Alternatives within the Political and Legal System

Mathias Siems
Session Organizers:
Sue Konzelmann and Olivier Butzbach
Olivier Butzbach
Friday, 3 July 2015: 10:15 AM-11:45 AM
CLM.2.05 (Clement House)
A key problem in the literature on comparative capitalism is its seemingly innate tendency to assume system-wide cohesiveness while performing cross-country comparisons. While studies in the “varieties of capitalism” tradition has paid large attention to the empirical working of the inter-institutional framework within which national actors (industries, firms, individuals) operate, a widely shared assumption in these studies is that institutional complementarities exist at systemic level. Within this framework, within-country variations such as, for instance, the existence of various organizational forms within a field, are either perceived as temporary deviations from the isomorphic trend, or anomalies maintained because institutions can be inefficient (this is where some comparative capitalism works fall in sync with neo-classical economics).

This session, following a broader agenda, reverses the traditional assumption and looks at within-system variation as an empirical starting point, without taking for granted the need to conform to an overarching norm, organization or policy. Obviously, this task is easier when set at the meso or micro-level, when variation is less difficult to find and easier to explain – for instance, it is evident that any given field or population offers a certain degree of heterogeneity. Again, however, thinking about micro-level heterogeneity still offers its challenges given how deeply rooted is the assumption of system-wide cohesiveness.

But this session is about identifying and thinking about “alternatives within” at the macro-institutional level – the national policy-making and legal systems. A difficult task, since it is precisely at this level that dominant norms or policies take shape to, then, order the fragmented reality of organizational fields or industries. Nevertheless, the papers presented in this session aim at uncovering the “alternatives within” policy and law. This has obvious theoretical as well as policy consequences. At the theoretical level, the papers presented in this session all point to the need of theorizing pluralistic orientations within policy-making and the legal system; and to combine the possibility of within-system diversity with the demands of comparative research. At the policy level, the session may help identify pathways to overcoming dominant norms or orientations by levering existing but invisible alternatives.

Two issues will be dealt with in particular detail in this session. The first two papers will focus on the possibility of alternatives within policy-making. The paper by Konzelmann and Fovargue-Davis will look at the importance of the example of UK Elite sport strategies to recast the state as a primary actor in industrial policy; the paper by Conley and Williams will explore the different ways in which regulators may reform corporate culture in the United States and the Netherlands.

The second issue concerns the legal system, and will be addressed by the last two papers presented in this session. The paper by Gagliardi and Gindis will look at the possibility for corporate law to help nurture and sustain organizational diversity, while the paper by Puri will investigate the extent to which Canadian corporate law does balance the conflicting demands of bankruptcy law and environmental law.

1. Re-Inventing Industrial Strategy: Insight from Elite Sport Systems
Sue Konzelmann, Birkbeck, University of London; Marc Fovargue-Davies, Birkbeck, University of London Centre for Corporate Governance and Ethics
2. Fixing Finance: Comparative Approaches to Changing Firm Culture
John Conley, University of North Carolina School of Law; Cynthia Williams, Osgoode Hall Law School, York University
3. Organizational Law and the Alternatives to Capitalist Firms in Liberal Market Economies
Francesca Gagliardi, University of Hertfordshire; David Gindis, University of Hertfordshire