Global Citizens, Global Learners 4. Philosophical Issues Revisited

Falk (1994) identified five categories of global citizens:

  1. global reformers
  2. elite global business people
  3. global environmental managers
  4. politically conscious regionalists
  5. transnational activists

Boltanski and Chiapello (2007) argue that global participants is a more accurate term than global citizens, since production and consumption are globally diffuse, national identity-eroding activities, and flows of resources and labour are increasingly transnational. Thus, global participation is both the result and product of a “new spirit of capitalism”.

Assuming they acquire the values and sympathise with the practices and objectives of their discipline, students of business will likely enter categories 2 and 3 of Falk’s taxonomy. Schattle (2009), however, adds a sixth: global educators.

Complicating any debate on presence and prominence is the persistence of multiple definitions of GC education (Heater, 2002). In response to the question of whether or not GC education is pure abstraction, Davies (2006) proposed a framework for action: it must be active engagement focused, and bridge the abstract and the practical. Such pragmatism is a basic tenet of operations and management in general. Similarly, Davies and Pike (2009) claim GC is a “constant process”. Notions of continual improvement are deeply articulated aspects of operations management.[1] Such points of conceptual convergence would receive emphasis in business studies curricula. According to Oxfam (2006), education for GC helps enable young people to develop “core competencies”[2] that enable them to make the world “more just and sustainable”.

According to Marshall (2011), GC emphasizes economics and other “Western” priorities. Marshall suggests that cultures might suffer from the adoption of non-appropriate, Western-packaged “global values”. However, it is indisputable that there exist cultures and countries that would prosper from and welcome the same. Likewise, Andreotti’s claim that GC education demands “decolonisation” (2010) can be countered similarly: in the absence of superior alternatives, that which exists and functions is preferable. Blommaert (2010), by challenging the status of English as the de facto lingua franca, is similarly anti-status quo, but fails to propose an alternative common language of trade, propositions for methods of meeting the switching costs (which would be penalising for poorer countries), and criteria on which contending languages should be eliminated.

Conveniently, operations management confounds the assumption that business is a “western” imposition. Due to the volume of innovations and the successes of MNEs from Japan, almost the entire argot of operations management is Japanese. Although the terminology exposes the very international legacy of the discipline, learning hundreds of Japanese words and phrases is a challenge[3] that has been an unwelcome extra burden for many, probably most, students. Also, the majority of influential case studies used pedagogically concern MNEs’ successes and ambitions in China, which showcases businesses’ power to improve conditions for millions in the east.

 

NOTES

[1] In management studies, the term “kaizen” is nowadays ubiquitous. The term was popularized in the west mainly by Ohno’s famous book (1978) on the Toyota Production System. This Japanese word (改善) is most commonly translated as “continuous improvement”.

[2] “Core competencies” is a term that originates in the business literature via a very influential article by Prahalad and Hamel (1990) on the differentiating capabilities of firms.

[3] I have successfully addressed this by methods such as repetitive mention of key terms and providing students with “jargon busters” and quizzes. Typically, these are A4 sheets onto which are printed short lists of terms with brief definitions.  Students draw lines to connect the terms with their correct definitions.

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