Learning from History: Economic, Social and Political Lessons

Manuel Hensmans and Elizabeth Maitland (Chairs)

While we may, indeed, live ‘in interesting times’, even a cursory examination of history reveals that businesses, governments and societies have often faced the challenges of geopolitical disputes, trade wars, antipathy to ‘outsiders’, rapid technological change, and normative shifts in the expectations of firms and the distribution of wealth. This track invites contributions that use history to: (1) question, augment or adapt international business theories; and/or (2) shed light on the tensions and opportunities for businesses operating internationally. In particular, we seek papers that learn from history by:

  1. drawing parallels between underexplored social, political and economic episodes in the past and topical phenomena, such as Brexit, trade wars, populism, protectionism, authoritarianism, the negotiation of public-private boundaries by Internet platforms, and AI and robotics (Big) data analysis, privacy and good citizenship;
  2. challenging, revising or rejecting international business theories and concepts, such as cultural distance and internationalization models;
  3. demonstrating the historical contingency of current international business explanations, for instance about FDI-attractiveness for host countries, or the relationship between democratic/authoritarian politics and multinational enterprise (MNE) growth;
  4. introducing socio-cultural, cognitive, or other micro- or meso-explanations, such as reinvented traditions, framing, and communities of practices, for sticky or institutionalized international business phenomena. These phenomena include the trade-offs between private profits and social costs, ethical responsibilities of board directors and senior executives, strategic time horizons, tax minimization schemes, and adherence to liberal market models.
  5. by developing detailed (comparative) business or varieties of capitalism histories.