On Sunday the Management History division at the Academy of Management hosted an all academy symposium on historical perspectives on business and management in an age of rising nationalism.
The panel comprised of Dan Wadhwani as the host and moderator, Matthias Kipping (York University), Takafumi Kurosawa (Kyoto University) and myself, Stephanie Decker (Aston University).
We argued that history can provide management scholars with a unique lens for understanding the current rise of nationalism, and the choices that businesses, managers, and entrepreneurs face in response to those changes. In part, this is because both supporters and critics of the current wave of nationalism point to historical examples and their consequences in justifying their positions. But, even more so, historical waves of globalization and de-globalization allow us a mirror for reflecting on the options and consequences that both policymakers and managers face today.
For instance, on the eve of World War I, much of the world economy was economically integrated, with the relatively free mobility of firms, people, and capital across borders. This earlier wave of global integration fell apart with the rise of nationalism and nationalist policies during the interwar period, and a different kind of globally integrated economy had to be rebuilt by policymakers and businesspeople in the post-World War II world.
We discussed not only potential lessons of earlier waves of nationalism de-globalization, but also the uses of the past by politicians, and the way in which corporate strategies can be shaped in the long term by historical experiences.
Ultimately, the discussion revolved around the relevance of history for understanding managerial choices and consequences in the face of nationalism in our own time.