2008-2018: How to Interpret the Post-crisis Period
This third article in the mini-series dedicated to Economia & Management ’s thirty years, concentrates on the third decade of the magazine’s history, from 2008 to 2018, with the addition of a few digressions relating to 2019.
This third article in the mini-series dedicated to Economia & Management’s thirty years, concentrates on the third decade of the magazine’s history, from 2008 to 2018, with the addition of a few digressions relating to 2019.
On the magazine front, the decade saw a succession of three Editorial Directors: Vincenzo Perrone, who stayed in the role until issue No. 3 of 2013, Guido Corbetta, who directed the publication from 2014 to 2017, and Fabrizio Perretti, who took over from issue No. 1 of 2018. In addition, starting with issue No. 3 of 2015, the publisher also changed: no longer Etas of the Rizzoli group, but Egea, the Bocconi University’s publishing house.
One of the topics most discussed in the magazine during these years was: who was the intended readership of Economia & Management: managers? Management researchers? Both? This discussion was also linked to the way to disseminate ideas, research results, and interpretations. All of these questions can be condensed in the relationship between (academic and scientific) rigor and (practical) relevance. In this connection, Vincenzo Perrone wrote in his farewell editorial:
“I chose a clear editorial line, which I summed up in the slogan, ‘what is interesting, proposed and argued with rigor.’ I am convinced that we can have an impact on managerial practice, which is the objective that magazines such as ours set, without having to give up on establishing a scientific basis for our own ideas and proposals. I leave a magazine that can be read usefully and without getting bored, by those who manage a business every day, and equally accepted as a scientific magazine by the Accademia Italiana di Economia Aziendale.”
An example of this marriage is the creation of a section called “Relevance and Rigor” (from issue No. 2 to issue No. 5 of 2012), which published extracts of studies by researchers who had just completed their doctorates.
When Guido Corbetta took over the editorship in 2014, he renewed the challenge of creating a dialogue between researchers and managers:
“In these last few years, it has not always been easy to bring together research results and ideas in a format like E&M. And yet I believe that there is a possibility of once more activating a virtuous circle where researchers, men and women, who work in and for companies, enrich each other reciprocally […]. This is the challenge that we can face, and try to win […]. E&M’s primary mission is to publish articles containing ideas, models, and instruments useful to those who work in and for companies: entrepreneurs, managers, workers, professionals, consultants, trade unionists, policy makers, and so on. And when we talk of corporations, as Dematté often wrote, we are referring to the economic order of all the institutions, whether they are manufacturing enterprises, service companies, banks and other financial institutions, or public entities. I believe that this mission must continue to be the pole star of the magazine.”
Starting with issue No. 3 of 2014, some innovations were introduced to sustain this challenge. Each number was dedicated to a dominant theme or dossier and new feature columns (described later in detail) were added. The changes in content were accompanied by a renewal of the graphics:
“Among the most evident innovations was a rethink of the ‘navigation,’ i.e. of the coordinates enabling readers to orient themselves in the magazine. So a ‘color scheme’ was introduced, signaling the passage between sections, including conceptually, providing rhythm and character. Then some attempts were made at redesigning the ‘grid’ and the ‘lettering,’ the systems which add depth to the pages to give different speeds to the reading and facilitate the distinction between the various types of contribution, which we decided to enhance by focusing on ‘personalization,’ i.e. on a greater capacity of identification between articles and authors. Last but not least, we started to work on the most evident and risky aspect: the cover. This is a magazine’s business card, the face that sums up the personality, the objectives and the identikit of the reader. […]. What appear as simple esthetic formalisms are the result of a thought process, the tangible sign of a conceptual rethinking that entails a precise will to change what we intend to pursue. The reason for the change is clear: to preserve the spirit and function that our magazine has had ever since Claudio Dematté founded it, adapting it to the present standards, codes, and roles. We are living in a period of transformation and we want to dedicate all our energy so that E&M can continue to be one of the protagonists of the cultural debate around the facts and idea of economics and management.”
