laws but, instead, look for explanations of localized economic processes and their consequences.12 It is particularly through the application of a distinct perspective to the study of an object of knowledge that discipline-specific research problems can be formulated. The spatial perspective or geographical lens leads economic geographers to pose research questions about an economic phenomenon, different from those typically asked by economists or sociologists. We also suggest that the perspective applied helps mobilize a particular terminology and, over time, a set of tacit knowledge which entails an understanding of what it is that is being analysed and how this subject matter can be described and evaluated adequately.

relational2

 

From Rethinking relational economic geography

Since the mid-1990s, the softening of sub-disciplinary boundaries within human geography and the more general call for a ‘relational thinking’ in human geography (Massey et al . 1999; see also Allen et al. 1997; Sack 1997; Lee and Wills 1997) have stimulated the consolidation of what might be termed a ‘relational economic geography’. 1 In this ‘relational turn’, economic geographers tend to place their analytical focus on the complex nexus of relations among actors and structures that effect dynamic changes in the spatial organization of economic activities (see Amin 1998; Dicken and Malmberg 2001; Ettlinger 2001; Bathelt and Glückler 2003; Boggs and Rantisi 2003). This relational economic geography is concerned primarily with the ways in which socio-spatial relations of actors are intertwined with broader structures and processes of economic change at various geographical scales. Despite the claims of novelty among most economic geographers who have taken on such a relational thinking in their geographical analysis, it remains unclear whether this ‘relational turn’ represents merely a modest reworking of earlier work in economic geography that might not be explicitly relational in its conceptualization and analysis. After all, heated debates on the spatial divisions of labour, locality studies and flexible specialization dominated the heyday of economic geography during much of the 1980s and the early 1990s (Scott 2000). With hindsight, these debates have legitimized the analytical concern of economic geography with the social relations of production and the relations between the spatial and the social (Harvey 1982; Thrift 1983; Massey 1984; Smith 1984; Gregory and Urry 1985; Lee 1989). By sidestepping the pitfalls of an earlier brand of quantitative economic geography concerned with spatial geometries and locational analysis, the substantive foci on regions, localities and production processes in these debates have no doubt foregrounded the recent ‘relational turn’ in economic geography. While many recent geographic writings have addressed aspects tangential to the core theoretical categories deployed in a relational economic geography (e.g. Barnett 1998; Thrift 2000; Barnes 2001; Storper 2001), there is surprisingly a lack of systematic evaluation and integration of our knowledge of this growing field. In view of limited space, this paper develops a sympathetic critique and rethinking of the ‘relational turn’ in order to clarify the distinctive contributions of a relational economic geography and to rework some of its conceptual tools. In the next section, I critically examine the nature and emergence of the ‘relational turn’ in economic geography, by revisiting relational thought that existed as an undercurrent before the 1990s and situating the recent ‘relational turn’ in this earlier work in economic geography. Whilst the recent ‘relational turn’ has some of its intellectual antecedents in the earlier debates of the 1980s (particularly the social relations of production framework), its substantive content has been broadened to include social actors and their network relations at different spatial scales. Focusing on recent economicgeographical writings on regional development, embedded networks and geographical scales, I note that much of this large body of recent work is relational only in the thematic sense that relations among actors and structures are an important theme in contemporary economic-geographical enquiry. In particular, the causal nature of relationality and power relations are under-theorized and underspecified. If relational thinking in economic geography is to have a greater impact, we need to rework and deepen its theoretical constructs to go beyond simply a ‘thematic turn’ (Jessop 2001, 1214). The paper moves on to rework some of the most important theoretical insights in the ‘relational turn’ – relationality, power and actors. Dynamic and heterogeneous relations among actors and structures are conceptualized as causal mechanisms of socio-spatial change in economic landscapes. Here, I explore the notion of ‘relational geometries’ constituted through relationality and power . The concept of relational geometries refers to the spatial configurations of heterogeneous relations among actors and structures through which power and identities are played out and become efficacious. These relational geometries are neither actors (e.g. individuals and firms) nor structures (e.g. class, patriarchy and the state), but configurations of relations between and among them – connecting actors and structures through horizontal and vertical power relations. Relational geometries are also not networks per se because the latter refer mainly to horizontal and, mostly, static ties among actors only. Actors in these relational geometries are not static ‘things’ fixed in time and space. They are dynamic and evolving in such relational ways that their differential practices unleash multiple forms of emergent power in relational geometries. Building on the concept of different and emergent forms of causal power as positions in relational geometries and as practice through social action, this relational perspective allows us to avoid the two polarized frameworks in contemporary economic geography – actor networks and institutional structures. This effort to rework relational economic geography thus parallels the recently reinvigorated ‘relational sociology’ that ‘sees relations between terms or units as preeminently dynamic in nature, as unfolding, ongoing processes rather than as static ties among inert substances’ (Emirbayer 1997, 289). To substantiate the relevance of this reworking of conceptual categories, I show how relationality and multiple forms of power can offer vital insights into regional development that go beyond existing relational frameworks in economic geography.

