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This post is provided by guest blogger André Förster who studies the Masters program “Sociology and empirical social Research” at the University of Cologne. Alongside his studies, he works as a student assistant at gesis – Leibniz Institute for the Social Sciences in Cologne.

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Mark R. Beissinger, 2002: Nationalist Mobilization and the Collapse of the Soviet State. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

In this important book Mark R. Beissinger, director of the Princeton Institute for International and Regional Studies (PIIRS) and former professor of political science at the University of Wisconsin-Madison sets out to explain how the collapse of the Soviet State  became viewed from the impossible to the inevitable within only a few years. While many studies refer to the inherent logic of the communist system as the main reason for its disintegration, Beissinger highlights the importance of nationalist events that took place during the years 1987 to 1991. Based on rich quantitative and qualitative data, the author argues that the tidal impact of these demonstration and protest events and their cross-country influence shaped a phase of history, in which institutions were changed not as the result of an inherent logic, but rather through the whole process itself.

Beissinger’s book offers a very productive combination of transnational and comparative sociological analysis. In the following review, I will focus on the second and fifth chapter of the book, in which Beissinger explains how the transnational glasnost tide of nationalism evolved and why some movements of nationalism succeded while others failed. On the basis of Beissinger’s analysis I will show that the development and the success of nationalist movements can be explained from a transnational perspective, whereas the failure of movements can rather be explained from a comparative view. Read the rest of this entry »

This post is provided by guest blogger Domen Bajde of the University of Southern Denmark.

As evidenced by inventive movements and campaigns (for a future example see Half the Sky Movement: The Game), the field of charity is undergoing considerable dynamics. As a skeptically-optimistic observer, I am happy to see research that explores such developments against the backdrop of broader material and social change, appreciating their innovativeness and critically questioning the suppositions, mechanics and stakes at play.

I recently stumbled upon a book sharing my skeptical optimism. Surveying historical change in Amnesty International and Oxfam advertising, Chouliaraki argues that poverty is increasingly instrumentalized, setting the focus on the “self” (of the Western donor), turning charity into an ironic spectacle largely shaped by “compassion fatigue” (a.k.a. avoiding stuff that is unpleasant). Rather than amplifying the voice of those in need, many charities end up prioritizing the interests/pleasures of donors.

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This post is provided by our guest blogger Moritz Heumer.

The winning streak of the German Pirate Party is continuing with the latest success of entering the Saarland parliament. Recent polls for the national election suggest that the pirates might reach 11 percent of votes. The continued success of the pirates raises doubts about claims of their gains being entirely based on protest voters. What are the supporters of the Pirate Party then voting for? In this blog I will argue that the Pirates are addressing highly topical issues that are not dealt with by other parties. By doing so they appeal to primarily young voters, especially the digital natives. Based on an analysis of the German Pirate Party’s wikis, I was able to trace its links to other actors which are part of a social movement with transnational scope. This social movement is aiming for policy changes in different fields that are connected with issues arising from the digital revolution. The formation of parties is one element of the mobilization repertoire of this movement. The rise and diffusion of Pirate Parties, itself a transnational phenomenon, therefore cannot be  understood without connecting to the frame of reference that was created by other actors who previously dealt with similar issues.

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This post is provided by guest blogger Domen Bajde, Assistant Professor of Marketing at Faculty of Economics (FELU) at the University of Ljubljana/Slovenia. He is also running a personal blog at bajde.net.

In one of his depressingly amusing anecdotes Ronald Reagan suggests that in the US ‘War on poverty’ (declared by Lyndon B. Johnson two decades earlier) ‘poverty won.’ In the decades that followed, Reagan’s smug conclusion has resonated with many who have either lost faith in organized political/governmental action against poverty or have altogether refused to conceive of poverty as an issue of governance. Similar qualms have been raised in regard to nonprofits’ and charitable organizations’ ability to effectively besiege poverty. Not surprisingly, the ‘foot soldiers’ of the anti-poverty regiment (i.e., regular citizens/donors) are often overwhelmed by the endless charity appeals and a profound sense of hopelessness.