Starting with issue No. 1 of 2016, not only was a new graphic design introduced, but there was a true launch of the magazine’s website and a greater differentiation between the magazine (paper and digital media) and the website itself. In addition, a clear distinction was introduced between purely practical articles published in the “Themes” section and declaredly academic articles published in the “Science” section.
The handover between Guido Corbetta and Fabrizio Perretti came with issue No. 5 of 2017. Perretti writes:
“As a pupil of Claudio Dematté, to be called to the helm of Economia & Management, the magazine of the School of Management of the Bocconi University, founded by him almost thirty years ago, is at the same time a great honor and a challenge. It was a matter of continuing the work oriented to the development and promotion of a modern economic and managerial culture in our country, in a profoundly changed and continuously evolving context.”
In issue No. 1 of 2018, Fabrizio Perretti stated how to continue the legacy of Dematté, by concentrating greater attention on the relevance and the contribution that the magazine can give to the public debate:
“The management activity and the economic and social context within which companies operate represent – right from the start – the center of attention of the magazine, both as a focus and as a perspective of analysis and interpretation, by those who study them in universities and research centers, and also by those who operate from within and make it an object of reflection. Interpretation thus characterized by a pluralism of voices and outlooks, but which must at the same time avoid uncritical acceptance, fideistic abandon, and intellectual surrender. The purpose that the magazine sets itself is not only to interpret reality but also to stimulate a continuous reaction, to participate in a public debate also involving management and the same enterprises that it studies and to whom it is addressed. As Dematté recalled, the best way to help businesses each find their own way is to expose them to the set of experiences and ideas debating the subject, also obliging them to look at things they would prefer to avoid, touching a few exposed nerves. What qualifies an executive class is its ability to join the game, make itself available, be judged. It is on this original view, on this heritage, that the premises and promises of the future editorial line of our magazine are founded.”
These intentions have been transformed into a new approach since issue No. 1 of 2019: the magazine has come out with new graphics; the thematic dossier of each number has been widened and the feature columns are published only on the website.
Figure 1 presents some covers of the magazine: the cover of the first issue of the decade (January 2008); the cover of issue No. 1 of 2014, the first one signed by Guido Corbetta; the cover of issue No. 3 of 2014 dedicated to the magazine’s founder Claudio Dematté; the cover of issue No. 1 of 2016, featuring a renewal as a result of the change of publisher, and the last two covers of 2019 marking a thorough-going revision of graphics and contents.
Figure 1 Some covers of Economia & Management
The Zeitgeist between 2008 and 2018
The period covered by this third article is marked, internationally, by very diverse political figures. On the Atlantic front we see the passage of the presidency from Barack Obama (2009-2017) to Donald Trump (2017-). In Europe we see the decline of David Cameron after the Brexit referendum result of 2016; the lasting “reign” of Angela Merkel in Germany; and the rise of Emmanuel Macron (2017). In Asia we see the emergence of the Chinese president Xi Jinping (2012). Some of the key events were: the beginning of a profound global economic and financial crisis, symbolized by the failure of the U.S. bank Lehman Brothers (September 12, 2008); the fall of the Gaddafi regime in Libya (2011) in a context of strong tensions in North Africa and the Middle East, which became the cause of a migratory movement toward Europe; the terrorist attacks by ISIS, including the one at the Bataclan in Paris (November 13, 2015); and the victory of “leave” in the referendum on the United Kingdom’s permanence in the European Union (June 23, 2016).
On a national level, 2008 opened with the return of the center-right government (4th Berlusconi government), which was succeeded in 2011, following tensions within the governing majority and the serious financial crisis, by a technical government headed by the economist Mario Monti (2011-2013) and supported by the “People of Freedom” and the Democratic Party. In the period from 2013 to 2018, the center-left returned to power with the governments of Letta, Renzi, and Gentiloni. The result of the March 2018 election led to the birth of a coalition government between the League party and the Five Star Movement. In 2015, Giorgio Napolitano was succeeded as President of the Republic by Sergio Mattarella. In terms of decisions, we should mention (in chronological order): the Monti government’s Save Italy decree to restore public finances; the reform of labor law, denominated the Jobs Act (2014-2015), the reform of the schools (the so-called Good School) and public administration (2015), the reform of the second part of the Constitution (approved in April 2016 and rejected in the people’s referendum in December of the same year), the law on same-sex civil partnerships (May 2016) by the Renzi government; the so-called Dignity Decree (2018) which modified some aspects of the Jobs Act, the introduction of the “quota 100,” relating to the pension system, and of the citizenship income (2019) by the League-Five Star government.