related4relationality5

 

From Geographies of circulation and exchange: Constructions of markets

In the preceding sections we have discussed three heterodox alternatives to the orthodox free market logic.

For socioeconomists, markets are embedded in social structures and are a far cry from the virtual market model celebrated by orthodox economists. It is social relations that underwrite real markets, guaranteeing their functioning in the face of uncertainties. Work un- dertaken in this spirit puts emphasis on social relations and institutions, and analyses how non-economic institutions either enable or constrain efficient market exchange.

Political economists insist that, neoliberal claims to the contrary notwithstanding, capitalism cannot exist without “market imperfections”. In these accounts, the market model is nothing else than a fictitious ideological device to hide from view the underlying dynamics of capitalism. Accordingly, political economic scholars regard it as their task to remove the veil and to lay open the contradictory reality of concrete markets under capitalism.

Cultural economists apply the cultural theoretical concept of performativity towards the market. Rather than reproducing the classical distinction between the abstract market model and real-life markets, protagonists point to the role that the practice of economists widely understood plays in the self-realization of economic thought. It is argued that the model of the perfect market realizes itself in the world in the assembly of far-reaching socio-technical arrangements. Here, markets take on ambivalent form as relational effects of socio-technical networks engaging in the twin processes of framing and overflowing. The latter process includes the proliferation of new social relations, groups and communities which may articulate economic and non-economic alternatives.

In the discipline of economic geography heterodox approaches have managed to break the hegemony of the neoclassical orthodoxy. Unfortunately, the arguments in heterodox debates on the market and on alternative economic geographies more generally are very often taken from entrenched positions, authors apparently finding it very difficult to understand the train of thought followed by the “opposing” camp. While this is true for all positions introduced in this progress report, cultural economy has arguably had a particularly difficult time. With our representation of the performativity approach we hope to have been able to clarify some of the misunderstandings. The strength of the heterodox project lies precisely in the co-existence of competing positions, each challenging the still omnipresent logic of the perfect market in different ways. This is what a vibrant heterodox project should aspire to: A healthy competition of plurivalent and opposing ideas, a competition, however, which at the same time does not prevent conversation across different approaches and is pluralistic enough to gain from the application of different perspectives (see Barnes 2006).

 

 

From  Advancing evolutionary economic geography by engaged pluralism

relational

 

Please see my related post on Relational Sociology.

Boundaries and Relational Sociology

 

 

Key People:

  • Harrison White
  • Henry Wai-chung Yeung
  • H. Bathelt
  • J. Gluckler
  • Jeffrey S. Boggs
  • Norma M. Rantisi
  • Christian Berndt
  • Marc Boeckler
  • Robert Hassink
  • Claudia Klaerding

 

Related Schools of Thoughts:

  • Social Economics
  • Political Economy
  • Cultural Economy
  • Manchester School of Global Production Networks
  • German School of Relational approach

 

Key Terms:

  • Relational Geometries
  • Actor-Networks
  • Relationality
  • Actor-Structure
  • Global – Regional – National – Local
  • Social Embeddedness
  • Economic-Social-Political-Spatial
  • Cultural Economics
  • Critical Realism
  • Causal Relations
  • Boundaries
  • Institutional Economics
  • Political Economics
  • Spatial relations
  • Scale Structure
  • Regionalism
  • Power Relations

 

 

Key Sources of Research:

 

Geographies of circulation and exchange: Constructions of markets

Christian Berndt

Marc Boeckler

 

https://www.uni-frankfurt.de/46314372/3-BerndtBoeckler2009.pdf

 

 

Whither Global Production Networks in Economic Geography? Past, Present and Future

Martin Hess

Henry Wai-chung Yeung

 

https://courses.nus.edu.sg/course/geoywc/publication/2006%20EPA_Hess_Yeung.pdf

 

 

Rethinking relational economic geography

Henry Wai-chung Yeung

2005

 

https://courses.nus.edu.sg/course/geoywc/publication/2005_TIBG.pdf

 

 

Towards a Relational Economic Geography: Old Wine in New Bottles?

