Friday, August 12, 2011

Fear, Anger and Power: The End of Ideology

By Dr. Suhaib Riaz.

While the looting continued in London's streets in the last few days, looting of a different type continued across financial markets. The UK has finally asserted that "those people who are responsible for this wrongdoing and criminality: you will feel the full force of the law and if you are old enough to commit these crimes you are old enough to face the punishment" (Prime Minister Cameron). At the same time, the SEC has started investigating who had prior insider knowledge of Standard & Poor's historic downgrade of the US credit rating (at least one thing to come out of this is the much needed focus on Debt underlying the current crisis, that I have been mentioning for a while). There seems little doubt that some had this very specific knowledge and cashed in on it, as seen from recent market behavior, and also as learned from observing recent high profile cases such as Galleon Group, which revealed the level of power abuse by elites having inside knowledge. 

There are strong parallels between the looting elites and the looting downtrodden, and one wonders if one is indeed inspired by the other (I leave it to your imagination: who inspires whom?). Both are driven by base instincts rather than by any clear ideology with political or social goals. Both focus simply on abusing their power as much as they can and appropriating what they can for themselves - the overall society be damned. But despite these similarities, is there any doubt which looters will be caught and which ones will likely escape?

Regardless, these trends reveal something profound about our age. All ideologies have failed and the basest instincts have taken over. Even those purporting to act under any ideology, whether political or religious, use it simply as an excuse for acting on base instincts, rather than for any 
societal benefit based on logical or intellectual conviction. Fear, anger and power-abuse capture the reality of the streets and the markets alike. 

No one is likely to be spared from this bout of base instincts sweeping the world. The problem is no longer a distant or abstract story on news channels, but rather, is crystallized into our everyday experiences, if we bother to think and reflect.

A single personal experience can sometimes help crystallize one's thoughts on where we are headed. Recently, crossing the border from Canada into another country, one is simply confused at the extraordinary power abuse on display. When you're asked what you do, and try to explain, you're met with an angry response shouted at you, "I know what a University professor does, I'm not an idiot!"...and this is just one of a string of similar expressions. Fear, anger and power-abuse feed on each other. Such senseless and out-of-place anger thrives in an environment marked by collective fear, which in turn sanctions such abuse of power. 

It seems everyone is angry at, or in fear of, everyone else, and is out to abuse one's power over others as much as possible. This is the absence of all ideology, and the  triumph of base instincts. Are we all condemned to live in such a world for the near future?

Monday, August 1, 2011

Journal Impact Factors and Rankings: How Categorization Influences a Journal's Rank

Management scholars publish their research in journals that fall into two broad categories: Business and Management. This category assignment is made by Thomson Reuters Journal Citation Reports (JCR). As I mentioned in an earlier post, JCR does not rank journals based on impact factors. But, the journals rank themselves in their own category. Depending on the category in which a particular journal is placed, the rank a journal receives can be quite different for the same impact factor. In particular, journals placed in the Management category receive a lower rank for the same impact factor than they would get if they were in the Business category.
As shown in this document, the number of journals by category is: Business – 101, Management – 140, Both combined – 203. However, 38 journals are common to both categories. These 38 journals get a lower rank in Management compared to their rank in Business category. For example, Organization Dynamics is ranked at 65 in Business Category and 90 in Management Category – a drop of 25 places. Combining the Business and Management categories, however, produces another different ranking, which is typically lower than the rank received in either of the category rankings. For example, Organization Dynamics gets a rank of 128 if both categories are combined.
Given this influence that category assignment has, the definitions of category and the criteria on which those assignments are made must be sound. JCR says that management covers “resources on management science, organization studies, strategic planning and decision-making methods, leadership studies, and total quality management.” The category of business “covers resources concerned with all aspects of business and the business world. These may include marketing and advertising, forecasting, planning, administration, organizational studies, compensation, strategy, retailing, consumer research, and management. Also covered are resources relating to business history and business ethics.” Although these definitions appear to be somewhat different, they are quite similar and many business management journals can fall into either category or both.
Not surprisingly, in practice, journals with similar mandate and focus are assigned to different categories. For example, Supply Chain Management is assigned to both the categories, while Journal of Operations Management is assigned to Management category alone. Asia Pacific Journal of Management is assigned to Management category, while Asian Business and Management is assigned to both categories. If APJM was assigned to Business category, then its rank would have been 10 – a better looking place compared to its place of 18 in Management category. 
In short, category assignments do not appear to be based on sound criteria and many journals in Business category can easily fit into the Management category, and vice versa. For the same impact factor, those journals in Business Category tend to get a better rank than those in the Management Category. Therefore, one needs to pay attention to the category and other journals in the category as one makes use of the impact factors. This also raises broader questions: If the category assignments are themselves not very sound, how meaningful are the journal ranks, and how sensible is the obsession with these ranks?