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Brendan

Wednesday, 23rd May Session Topic



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Dear members of the complex processes research group,

The next meeting of the group on the theme of saving the environment from neoliberalism will feature:

 

SPEAKER: Cristina Neesham, Swinburne Business School

TOPIC: Adam Smith and the Modern Business School

 

TIME: 12.30pm, Wednesday, 23rd May

VENUE: AGSE301

 

Abstract:

This presentation focuses on how business schools have adopted and applied the economic and moral-philosophical ideas of Adam Smith, and on the implications of these distortions for business education today. Using examples of genealogical studies (such as, the history of Marx’s concept of necessary class conflict as derived from Smith’s theory of social order), I critique the still dominant myth that neoliberalism (especially as reflected in the work of free-market theorists such as Friedrich von Hayek and Milton Friedman) is a natural ‘offspring’ of Smith’s economic thought. More specifically, I argue that, when similar assumptions about the ‘mechanics’ of the market are combined with profoundly different theories of social order, human nature, and the social meaning of value (as derived from economic activity), this results in profoundly different, and not similar, economic theories. Having mapped the trajectory of several Smithian ideas from his time to ours, I conclude that Smith’s work has more in common with Marx (especially in his early writings), with Sen (and his direction of development economics) and with social psychologists such as Jonathan Haidt than with von Hayek and Friedman. Based on this conclusion, I propose a manifesto for a new business education curriculum, aimed at deconstructing the narrow ideological co-optations operated by neoliberalist doctrines and at recovering the richness of Smith’s economic and moral-philosophical thought to support new, different understandings of socially responsible business activity.

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