 

Journal of Economic Geography 3 (2003) pp. 117–144

https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Johannes_Glueckler/publication/5213254_Toward_a_Relational_Economic_Geography/links/0c96052832bce3e2bf000000.pdf

 

 

Relational and evolutionary economic geography: competing or complementary paradigms?

Robert Hassink and Claudia Klaerding

2009

 

http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=10.1.1.493.3838&rep=rep1&type=pdf

 

 

Towards an integrated Evolutionary and Relational Economic Geography approach

for analysing the evolution of destinations

 

Cinta Sanz‐Ibáñez,

Salvador Anton‐Clavé

 

http://www.globaltur.org/files/Conferences/SanzIbanez_AntonClave2014.pdf

https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Cinta_Sanz-Ibanez/publication/262688026_The_evolution_of_destinations_towards_an_evolutionary_and_relational_economic_geography_approach/links/557194bb08ae7467f72ca317.pdf

 

 

Chains and networks, territories and scales: towards a relational framework for analysing the global economy

PETER DICKEN, PHILIP F. KELLY, KRIS OLDS and HENRY WAI-CHUNG YEUNG

 

https://courses.nus.edu.sg/course/geoywc/publication/DKOY_2001.pdf

 

 

What Really Goes on in Silicon Valley? Spatial Clustering and Dispersal in Modular Production Networks

Timothy J. Sturgeon

2003

 

https://ipc.mit.edu/sites/default/files/documents/03-001.pdf

 

 

Theoretical advancement in economic geography by engaged pluralism

Robert Hassink, Claudia Klaerding

 

https://www.wigeo.uni-kiel.de/en/archiv/12peeg

 

 

EMBEDDEDNESS, ACTOR-NETWORKS AND THE ‘RELATIONAL TURN’ IN GEOGRAPHY

 

http://scholarbank.nus.edu.sg/bitstream/handle/10635/14512/chapter_3.PDF?sequence=5

 

 

The ‘relational turn’ in economic geography

Jeffrey S. Boggs  and Norma M. Rantisi

https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Norma_Rantisi/publication/5213253_The_%27Relational_Turn%27_in_Economic_Geography/links/02e7e528f5e7bd37a5000000/The-Relational-Turn-in-Economic-Geography.pdf

 

 

Manifesto for a Relational Sociology

Mustafa Emirbayer

 

https://edisciplinas.usp.br/pluginfile.php/88938/mod_resource/content/1/Emirbayer%20Manifesto%20for%20a%20Relational%20Sociology.pdf

 

 

Relational Economic Geography: A Partial Understanding
or a New Paradigm?

Peter Sunley

 

https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Peter_Sunley/publication/249475732_Relational_Economic_Geography_A_Partial_Understanding_or_a_New_Paradigm/links/552fb80c0cf2f2a588a8f6c7.pdf

 

 

The Relational Economy : Geographies of Knowing and Learning

Harald Bathelt and Johannes Gluckler

2011

Oxford

 

 

Can we learn anything from economic geography proper?

Yes, we can!

Robert Hassink, Huiwen Gong, Fabian Faller

http://econ.geo.uu.nl/peeg/peeg1622.pdf

 

 

GEOGRAPHIES OF FINANCE: CENTERS, FLOWS, AND RELATIONS

BONGMAN SEO

Accepted March 2011

 

 

Geographies of Production I:
Relationality revisited and the ‘practice shift’ in economic geography

 

Andrew Jones

2013

http://openaccess.city.ac.uk/2603/1/SR%20PiHG%20Geographies%20of%20Production%20Report%201%2024%20Jul13%20FINAL.pdf

 

 

Advancing evolutionary economic geography by engaged pluralism

 

Robert Hassink, Claudia Klaerding, Pedro Marque

2014

https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Robert_Hassink/publication/261070844_Advancing_Evolutionary_Economic_Geography_by_Engaged_Pluralism/links/54200ea90cf241a65a1afcd4.pdf

 

 

Geographies of Production: Growth Regimes in Spatial Perspective 3 – Toward a Relational View of Economic Action and Policy

Harald Bathelt

2006

https://tspace.library.utoronto.ca/bitstream/1807/71378/1/43_Bathelt%202006_PIHG.pdf