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GOING DIGITAL: What is the Future of Business and Labour?

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Concluding remarks

The Discussion Forum of the WEA Online Conference Going Digtial: What is the future of business and labour? has concluded on 20th December, 2019. The Conference was organized into a Keynote Session and a General Session with an inspiring selection of papers.

We would like to thank our Keynote authors, Grazia Ietto-Gillies and Peter Söderbaum, for their contributions that are timely in the attempt to build new conceptualizations and policy agenda. The Keynote addresses provided cutting-edge insights into some of the greatest challenges posed by digitalization in the context of sustainable development and transnational corporations (TNCs). The future directions of research that emerged from the discussion include the need to develop an alternative agenda for the digital economy toward sustainability, and to redefine our understanding of the meaning and operations of TNCs in line with the rapidly changing functioning of the global economy.

We would like to thank all authors contributing to this Conference with multiple perspectives on the stakes in the digitalization debate. This research is relevant and timely. We also thank all commentators who participated in the open access online Discussion Forum for their time and contribution. The discussion revealed the breadth of economic thought considering the variety of perspectives and the study of the world’s diverse sectors and economies.

We conclude that in the present situation, the growing digitalization of the economy necessitates a parallel reflection on risks for democratic processes, privacy, and human rights. Finally, the very meaning of “digital economy” is a subject for further discussion. We need a more transparent debate that opens up questions of societal implications of the on-going changes and how we think about them.

We invite all visitors to this website to read and gain an understanding of the challenges posed by digitalization of the economy and new ideas presented. We hope that this online conference can serve as a useful resource to all who visit it.

We consider this new way of organizing online conferences and archives a step forward in bringing together on-going research works from contributors all over the world and facilitating discussion and interaction on the conference papers by members from a variety of countries, perspectives and cultures.

Thank you all for your engagement. We hope that this discussion will continue.

Kind regards,
Maria Alejandra Madi, Conference Leader and a Chair of the WEA Conferences Program
Malgorzata Dereniowska, Co-Leader and a member of the Planning and Organization Committe

We would like to honour the work of Grazia Ietto-Gillies and Peter Söderbaum and their contributions in developing and promoting the WEA community. We invite you to explore further the recent ideas of our Keynote authors!

Grazia Ietto-Gillies is Emeritus Professor of Applied Economics, London South Bank University and Visiting Research Professor at Birkbeck University of London. She is one of the founding members of the WEA and the first organizer of the online conferences. Her research interest span from Transnational Corporations to Innovation and Internationalization to De-industrialization of the UK; to the Internationalization of Services to The Peer Review System. She has published several books and many articles in academic journals and made presentations in many countries all over the world. The third edition of her successful book Transnational Corporations and International Production. Concepts, Theories and Effects, Elgar, has been published in 2019 and is currently being translated into Japanese. Grazia is also interested and involved in literary writings; her book By the Olive Groves. A Calabrian Childhood has been published in 2017 by IB auris.

Grazia’s recent book:

Transnational Corporations and International Production Concepts, Theories and Effects, Third Edition, 2019, Edward Elgar

Cover of Transnational Corporations and International Production Concepts, Theories and Effects

About the book:
Thoroughly updated and substantially extended, this internationally successful text explores transnational corporations (TNCs), their activities and effects, as well as the theories developed to explain them.

Key features of this edition:

  • A unique critical analysis of all the theories of TNCs in their historical development with insightful and original commentaries on each of them, now extended to cover network theory and dynamic capabilities theory
  • Clear exposition of concepts on the evolution and the activities of TNCs
  • Analysis of effects of TNCs’ activities on: innovation; labour; trade; balance of payments and the fiscal revenue of countries
  • A unique contribution to the history of economic thought on the TNC
  • Summary boxes as well as suggestions for further reading within each chapter give opportunities for discussion and extended learning.

Ideal for advanced bachelors, masters and doctorates courses in international business, economics, international relations, globalization and economic geography as well as the history of economic thought, Transnational Corporations and International Production is an essential text for appreciating the evolution, explanations and impact of TNCs in a globalized world.

Available from:

Peter Söderbaum is professor emeritus in ecological economics at Mälardalen University, Västerås, Sweden and is the author of books such as Ecological Economics (Earthscan, 2000) and Understanding Sustainability Economics (Earthscan, 2008). He is member of the editorial advisory board of Ecological Economics and International Journal of Pluralism and Economics Education.

Peter’s recent book:

Cover of Economics, ideological orientation and democracy for sustainable development

Economics, ideological orientation and democracy for sustainable development, 2nd edition, 2018, WEA Books.

About the book
Sustainable development is a challenge for individuals in different roles, for organizations, for communities at local, national and global levels. How can we deal with climate change, biological diversity loss or pollution of land and water? How can social inequality be reduced and democracy strengthened?

Can mainstream neoclassical economics be further developed to deal with these issues? While not excluding positive contribution from mainstream economics as part of a pluralist perspective, the main strategy in the book is based on a judgment that new conceptual frameworks and a new economics language is needed. It is even argued that the close to monopoly position of neoclassical theory at university departments of economics globally may be part of the sustainability problems faced.

When compared with neoclassical theory ‘economics’ and ‘the economy’ are understood in alternative ways. A ‘political economic person’ replaces ‘Economic Man’ assumptions. Similarly, the neoclassical profit-maximizing firm is replaced by a ‘political economic organization’ guided by its ‘mission’. Decision-making is seen as a “matching” process where optimization becomes a special case. Positional analysis (PA) is proposed as a more open alternative to cost-benefit analysis (CBA).

Democracy is looked upon as an essential part of economics. Value-neutrality is not possible. Instead ideological orientations have to be articulated and discussed openly. A specific interpretation of ‘sustainable development’ exemplifies an ideological orientation to be compared with ‘market and economic growth’ ideology for example. To get closer to sustainable development, institutional changes of a more or less radical kind have to be considered.

In this – the 2nd Edition of the book – Chapters 6, 7 and 8 are new. In Chapter 6 the actor-network perspective is further elaborated as is the potential role of economics students. Chapter 7 focuses on “ideology” and “ideological orientation” as essential concepts in economic analysis. Sustainable development, for instance, can be understood as an ideological orientation that differs from neoliberalism the latter with its emphasis on GDP-growth and monetary profits in business. In Chapter 8 expectations on various actor categories in relation to sustainable development are discussed. In an Appendix (previous Chapter 6 in the earlier version) some experiences of the author as actor are indicated. Professors of economics are not neutral actors…

Available from: https://www.worldeconomicsassociation.org/library/economics-ideological-orientation-and-democracy-for-sustainable-development/