In our collective efforts to discover (create?) ‘fresh’ champions in the ongoing war on poverty, many heads have turned to business. Philanthropy-business hybrids, such as venture philanthropyphilanthrocapitalism or social entrepreneurship, have become central to contemporary pursuits of poverty alleviation. These hybrid alternatives are often depicted as an unproblematic marriage of economy (self-interest, resource management) and philanthropy (social values, charitable giving). Due to their supposedly apolitical and non-ideological nature they appeal to individuals of varied political convictions and domiciles (globally, so to speak). Read the rest of this entry »

This post is provided by our guest blogger Thomas Gegenhuber, who studies Business Administration at Johannes Kepler University in Linz and is a regular contributor to wikinomics.com. He participated as a live-blogger at the Free Culture Research Conference 2010 in Berlin.

The Facebook-Movie is hitting the movie theatres. The catchy ad for the movie says: You don´t get to 500 Million friends without making a few enemies“.  From an economic perspective, the social networking market has an oligopolistic structure, with facebook as a market leader. Facebook is under fierce criticism for its privacy policy. Yet, events like the  “quitting facebook day” resulted only in 34.000 drop outs. Critique might lead to some minor changes in the privacy settings, but the switching costs for facebook users to another social network are very high. To use following analogy: Moving from one social network to the next is like moving into another city. You lose a lot of your friends.

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Geert Lovink, who held the keynote at the Free Culture Conference in Berlin, believes the facebook problem is rooted in its business model. At the end of the day, facebook needs to monetize people’s social graph. He highlighted that some services address this problem. “Sepukoo and the web2.0suicidemachine allow you to remove your data; other services enable you to download your data.” Evolving alternatives like Appleseed and the more famous Diaspora are still in the early stages. Read the rest of this entry »

This post is provided by our guest blogger Peggy Levitt. Peggy Levitt is Professor of Sociology at Wellesley College and a Research Fellow at The Weatherhead Center for International Affairs at Harvard University where she co-directs The Transnational Studies Initiative. Together with by Sanjeev Khagram she has published the transnational studies reader, in which they among other things criticize methodological nationalism and present different ways on how to conceptualize transnational phenomena. Her entry is part of a series in which we discuss concepts and phenomena in the field of transnational studies and follows previous discussions we had on transnationalism and methodological nationalism.

Methodological nationalism is the tendency to accept the nation-state and its boundaries as a given in social analysis. Because many social science theories equate society with the boundaries of a particular nation state, researchers often take rootedness and incorporation in the nation as the norm, and social identities and practices enacted across state boundaries as the exception.  But while nation-states are still extremely important, social life does not obey national boundaries.  Social and religious movements, criminal and professional networks, and governance regimes, to name just a few, regularly operate across borders.

In a 2004 article, Nina Glick Schiller and I proposed a notion of society based on the concept of social field and drew a distinction between ways of being and ways of belonging.  Social fields are multi-dimensional and encompass structured interactions of differing forms, depth, and breadth that are differentiated in social theory by terms like “organization,” “institution,” “networks,” and “social movement.”  National social fields are those that remain within national boundaries, while transnational social fields connect actors, through direct and indirect relations, across borders.  Neither domain automatically takes precedence; rather determining the relative importance of nationally restricted and transnational social fields is an empirical question.

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This post is provided by our “guest blogger” Bernhard Brand. Bernhard Brand works as research assistant at the Institute of Energy Economics at the University of Cologne. This contribution is the first of a series of critical reviews of transnational economic governance arrangements, based on an analysis of policy reports undertaken by graduate students of Sigrid Quack’s seminar on Transnational Economic Governance during the summer term 2010.

