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Small loans for women, often organised in groups, to build their own businesses – that’s a standard model of microfinance, and many microfinance organisations are focused on women. In fact, it used to be the case that 95 percent of Grameen Bank’s borrowers were female.

Through the establishment of self-owned businesses which provide an independent income stream, it is theorised (or often simply claimed) that women will be empowered thanks to microcredit. A compelling argument it is, but the evidence, sadly, is thin.

Many men send their women to obtain loans which they themselves would not be eligible for, as Weber (2002) found. Thereupon they allocate the loan within the family as they see fit, possibly buying a rickshaw which they themselves pull, or on-lend to a relative with an existing business. However, if repayment becomes a problem, it is the woman who is held responsible by the microfinace organisation, and is then subject to legal and social sanctions. Read the rest of this entry »

Sorry, but I simply have to add my two cents on what Leonhard is writing about. Yeah, I’m blogging a bit out of my depth here, but as an ardent fan of original music and deep skeptic of intellectual property rights, I’ve had a strong opinion on this subject for years.

It comes as no surprise that ABBA are arguing for the preservation of the music industry. Too old or forgotten to sell any new songs, their income depends on the re-selling and licensing of old songs. Björn claims that downloaders are stealing the ideas of “single individuals” who, presumably, should receive income for it.

But the real question is: who needs the music industry? By pitting overproduced, overfinanced pop products against homegrown artists and appropriating the majority of proceeds, does the music industry really encourage creativity? I wonder how many professional musicians actually work for (major) record labels, but beyond any doubt it’s a very small percentage. The rest ekes out an honest and more or less satisfying existence doing what they can’t resist doing: making. good. original. music.

And here’s a link to the current capitalist crisis: As banking practices show, financial incentives just simply do not produce excellence. Read the rest of this entry »

One of the things that makes blogs particularly interesting are series. In this blog, for example, Phil features a series on “microcredit myths“. Today we are starting a series recommending series at related blogs. As an opener I present Digital Renaissance’s “Songs to the Music Business”.

The guys behind Digital Renaissance  –  two music label owners, a researcher and an expert on the movie business – describe the rationale for their blog as follows:

There need to be a Digital Renaissance. Renaissance is the french word for rebirth. It was a cultural movement that brought us out of the middle ages and into the future and then some with a vengeance 4.0 style. The world adjusted to this cultural movement. It is time for the world to start adjusting to the Digital Renaissance.

Yesterday, they started a series “with songs that can be translated as good stories of – or advice/mindsets to the music business”. The first entry of the series is devoted to Warren G and his piece “What’s love got to do with it?” (YouTube-Video) . There they are claiming that Warren G is “telling the whole truth” in the third verse, where he raps:

“Now for these labels tellin’ fables, makin’ the messed-up deals under the tables. You think that you smart, but, fool, I’m the smartest. You can’t make no money if you can’t keep an artist.” Read the rest of this entry »

In his recent article “Decoding Divergence in Software Regulation”* Thomas Eimer very convincingly demonstrates and explains differences in software patent regulation between the United States and the European Union. He basically distinguishes three “structural causes for the persisting divergence” (p. 276) – namely the US practice of patenting software versus the European reluctance of doing so:  (1) incompatible underlying paradigms, (2) differentiated patterns of power structure, and (3) unsynchronized institutional arrangements.

Especially in dealing with the first cause, “paradigmatic cleavage”, Eimer argues rather broadly, embracing both patent and copyright law. And I completely agree, when he contrasts the strong “utilitarian” rationale of intellectual property rights in the US with European scepticism for such utilitarian reasoning. I am not so sure, however, that the partial rejection of utilitarian welfare assumptions automatically leads to a better balance between “public and private interests” in the field of intellectual property regulation in general, as implied by Eimer when he writes: “Opponents of strong intellectual property rights in Europe can refer to a long tradition of suspicion”. Read the rest of this entry »

After Amazon had decided to give authors and publishers the ability to disable the text-to-speech function on any or all of their e-books available for the Kindle 2 (see “The Kindle Controversy: No Right to be a Reader?“), public protests were mostly directed at the US Authors Guild, which had demanded these changes. A “Reading Rights Coalition“, which represents people who cannot read print, even protested outside the Authors Guild headquarters in New York City at 31 East 32nd Street on April 7.

