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I am Emeritus Professor in the Economics Department,
University of Strathclyde, Scotland; Special Professor, Management
School, University of Nottingham, England; and was Visiting Professor,
Economics Department, University of Queensland, Australia (2005,
2006 and 2007 and 2009).
My research interests are mostly concentrated around issues relating
to the determinants of the boundaries of the firm, such as multinational
enterprise, innovation, diversification, vertical integration, mergers,
joint ventures, and other forms of co-operative behaviour. See my
shorter CV for more
Those interested in these areas might like to know that an EC funded
project produced by Foss and Foss at Copenhagen Business School
recently produced a table of the "Top 20" researchers
in my field in Europe, based on citations counts, you can read it
(1) Dynamic capabilities as context: the role of decision, system
and structure, Industrial and Corporate Change 2010 forthcoming,
(Oxford University Press are publishing an advanced copy
(2) Reappraising the Nature of the Firm: The Role and Influence
of Lexical and Structural Ambiguity Organization Studies,
2008, 29, pp. 1179-96
(3) The Evolution of Co-operation, Pairings and Networks, International
Journal of the Economics of Business.2007, 14, pp. 317-349
(4) Penrose and the growth of multinational firms, Managerial
and Decision Economics, 2005, 26, pp. 99-112.
Two other unpublished papers are still directly downloadable here
(see below). The interest in both has been increasing and by end-May
2010 the paper on Game Theory had been accessed by 1258 visitors
in three years (54 per month in the first five months of 2010. By
end-May 2010 the paper on Coase has been accessed by 3014 visitors
in three years (147 per month in the first five months of 2010).
The story of what has been happening is told in
When it can be better NOT to publish
The Coase paper explores the foundations of Coase's seminal paper
on the nature of the firm and queries his application of marginal
analysis, it is at:
The paper on Game Theory argues that the proper basis for judging
the contribution of Game Theory to the study of areas such as strategy
is to use yardsticks of critical reasoning versus dogma, and that
when these standards are applied, much Game Theory can be seen to
have the status of dogma and should be treated as such, it is at:.
Also Tim Kastelle has
a very nice blog in response to the issues I raise in my musings
in all this, see Tim's blog on the issues here
posted January 19th 2010: The
Presiding Officer of the Scottish Parliament has replied to the
complaint by Professor Hughes Hallet and Scott cited in my
blog for 17th Jjanuary. It is remarkable. Short though it is,
I had to read the letter more than once to make sure that I had
read it properly. See comments here.
posted January 17th 2010: How
do you ambush an academic? You ask him to give evidence as an invited
expert to the Scottish Parliament, he or she does so in good faith,
then you trammel and traduce their reputation - totally unfairly
- to further your political ends. See here
here.for how this happened to Professors Scott and Hughes Hallett
last week This has happened too often in the short life of the Scottish
Parliament and is an affront to democracy and the public interest.
See here for my letter of complaint
to the Presiding Officer of the Scottish Parliament
posted November 16th 2010: I
am writing an article on what a knowledge economy actually look
likes for Tim Kastelle's forthcoming Handbook on the Knowledge Economy
and am doing it as series of blogs first on Tim's website, here
is the latest one and here
is the earlier one Any contributions or comments - please post
on Tim's blog - very welcome
posted October 7th 2008: Lost
in translation - how German leaders a generation apart may have
profoundly influenced history by not speaking clearly enough. See
posted September 17th 2008: Still
no reply to my e-mail (see blog for 7th September below) to the
contact address of the Post Autistic Economics Network at <firstname.lastname@example.org>
even though I requested acknowledgment. So have sent it again.
posted September 10th 2008: Following
blogs of 7th, 8th and 9th September below this (best read them first),
another colleague whose work is being promoted as "Post-Autistic
Economics" on the "Post-Autistic
Economics Network" website has e-mailed me to say that
they were under the impression that they have changed their name.
The answer is they have not.. The Network's home page is still
fully and clearly the "Post-Autistic Economics Network"
and its various links (and Google) still generally proclaim the
virtues of "Post-Autistic Economics" and the deficiences
of "Autistic Economics".
But if you dig, and click the subscribe
button, on the site you get a banner proclaiming "real-world
economics review / post-autistic economics review". Two different
journals? No, just one. The spring
2008 issue is titled "real-world economics review - formerly
the post-autistic economics review" though I could find no
comment or explanation for the change.
So would it not be a simple and positive exercise for the Network
to change the title of the "Post-Autistic Economics Network"
to something like "Real-World Economics Network" and make
it consistent with the title of the Review?
Let's try to persuade them so.
posted September 9th 2008: Following
on from the blogs of 7th and 8th September immediately below this,
if any member of the Network felt they could ignore the potential
for their misuse of the term "autistic" to reinforce and
further promote prejudice, misunderstanding and intolerance, see
involving "Post-Autistic Economics", especially the
post by "Brad" who says "Thats a funny title
because Autism means something like impotent and/or harmful, which
is totally what it is for the people who suffer from it. Thats
what theyre like. I would also suggest post-retard economics
for an even bigger lefty punch!"
