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Assignment Titles: National Competitiveness, Business Values, Corporate Governance, and Economic Dev

Choose one of the following assignment titles. 

You should focus on the five nations studied on the course. You should also pay due attention to applying theory and ideas, supporting arguments with case material and evidence, having a clear integrated analytical structure, making direct comparisons a theme throughout, and, ultimately, answering the question as set and appropriately understood in the context of whole taught course. Use to some extent examples or evidence from all of the five national in each answer, although it may not be possible or recommended to give each nation equal attention. Carefully choose the firm, industry or national examples that best progress your argument.

  1. Doarguments in favour of national culture ultimately explain economic success, or fail under analysis to be convincing?

Government and National Competitiveness

  • Business is influenced by each nation’s most important institution, the state. The state carries out important functions, such as education, macro-economic policy, legislation and regulation, and the building of infrastructure. In addition to these, the concept of the developmental state concerns the means by which governments have sought to improve national competitiveness, including protectionism, and (strategic) industrial policies. How however has the spread of market based policies and globalization constrained the abilities of governments to influence national economies? Or was their role previously exaggerated?
  • Important tip:
    the focus is not on comparative government, but on comparative business and the ways in which the state shapes business organization, management, strategy and performance. You can mention areas of government action that are common or non-contentious in order to focus on areas of dispute or difference.
  • Protectionism and non-market policies. Why have these declined in usage? Were they ever effective? Role of WTO, IGOs and free trade agreements in regulating economic relations between states?
  • Education and training policies: do they have important outcomes?

  • Technology and R&D policies: have these become more important?

  • Industrial policy and the developmental state: is this the major cause of difference? Is its usage now in decline and why?

National Culture and Business Values

  • The point is to understand various cultures and the literature on Protestantism and Confucianism, but to deal with it quickly, and focus on attributes with specific business implications (work ethic, education/training, thrift and finance systems/investment, emphasis long termism etc). Use real case examples to prove your points of differences. This is never a question just about Japan, or Confucianism, but must be comparative. Students must also be aware of criticisms of culture as an explanation of economic success. This is question with difficult concepts and a clear analytical structure and precision in argument are vital. The point is to show very quickly how vaguer ideas about national culture shape specific national business cultures and how these are linked to particular business systems and management, and the last should be the focus of your discussion.

  • Work ethic. Consider HR systems, hours of work, entrepreneurship and rewards. In this section, always give specific case/management examples. Don’t talk vaguely about culture or work ethic. The same applies to the following sections.

  • Education/training systems – by state and firms.

  • Saving ratios, finance systems, investment patterns, attitudes to waste.

  • Long Termism. Are some systems of capitalism more long termist than others? Is this due to culture?

  • Does economic growth and technological/organizational needs, as well as factory/office work and urbanization, change national/business cultures, and not vice versa?

Finance and Corporate Governance

  • To what extent are finance and governance systems converging and to what extent is the Anglo-US system becoming dominant? Have differences in the system, past and present, been able to explain comparative performance? How do you explain the success of the Japanese and German systems before 1990, and their comparative failure since? How do you explain trends in the UK and USA since the 1990s? How does the banking system operate in China, and how much has it transformed? What is the relationship between finance and corporate governance, and can we find a link between performance and governance? What do crises such as that of 2008 tell us?

  • Think about stock markets, bank systems, ownership, business strategy and objectives, power/authority of management, long termism, investment in technology, machinery and people, or organizational capabilities generally and so on.

  • Nature of ownership, governance and business strategy, corporate objectives.

  • Power/authority of management, nature of strategic decision making, nature of decisions on building corporate capabilities

  • Investment in and management of technology, long versus short termism

  • Investment in plant and machinery, relationship to productivity

  • Investment in and management of people, nature of HR systems.

  • Changes from before 1990 and after 1990, degree of relationship between performance and finance systems, forces of convergence and internationalization. Extent to which the crisis of 2008 has transformed the nature of the debate about finance systems and types of capitalism.

Late Development and Economic Development

  • What are the major differences in national business systems and institutions? What are the key issues in Late Development Theory? Outline quickly the main ideas and the mechanisms that lead to differences in national systems over time. What are the links conceptually between key institutional differences and LD Theory? Remember in this question to directly link the features of late industrialization (eg reliance on banks, role of banks, business groups) with specific institutional characteristics (stock markets versus bank financing, industrial policy, market relationships, long and short termism, etc). It’s a difference too between the evolution of different national institutions or business environments that encourage different approaches to strategy, organization and investment opportunities. Also, demonstrate an impact on performance, using statistics and arguments on how institutions favour/do not favour competitiveness.

  • Remember too that the question is comparative, not just on Japan or China: but Germany as well as Japan; the so-called early industrializers like US and UK and the historical influences on them. Then, of course, how relevant are these ideas in a globalised economy, or to mature/developed economies such as Japan and German today, rather than yesterday; or how good an explanation now for China?
  • Key difference in nature of business systems and in LD: the role of the state; the role of banks versus shareholding (impact of 2008 crisis?); business groups and vertical linkages.

  • All the above concern national institutional differences or the context/environment/external characteristics in which businesses and managers are able to make decisions. How do they affect management, organization, and performance, or the internal characteristics of the firm? How does e.g. the nature of finance affect the planning of R&D, and therefore performance? Or long versus short termism? Impact on employment systems, management skills, education, investment, training, marketing systems, etc, as well as R&D? Does China fit the pattern?

  • The 1990s watershed. If business systems in the 1960s were effective, why do they fail in the 1990s, or vice versa? Does this mean that other factors are more important than the effects of LD? Or that what is true for the initial stages of economic development are completely irrelevant at a later stage? Why is China still booming as against Japan or Germany? The impact of 2008?

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