The cardinal themes of this decade are well represented by two films: Ken Loach’s I, Daniel Blake, winner of the Golden Palm at Cannes in 2016, and Guillermo del Toro’s The Shape of Water, winner of the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival in 2017. Loach’s film focuses attention on the topic of work and workers and what happens when, in the words of Weber, formal rationality prevails over substantive thought, and when the state allocates activities for which it should be responsible to private concerns. Daniel Blake is a carpenter, sixty years old, and has heart disease. He ought to receive disability benefits, but public assistance has been contracted out to private companies, which have an interest in not granting the subsidies. Blake therefore has to register as unemployed and seek a job, while waiting for his application to be rejected so that he can appeal. Amid all this, new technologies also come into play. Blake is completely devoid of computer skills, but in order to register as unemployed and/or claim the subsidy he must fill in the forms exclusively online. Del Toro’s film, on the other hand, is the love affair, set in the United States in the 1960s, between a mute cleaning woman and an amphibious creature and it has been defined as a “hymn to freedom.” The filmmaker says:
“The real monsters are the humans, obsessed by perfection, who don’t tolerate defects and diversity. And what frightens me most, in real life, is this monstrosity that I wanted to deal with, also politically […]. In 1962 America was reaching out toward a perfect future: space race, big cars, classy kitchens, elegant women. Those who say today that they want to make America great again are looking at this America. But 1962 was the year Kennedy was shot, there was the escalation of the Vietnam War and the arrival of disillusionment. That America had problems with sexual identity, it was racist and classist. The prejudices of that time are still here: the Mexicans steal jobs, there’s no need for transgender bathrooms, the blacks are criminals. All wrong ideas that are sources of hate.”
Loach’s film has a public and social dimension, Del Toro’s film has a private and individual dimension, but both are political, in the sense of drawing attention to the topic of exclusion from work and society.
The social and economic context in Italy
The Censis report subdivides the period discussed in this article into two sub-periods: the first (2009-2013) defined as “Adaptation to the crisis” and the second (2013-2016) summarized as “The age of rancor and nostalgia.” The 2018 report, on the other hand, directs attention to the social roots of a “psychic sovereignism” which substitutes rancor with spite. The key words of the decade seem to be “crisis,” “rancor,” and “spite.” Adaptation to the crisis is exemplified by leaders caged in opinionism, in a separation between political institutions devoted to rigor (reduction in spending, rationalization of the public apparatus) and international financial credibility, and social entities engaged in difficult strategies of survival (sacrifices and restrictions). Italian society therefore lives in apnea, fragile, isolated, governed by others. The age of rancor and nostalgia is characterized by an “Italic limbo” where individuals, families and businesses remain in a secure enclosure, gripped by the malice of rancor and the languor of nostalgia. The malice of rancor is then transformed into spite. Censis writes at the presentation of the 52nd report:
“After the rancor, the spite: for 75% of Italians, immigrants cause an increase in crime, for 63% they are a burden on our welfare system. Only 23% of Italians feel they have achieved a better socio-economic condition than their parents and 67% now look to the future with fear or uncertainty. The purchasing power of households is still down 6.3% compared to 2008. Work emergency: employed young graduates are disappearing (in 2007 there were 249 for every 100 senior workers; today there are just 143).”