Ironically, there have been headlines today about
the use of another term in a pejorative sense. Just put in
"Russell Brand" +"George Bush"
into Google and see what I mean. So far 131,000
hits over a remark that happened only a few hours ago. Of course
words don't matter
No acknowledgment yet from the contact email address
that the Post-Autistic Economics Network give on their website,
even though I requested acknowledgment. There is also no information
I could find on the website about who is organising all this, which
raises further questions about responsibility and accountability.
Remember, all I am asking is that they respect and understand the
legitimate concerns here, and seriously consider renaming their
Network and Review - something organisations do all the time for
far more trivial reasons.
posted September 8th 2008: A footnote
to the blog for September 7th below; the post-autistic (sic) economics
in France and there are interesting parallels with the case
of the French company Ubisoft and its Mindquiz game. That game also
originated in France and also caused outrage for the use of the
term "spastic" in the game to denote poor or failing performance.
When objections were raised, Ubisoft immediately pulled the game
off the shelves.
If a French commercial company can respond quickly
and sensitively this way, then can we expect a network originally
set up by a group of French "post-autistic"students and
intellectuals to respect the need for a name change? See Tera
Kirks blog for a thoughtful account of the Ubisoft case together
which also makes more connections between the misuse and abuse of
the words "spastic" and "autistic"
(Postscript added 9th September - and if there
is any nationality concerned about the "proper" use of
language, then, mon Dieu, it is the French ...)
posted September 7th 2008: What was
in the minds of an international assemblage of able and thoughtful
economists when they called themselves the "Post-Autistic
Economics Network"? Would any of them they have seen a
reason to object if a bunch of international football coaches had
called themselves the "Post-Spastic Football Network"?,
Did no-one see a problem here? See my letter to
the Network. if I get any responses to it, I will post them
posted December 13th 2007: Was pleased
to receive an invitation to contribute a paper to a conference "Dynamic
Capabilities and Beyond" to a conference organised by the Graduate
School of Management at St Petersburg State University, the paper
was to have been delivered last week. My hosts started the process
of getting me the official invitation from the relevant ministry
in October and I am grateful for the compliment of being invited
and the hard work they put in to trying to get me across.
But despite the best efforts of my hosts, and what
turned out to be several days of fruitless efforts on my part, the
end result was that barriers put in the way of getting a visa meant
that I was effectively blocked. The week before I was due to go,
the embassy told me that I would require medical certificates that
would be impossible to obtain in the time available (this for a
two day academic visit). I pointed out this conflicted with their
own published laws and guidelines and was just told there was (unspecified)
"new laws". They even said that with the invitation I
had been issued, I would be refused entry even if was given a visa.
I know other academc and cultural links and exchanges
between Russai and the UK have found barriers put in their way recently.
And this week the British Council offices (including one in St Petersburg)
were ordered to close down, the Russian goverment cited "violations
of Russian financial, tax and other laws." The Council claim
they had complied with all these laws.
In reality, Russia's foreign minister admitted
this was in retaliation for Britain's expulsion of the Russian
diplomats in July. Also Britain's demand for the extradition of
Andrei Lugovoi, the ex-KGB agent charged with Litvinenko's murder
in London has also been a source of tension.
These are the reasons these links are being impeded
In may case, my being blocked from going is disappointing,
and my contribution would itself have been no more than a small
thing set in a much wider and much more important political context.
The real losers from the accumulation of all these developments
will be the Russians themselves, who are finding their various contacts
with the outside world effectively blocked.
The firsr draft of the paper I was going to deliver
posted June 24th 2007: Back from what
is becoming a regular seven weeks each year April and May at the
University of Queensland (UQ). Now absolutely convinced that the
way that Australian universities make their library and sports facilities
open to the public - and positively welcome the local community
to use them - is the way that Scotland could and should go.
I already blogged last year (see for August 25th 2006
below) and argued how the public generally are given open
access to university libaries such as that at UQ. Much the same
is true of sports faclities on campuses such as UQs - the public
are welcome to join or pay-as-you-go, with university staff and
students enjoying a modest discount over general members of the
public. One result is that the university can afford to provide
more extensive and better facilities than if university members
and the tazpayer alone were paying for them. And the result is that
these facilities are made available much more efficiently and fairly
than if they were treated as private and exclusive to university
The usual response on the part of librarians and sports
facility staff at UQ when I discussed the contrast between Scotland
and Australia was surprise about the attitude in Scotland, and confirmation
that in Australia they treated these university faclilities as community
It may be difficult to disentangle cause and effect
- is Australia so good at sport because they take this approach
to public universities providing these public goods? Or does the
fact that institutions like Australian universities actively and
enthusiastically organise and provide these facilities with the
public good in mind help make Australia so good at sport? (and not
just at sport - see the points about Australian universities and
educational excellence in my Extras
blog for 31st October 2006, "Sometimes things just connect"
- scroll down to the entry). Probably this is a case of a benign
feedback loop where causation operates in both directions.
