Institution Building across Borders
Jan-Christoph Janssen (Cologne Graduate School)
Over recent years, the responsibility of business actors for their stakeholders and the environment affected by their actions became a decisive criterion for consumption and investments. Third party evaluation and certification enable business actors to authenticate their claim of good practice. In the case of Fair Trade, those third parties evolved out of social movements in a “bottom up” manner with distinct national imprints to regulate transnational trade. This transnational certification framework is still attached to the political ideals and normative concerns of its roots – which can conflict with the inherent logic of markets. With the growing significance of certification, international umbrella organizations were founded to harmonize the efforts of national actors and “top down” processes gained in importance. The discretion of national actors has been constrained in favor of a common regulative framework for the label “Fair Trade”. This attempt to align the different strategic foci and overcome national differences caused severe conflicts about the appropriate means to empower the disadvantaged producers in the southern hemisphere. In many instances, business interests clashed with radical claims to challenge the terms of global trade.
While Fair Trade is regarded as a success story in terms of market penetration and growth, this success varies tremendously between national settings and product categories. Recently, Fair Trade USA left the common framework since it regards the means offered by the common framework as insufficient to further the growth of sales and to put stronger emphasis on business. But what are the preconditions for more or less market penetration of the certification framework? This project aims to identify the paths leading to success and failure of a transnational certification scheme by applying “Qualitative Comparative Analysis” to compare the market share of commodities across national settings.
Project duration: October 2011 to September 2014.
Markus Lang (IMPRS-SPCE)
Ever since the late nineteenth century, professions have been involved in the development of transnational patent systems. More than in most other professions, the work of patent lawyers, patent agents and information specialists became thereby connected and mobile across national boundaries. Yet there is not much known about their role in managing an abundance of patents, granted not only for new subject matter, but also in more and more geographical areas. How did an increasing number of patent professionals gain jurisdiction over areas of patent related work? When and why did these social groups come to interpret patent information as condition for technology transfers? And what are the consequences of professional strategies for the likelihood of litigation? This project addresses these questions by drawing on a processual theory of patent professionalism, emphasizing processes of social boundary-work and exchange across national boundaries as well as status orderings in producer markets. Empirically, this project is based on embedded case studies of professional trajectories in Germany and the United States, making use of document analysis, archival work, and quantitative analyses of patent data.
Project duration: October 2011 to December 2014.
Solomon Zori (IMPRS-SPCE)
Many scholars have examined the diffusion of policies across borders, investigated how the diffusion process unfolds, why and how policies are embraced or rejected and which institutions and actors matter most for diffusion. Two schools of thoughts oppose each other at a crossroad: The one school sees policy diffusion anchored in a rational actor model; it is assumed that countries make rational choices when adopting policies from elsewhere. The other school argues that decisions about policy adoption are driven by institutional processes; it is believed that countries adopt policies out of a need to appear legitimate to their peers. Similar debates can be found in the context of the diffusion of international accounting standards to developing countries, and particularly to the African continent. Proponents of the diffusion of International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRSs) highlight economic benefits and improvement of information quality when explaining choices to adopt these standards. Yet, other countries seem to have adopted these standards following a rational of legitimacy contrary to the economic logic. Moreover, many African countries have so far not adopted IFRS despite of pressure from International Organizations to do so. The goal of this study is to better understand the logics behind the diffusion of international accounting standards in Africa with the aim to develop an institutional explanation which is more encompassing than a rational choice explanation. To this aim, the study firstly investigates why so many African countries resist adopting IFRSs despite of the economic rationale behind them. Secondly, the project explores which factors foster or limit the diffusion of IFRS on the African continent. Thirdly, the study aims to map the role of various actors, both at the transnational and local level, in the diffusion of these standards. The PhD project will look at factors such as presence of capital markets, level of economic growth, colonial history, aid dependency, activities of the accountancy profession and accountancy certification organizations. Methodologically, it combines a Qualitative Comparative Analysis with case studies of selected African countries.
Project duration: October 2011 to September 2014.