From a macro-economic point of view (Table 1), Italy in these years has seen: a fall in GDP in 2008, 2009, 2012, and 2013 and an average growth rate of 0.9 percent in the period 2014-2018; a deficit/GDP ratio above 3 percent in 2009, 2010, and 2011, with an average of 2.5 percent in the period 2014-2018; the ratio between national debt and GDP has increased steadily from 102.3 percent in 2008 to 131.6 in 2015, then falling slightly in 2016-2018; the inflation rate has been on average 1.4 percent with a peak of 3.3 percent in 2008 and a minimum of 0.1 percent in 2015 and 2016; the unemployment rate rose gradually from 6.7 percent in 2008 to 12.7 percent in 2014, then falling to 10.6 percent in 2018.
Table 1 Italy seen macro-economically (2008-2018)
Source: ISTAT, dati.istat.it.
Let us now move on from the macro-economic data to the kind of entities that populate the economic system in the period 2008-2018. Patrizio Bianchi divides these entities into three groups: public enterprises (Eni, Enel, Gse, Finmeccanica-Leonardo, Poste Italiane, A2A), private corporations that have acquired publicly regulated activities (Telecom Italia, Edizione, Edison, Wind-3, and Fininvest) and a series of large and medium-large manufacturing groups (in the mechanical engineering, chemical, pharmaceutical, and food industries) able to face global competition. In general terms, however, Italian multinational enterprises do not have a big presence in high technology areas, are fairly present in medium-high technology areas, and very present in low technology areas. Bianchi also points out:
“It seems that in Italy this long period of stagnation, but also of exaltation of conflict and interruption of all consultation, following the Ulivo government, has undermined that social capital of relations that was considered by Italian, and especially international, literature as the substantial element of Italian success.”
In this connection Giuseppe Berta states:
“There are other trends of economic change that absorbed a markedly individualistic imprint in the last two decades of the 1900s, featuring a molecular mobilization quite remote from the collective trend of the process of industrialization in the 1950s and ’60s. As much as the economic movement then had been activated and modeled by the principle of the organization and its hierarchical values, so the recent movement has rather flowed along an infinite network of individual, particular paths. The result is a microcapitalism animated by economic projects of individuals and no longer governed by explicit organizational frames.”
The managerial debate
The managerial debate in this period, theoretically and conceptually, is substantially in continuity with that of the previous decade and influenced by three phenomena: technological development, the financial crisis, and socio-demographic change on a global level.
As far as technological development is concerned, contributions come under the label of the “fourth industrial revolution” that aim to analyze the positive and negative economic and social impacts linked to the development of information and communication technologies. In this regard we can cite, by way of example: according to more optimistic and positive perspective, The Second Machine Age: Work, Progress, and Prosperity in a Time of Brilliant Technologies (2014) and Machine, Platform, Crowd: Harnessing Our Digital Future (2017) both by Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee; from a critical perspective, The Age of Surveillance Capitalism: The Fight for a Human Future at the New Frontier of Power (2017) by Shoshana Zuboff. In addition, some contributions focus on the platforms of the so-called sharing economy. For example, in an article by Peter Fleming published in Organization Studies in 2017, the author substitutes the famous term mcdonaldization, coined by the sociologist George Ritzer, with uberization, i.e. an economic system based on self-employment, freelance working and on-demand business models. Or, Uberland: How Algorithms Are Rewriting the Rules of Work (2018) by Alex Rosenblat.
The other two phenomena (crises and socio-demographic changes) are dealt with in some of the titles of the annual conferences of the American Academy of Management. The 2010 conference was dedicated to “Dare to Care: Passion and Compassion in Management Practice and Research,” while that of 2013 was entitled “Capitalism in Question.” In both conferences the invitation was to discuss the well-being of society in general – so not only businesses – and the negative aspects for the natural and social environment linked to the activities of the enterprises. The title of the 2011 edition was “West Meets East: Enlightening, Balancing, and Transcending.” In this case the stimulus was to work on models that were not necessarily America-centered and therefore to open the research up to different socio-cultural contexts, starting with those of Asia. The title of the 2019 edition is “Understanding the Inclusive Organization” and participants are invited to work on the development of organizations that are able to cope with the increasing diversity of the labor force and the loosening of ties between workers and organizations (following the already mentioned uberization).