The Siemens corruption scandal of the year 2007 was one of the largest bribery cases in the economic history of Germany. It ended with a number of (suspended) jail sentences for high-ranking executives and a painful €2.5 billion penalty to be paid by Siemens for running an extensive worldwide bribery system which helped the Munich-based company to win business contracts in many foreign countries, as for example in Russia, Nigeria or Greece. Interestingly, if the bribery case just had happened a few years before, there wouldn’t have been any sentence at all for Siemens: Until 1999, the practice of bribing officials and decision makers in foreign countries was not considered a crime in Germany. And even worse: The German law allowed companies to deduct bribes from their tax declarations – under a tax law provision ironically termed “useful payments” (in German: “nützliche Aufwendungen”). This incentive for the German industry to perform corruption in the international business became abolished under the pressure of the OECD Anti-Bribery Convention. The convention criminalizes the so-called ‘foreign bribery’, the act where a company from one country bribes officials of a ‘foreign’ country.  Germany, as well as the other OECD members had to align their legislation to the new OECD standards, enabling their courts to punish the person or entity who offers the bribe – even if the bribing action originally took place somewhere else in the world. Read the rest of this entry »

This post is provided by our “guest blogger” Glenn Morgan. Glenn Morgan is Professor of Organisational Behaviour and Associate Dean for Research at Warwick Business School.

The last few weeks have seen a number of news stories indicating that the broad agreement reached by the G20 in early 2009 regarding the regulation of Over the Counter (OTC) derivatives is breaking down. On January 5th 2010, for example, the Financial Times titled ‘Cracks in transatlantic derivatives rules‘. In the UK, the Financial Services Authority and the Treasury published in December 2009, a report on regulation of these marketswhich, whilst couched in supportive language, made a number of criticisms of the Commission of the European Communities document on this topic published in October 2009 .

Meanwhile in the US, the US Treasury is aiming to achieve legislation on this topic; in Congress, the House has agreed a draft bill which differs again in some respects from both the UK and the EU and the Senate is due to consider the issue this month. Most recently, non-financial companies in the EU under the aegis of the European Association of Corporate Treasurers have protested strongly about some of the existing proposals in a letter addressed to the EU Commission on the grounds that they will financially penalize them .

The result is a somewhat confusing situation in which the danger is that regulation will not be coherent across the main financial markets and regulatory arbitrage will emerge, potentially paving the way for a further destabilisation of the global economy.  Many of these debates and differences appear very technical but as I have sought to show in a recent article on ‘Legitimacy in financial markets: credit default swaps in the current crisis’ in Socio-Economic Review, underlying them are major issues of politics and power.

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This post is provided by our first “guest blogger” Sebastian Botzem. He is research fellow at the department „Internationalization and Organization” at the Social Science Research Center (WZB) in Berlin.

Fair value accounting has been identified as one of the causes of the current global financial crisis (see, for example, on this blog “Fair Value Accounting in Retreat?“). While it would be unfair to bookkeepers, accountants, auditors and academics to make them solely responsible for the loss of wealth and jobs, the present twists and quirks with regard to accounting policy are remarkable and merit closer attention.

A good example to show that the logic of accounting is questioned is Germany’s “bad bank”  solution: In principle there seems to be agreement to clear balance sheets from heavily impaired assets in order to free up capital and cut the risk of further writedowns. How that should be done, however, remains a big question. One of the great unknowns is of course how to determine the price for the assets to be transferred. Also, it needs to be determined how and to which degree the German taxpayers are eventually being burdened with liabilities not just for years, but for decades. The legal construction is also interesting: Germany’s “bad banks” are supposed to be set up as Special Purpose Entities (SPE). Günther Merl, former speaker of Germany’s public banking rescue fund Soffin (Sonderfonds Finanzmarktstabilisierung, in English: Financial Market Stabilization Fund), has just argued in the German quality daily Süddeutsche Zeitung that the government should exempt the proposed “bad banks” from the usual regulation that applies to financial institutions. The intention of such a move is to allow for accounting provisions that treat “bad banks” not as banks. The creation of Special Purpose Entities – one cause of much of the turmoil at financial markets – to rescue financial institutions indicates the dire straits market advocates are in. 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.
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