Saturday, 11 July 2009

Homogeneity and economics

Slí Eile: John Fanning of McConnell’s Advertising is quoted to support the argument for local branding and non-repeatable design/tradition/identity.

In their book, Bradley and Kennelly (see previous blogs), the authors speak (somewhat uncritically) of the value of Public-Private Partnerships (PPP) and propose consideration of a similar partnership but one between public and voluntary agencies with the prospect of innovation and ‘value for public spending’ outcomes. The danger in any partnership arrangement is that an existing or potentially new service of product is relegated to the workings of the market (or other non-state actors) in a way that takes the State of the hook when it comes to providing essential public services and infrastructure. It seems to me that the evidence of the values of PPPs and PVPs as advocated by the authors remains to be proven clearly from different trials over recent years.

Difference is the key to cross-cultural and cross-national competition and this theme sums up the book. However, just as important as difference among nations is key – so can difference within societies. An alternative hypothesis and one that may sit as complementary with the Bradley-Kennelly one is that diversity within national contexts can drive innovation and competition. However, quoting G. Sweeney approvingly, the authors seem to contradict the Florida hypothesis:
…homogenisation into one globalised culture is a massive barrier to innovative development, whereas the local homogeneity and cohesion are the basis of the trust in which members are held and differentiate it’
(Sweeney, 2001: 157).

The important role of indigenous industry (a topic that has seen a resurgence in recent times) is underlined by the authors Reliance on foreign direct investment and the more recent traditional growth sectors in IT, financial services as well as chemicals and other manufacturing niches will not deliver the scale of jobs and investment needed in the future. Inevitably, we will need to turn to indigenous industry in new sectors and trading on global markets.
I like this piece (p160):
…there is sufficient talent and energy at the grassroots to make significant improvements in the organisation, but long experience with barriers means people become frustrated and discouraged, which leads them to believe that change if impossible.
.In the learning organisation model, systems are informal and coordination is by mutual consent. In a public learning organisation, people fulfil a shared mission through creative work within a community, whereas in the old-style bureaucracy they administer programmes and policies authorised from the outside.

Tom Inglis, in a review of this book, draws his own conclusion:
If we are, then, to capitalise on culture, if we are to be not just different, but honoured and respected for our difference, then we might begin with a national debate and educational programmes about what gives us pleasure and different ways of living a full, pleasurable life which is not so dependent on working ever harder to consume ever more.
In conclusion, one might ask: What about British, other, 'dual' identity in Ireland?
What about European identity and shared values?

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