The role of Economia & Management
In the period from 2008 to 2018, 65 editorials were published: 17 signed by Vincenzo Perrone (one together with Giuseppe Soda), 12 by Guido Corbetta (one together with Fabrizio Perretti), 11 by Gianmario Verona, 7 by Andrea Sironi, 6 by Giuseppe Soda, 5 by Fabrizio Perretti, 2 by Stefano Gatti, 1 by Emanuele Borgonovo (together with Bruno Busacca and Giuseppe Soda), 1 by Giovanni Fattore, 1 by Giovanni Ferri, 1 by Marco Onado, and 1 by Severino Salvemini.
The two main macro-themes are work, human capital and organizations (20 percent) and competition (20 percent); these are followed by the subjects of financial intermediaries and finance (15 percent), the role of Economia & Management (15 percent) and the topic of governance, business models and foundations of management (11 percent) (Figure 2). The most frequent words in the titles of the editorials (Figure 3) are “crisis,” “growth,” “manager,” “innovation,” “reform” and “reforming.” In these words, we find both the problem (the crisis) and the proposed solution (change).
Figure 2 Topics of the editorials (2008-2018)
Figure 3 The most frequent words in editorial titles (2008-2018)
The decade began with Vincenzo Perrone’s editorial “In praise of melancholy. Realism, creativity and possibility of change” where the subject of change is placed centrally, starting with a mobilization of psychological resources (so much that melancholy is considered a fundamental spring for activating creative processes) and of economic and symbolic ones. Activating the processes of creativity and innovation becomes the key to facing the future. Perrone writes:
“We can no longer nurture certain illusions. We cannot think of maintaining our level of well-being by producing less and in sectors where advanced research and innovation make no difference. We cannot differently distribute wealth that we are no longer able to create at the rate we were capable of in the past.”
The main feature of the debate in these years is therefore innovation, as if to indicate that the way out of the crisis is to be found in a different, creative combination of existing resources. Starting from issue No. 3 of 2008, there are various editorials on the topic: “Winter in Venice. Thoughts about change (and politics)” (signed by Perrone, issue No. 3 of 2008). “Who protects innovation?” (by Verona, issue No. 6 of 2008), “Ten, a hundred, a thousand ITEAs. Conditions for a new Italian Renaissance (by Perrone, issue No. 1 of 2009), “Why can’t the market leader innovate anymore?” (by Verona, issue No. 6 of 2009), “What if, as well as software and music, the novel also ends up among the clouds?” (by Verona, issue No. 2 of 2011), “If the business intersects social movements, the process will win over the product” (by Soda, issue No. 4 of 2011), “Market innovation as a lever for growth” (by Verona, issue No. 2 of 2013), “Innovation where you least expect it” (by Verona, issue No. 6 of 2013), “From the balance sheets to the clouds: the evanescence of value according to the Network” (by Verona, issue No. 6 of 2014), “Sharing economy. An all-round challenge” (by Verona, issue No. 3 of 2016). Thus, innovation is dealt with from different points of view: from protection through copyrights and patents (with a discussion of their effectiveness and limits) to the role of social movements in the generation of new businesses more consistent with the needs of the market. In this connection Giuseppe Soda writes:
“businesses can insert themselves by trying to modify their processes to develop modes of production and distribution that reflect and respond to the values and demands of social movements. A very wide space is involved, which also produces positive effects on the reputation and legitimation of companies, certainly more positive that some sustainability budget discussed in some temple of finance. The topic here is not the social responsibility of the company but the idea of meeting the potential for development hidden behind social transformations.”
The topic of the sharing economy is also introduced, which questions traditional business models:
“Many seem to stand and watch, or at most counterattack, obstructing the operation of these new entities with legal initiatives that call for respect for the rules. International regulation of these anomalous operators from a fiscal and labor law standpoint is certainly desirable, but one should not have easy illusions. The history of the Internet teaches us that the formation of the new rules rarely evolves in favor of traditional operators – just think of the case of the over-the-tops in relation to the operators in telecommunications and publishing […]. The sharing economy is the tip of the iceberg of digital transformation, the revolution which twenty years ago began at various speeds to transform every sector of the global economy.”