That is not to say that such university facilities
are not opened to the public in some cases in Scotland. But when
it does happen it tends to be haphazard and often has the appearance
of being grudging, badly advertised - and often highly priced compared
to terms and conditions offered to university staff and students.
Rarely is any of this designed to break down a "them and us"
set of psychological and financial barriers between the university
and the wider community.
So what could be done in this context in Scotland?
As I noted in the context of libraries, despite increases in private
funding in recent years, all the Scottish universities are still
heavily funded by public money,
SHEFC gives £1.5 bill every year. What has happpened is
that public money has been used to create private (university-only)
assets. Just as with libraries, there is a very real and simple
policy initiative that Scottish politiicans could adopt. You want
public money to help provide university sports facilities and libraries?
And why stop there, what about university theatres, art galleries,
and other facilities? Then it will be part-conditional on demonstrating
that the public who have paid, reasonable and fairly priced access
to that which they have helped pay for as taxpayer. Absolutely no
coercion, universities could take it or leave it, it's just a matter
of incentives and self-interest, and simple economics - and efficiency,
equity, social inclusion, and helping create an educated, healthy
and cultured Scottish population into the bargain. Talk about hitting
all the right buttons. Now, what reasonable public institution could
possibly object to such a reasonable policy? ... he said innocently...
posted January 30th 2007: Along with
other economic colleagues, I gave invited written and oral evidence
to the Finance Committee of the Scottish Parliament on the Government
Expenditure and Revenue in Scotland seriies. The Official Report
(transcript) of discussions is
here and my written submission on the Resource Curse is here
posted January 1st 2007: Treat youself
to a marvellous cornucopia of ideas in The Edges World
posted August 25th 2006: Many universities
in Scotland put up barriers to the public and scholars from other
universities using their resources. The result is that across Scotland
we have a wealth of intellectual, educational and cultural material
effectively locked up and cut off from the communities whose taxes
have largely paid for the creation of these resources. This page
outlines the problem and what can be done about it.
posted August 17th 2006: I was concerned
when Nicolai Foss's blog under bloggers
beware noted that blogs could be seen by younger academics especially
as potentially damaging to their career - see article in Slate
blog cited by Nicolai. I was also not surprised when the Guardian
August 13th, threats to academic free speeach in the US, the title
of the article is "The land of the free - but free speech
is a rare commodity". But it is not just in the US where
this is happening. The Times Higher Education Supplement reported,
4th August, that an ICM poll found that four in ten UK academics
say their academic freedom and right (and obligation) to express
controversial or unpopular opinions is under attack.
The threat to academic freedom and free speech is
insidious and pervasive. The biggest threat is not direct bans or
explicit restraints. It is uncertainty and self-censorship. You
may not know if writing that letter will damage your chances of
continuing employment (tenure having been effectively abolished
in the UK), you may not know if that conclusion to your article
will damage your chances of further grant support, you may not know
if taking a particular line in your lectures will get complaints
from some quarters and damage your promotion prospects. And you
may not know if you criticise George Bush (see post for August 16th
below) whether or not you will finish up on some list. You may not
know - but why take the chance?
So here is a trivial example of the sort of thing
that is happening - trivial but indicative."Old(er)
Academic Meets the New University Environment" is my reply
to an article published in a university newsletter, Summer 2006.
It reflects my current interest in the use of language in economic
and organization science (see articles above) In the past when university
administrators spouted nonsense, academics would not have hesitated
to say so. Now they just shrug their shoulders and say "what
can you do?". I can't imagine an employed academic at that
university criticising such an article in public, or even in committee,
but what can they do to me - take my honorary professorship away?
posted August 16th 2006: as the papers
above indicate one of my current academic interests is the use of
language in various contexts. It has made me extra aware of the
implications of George Bush talking of the "War on Terror"
(his repeated comments) and "Islamic fascists" (August
10th). War used to be against a nation state, now it is against
a psychological state - with the implication that such a war would
be never ending in ways that even Orwell with his never ending World
War never dreamt of in Nineteen Eighty Four. How can you terminate
a "War on Terror"? Do you downgrade it to a "War
on Anxiety" or even to a "War on that Queezy Feeling in
the Pit of Your Stomach"? No, its here to stay if they have
As for talk of "Islamic fascists", when
I heard I depaired. It is wrong, misleading, downright dangerous
and inflammatory. Did the Jewish people describe the Nazis as "Christian
fascists"? (after all, the Nazis associated the Jews with the
devil and believed that their God would liberate them from that
evil). Then just think of the divisiveness and polarisation that
could have been engendered by the term "Christian fascists".
But the current terrorism is arguably neither Islamic nor fascist
- definitions of the latter vary, but usually incorporate elements
of nationalism, corporatism and racism. The terrorists may be many
things but "Islamic fascists"? Then God, whoever He is,
help him, them and us.
What good are academics here? Well, if words are being
conscripted and corrupted in this "War", at the very least
that is a battlefield we should be involved in.
posted May 20th 2006: back from six
weeks April and May as visiting professor in the Economics Department,
University of Queensland. Swapping
back my ferry commute, see below ...
Swapped commuting by ferry across the River
||...for commuting by ferry up the Brisbane