Yesterday, Richard M. Stallman, the founder and president of the Free Software Foundation, critized these protests on the public Access-to-Knowledge (A2K) mailing list as being “directed at the wrong target”. He would rather see Amazon in the focus of critique: Read the rest of this entry »

Recent copyright conflicts around Google Book Search (see a NYT article) and Google’s video platform YouTube (see another NYT article) independently of one another received a lot of media attention but have not been discussed jointly. This is surprising, not only because in both conflicts Google is under attack but also because both cases have several patterns in common:

First, Google Book Search and YouTube are both tools for making copyrighted material more easily accessible for users. Thereby, Google represents a new type of intermediary between creators and consumers, as they have repeatedly emerged alongside technological change. And as the example of radio broadcasting in the early 20th century demonstrates (see pp. 73ff. in Lessig 2001, PDF), the role and regulation of such new intermediaries is a highly contingent negotiation process. Read the rest of this entry »

In 2009, many received wisdoms of late capitalism are crumbling. To mention a few disappointments, which it didn’t take a telescope to see from a mile away,

  • No – we haven’t overcome the business cycle.
  • Sorry – China and India aren’t gonna drag us out of the recession.
  • Nope – deregulation doesn’t bring widespread prosperity.
  • Too bad – wealth doesn’t grow on trees or in banks or hedge funds.
  • Please – add your own favourite here: __________________________

A crisis is a moment in which illusions or expectations fall apart. In the Nigerian novel “Things Fall Apart”, the patriarchal protagonist Okonkwo confronts a world of changing values (colonialism, Christianity) in which he finds he has no leading role left to play. Rather than adapt to these circumstances, he takes his life.

This pessimistic example, however, doesn’t seem to apply to some international organisations in the current crisis. Rather, after years of seeming anachronistic, the World Bank, IMF, NATO and OECD are experiencing something of a revival – notable absentee: the UN.

According to classical (or vulgar?) institutional theory, institutions persist rather statically until some kind of “critical juncture” suddenly occurs, at which point they disappear or reinvent themselves (or are reinvented). As far as critical junctures go, they don’t get much bigger than the 2007 to 20xx? global capitalist crisis. Read the rest of this entry »

German daily newspaper Die Tageszeitung reported last week (Frauen sollen Krise lösen by Beate Willms, April 2 2009) the results of the seven-year study of the effects of the voluntary agreement of German companies to support employed women. Seeking to avoid governmental regulation, companies concluded the agreement in 2001. On behalf of the Federal Ministry of Family, Seniors, Women and Youth Affairs (das Bundesministerium für Familie, Senioren, Frauen und Jugend), the researchers of the German Institute for Economic Research (Deutsches Institut für Wirtscharsforschung, DIW) monitored the share of women in leading positions in the private sector between 2001 and 2007. The results are not particularly surprising. The share of women in leading positions did not change significantly: It increased from 26 to 31% between 2001 and 2006 but went down to 27% in 2007. 98% of positions in management board of 200 largest companies were still occupied by men in 2007. The share of women occupying positions in supervisory boards equaled 10% but the researchers explain it by the pressure form work councils and trade unions.

Although these findings are not directly relevant to the questions of cross-border governance, they made me think about several parallels to transnational private regulation. The findings raise the question of the effectiveness of business self-regulation, which has been one of the core issues in scholarly and policy debates on transnational private regulation. How effective are voluntary agreements and programs and how to improve their effectiveness? These are essentially empirical questions and there are no straight-forward answers. Read the rest of this entry »

It doesn’t happen very often that technical matters like accounting standards make it into the final declaration of a G20 summit, agreed by the heads of government of the world’s leading nations. Nevertheless, yesterday it happened (PDF). After deliberating for two days in the City of London about the appropriate means to cure the most severe worldwide financial crisis since 1929, the leaders of the G20 stated in their declaration on strengthening the financial system

We have agreed that the accounting standard setters should improve standards for the valuation of financial instruments based on their liquidity and investors’ holding horizons…. We also welcome the FSF recommendation on procyclicality that address accounting issues. We have agreed that accounting standard setters should take action by the end of 2009 to … (for more see PDF)

Why did something so mundane make it to the agenda of world politics? While it is certainly the merit of Nicolas Sarkozy’s populist threat to walk demonstratively out of the summit that made bloggers and newspaper writers wonder whether accounting standards could save the G20, the reasons for the G20 leaders dealing with “fair value” and “dynamic provision” are certainly more complex. Some, like David Zaring, also wonder whether the G20 summit produced more than just rhetoric. Read the rest of this entry »

Essentially, governance is about governing mechanisms which are not prescribed and implemented from a single direction only. Postsocialism (or postcommunism) is about distinct patterns of social, economic or political life in former socialist countries. I agree with the first term, I don’t agree with the second. In the following I will briefly coin my understanding of postsocialism and point to some questions that arise with the use of this term. Tales about socialist inheritance and governance is meant to be an unstructured discussion about the clash between the two realities, developed into several series, and opened to free debate.

The problem with postsocialism/postcommunism is that is hard to say when it started and when this “post-“ will end; is it a transition period? But transition towards what? Capitalism? What kind of capitalism? It is hard to provide a clear answer to these questions. For example postsocialism arguably began in the Czech Republic with the revolution of the Spring of 1968, or even in Octobre 1956 in Hungary and since then, civic activism grew constantly against Kádár up to the peak of 1989. But did why these revolutions ocurre so soon? Read the rest of this entry »

The Book

Governance across borders: transnational fields and transversal themes. Leonhard Dobusch, Philip Mader and Sigrid Quack (eds.), 2013, epubli publishers.
April 2009
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