In this decade, however, the fundamental problem remains understanding and analyzing the causes of the economic-financial crisis. During the five-year period 2008-2013, various editorials, all by Andrea Sironi, thrashed out this subject. For example in “The international financial crisis a year on: what lessons for the banks and supervisory authorities?,” published in issue No. 5 of 2008, the reasons for the formation of some fragilities of the economic system are analyzed:
“The favorable macroeconomic conditions – sustained economic growth, low interest rates and insolvency, low credit spreads – have facilitated the emergence of four elements of fragility: 1. a high level of financial leverage of businesses and individuals; 2. an inadequate evaluation by the banks of the credit risk connected with bank loans which would subsequently be subject to selling on the market; 3. poor attention by financial institutions to the credit risks connected with the shares resulting from securitization processes; and 4. a high degree of leverage of securitization processes.”
The editorials subsequently published with Sironi’s signature – “What rules and what bank after the crisis?” (issue No. 4 of 2009), “Financial crisis and reform of the rules: what implications for the banks and the economic system?” (issue No. 3 of 2010), “Who’s afraid of Basel 3?” (issue No. 6 of 2010), “The European banking industry between economic crisis and re-regulation: what strategies for the future?” (issue No. 5 of 2011), “The rating agencies in the dock: guilty or not guilty?” (issue No. 3 of 2012) – discuss the possible reforms to be implemented starting from a review of the prudential supervisory system proposed by the “Basel Committee”: the discussion is of a review of the capital composition of the banks, of the capital requirements in the face of procyclicality, of financial leverage, of liquidity and the possibility of including additional requirements for the so-called “banks with systemic risk.” The rating agencies also came under the microscope, accused of conflicts of interest and of errors committed in the assessment of complex financial instruments, all of them elements that would contribute to the aggravation of the business cycles. However, writes Sironi:
“the regulation introduced at a European level has up to now dealt correctly with these problems, imposing on companies in the sector the respect for the fundamental principles of rigor, transparency and independence. More recently the rating agencies have at least in part been considered responsible for the economic and financial problems characterizing the issuers, especially sovereign issuers in the euro zone, de facto confusing the symptom of the disease with its cause.”.
Starting in 2015, the editorials relating to the field of “Economics of financial intermediaries and finance” no longer concern the analysis of the international economic-financial crisis, but rather the reform of the Italian cooperative credit banks.
The other significant macro-topic running through the decade is that relating to work, human capital, and organizations: this includes editorials that deal with the impact of the crisis on the labor market (“Careful with That Axe, Eugene! The silent drama of managers without work,” by Perrone, published in issue No. 2 of 2009; and “Why does the polar bear move us more than a laid-off worker? Environmental and human sustainability,” again by Perrone, issue No. 1 of 2011) and more general aspects of the life of the organization, such as the processes of identification and inclusion, considered a fundamental asset for the survival of the enterprise, especially in times of uncertainty and crisis (“In the match with the world, we play our identity card,” by Perrone, issue No. 1 of 2010).
Also of note are editorials discussing new topics or dealing with contingent problems such as the role of social networks in building networks in the labor market (“‘But is that really you?’ Relations, networks and economy in times of social networking” by Soda, in issue No. 3 of 2009), the rethinking of executive training in the light of new changes in the education sector (“MBAs and managers: but is there really a crisis?” by Verona, issue No. 2 of 2012), the need to put together valuable teams for the success of the enterprise. About this, Corbetta writes:
“To organize a good managerial team, we need to start from a belief, that is simple but not banal: ‘The biggest mistake you can make is to think you can do everything by yourself’. A leader of a company must build a group of people motivated to participate in the leader’s dream and to achieve it by giving their own contribution. Without this premise you can’t make companies great and pass them on to the future, because well-structured processes of delegation are not activated and valid managers are not attracted. From this viewpoint it is undeniable that Italian entrepreneurs still have a long way to go.”
Together with the topic of constructing processes of identification and inclusion, the other closely connected question is the creation of a good organizational climate to attract and retain people in the organization:
“In current managerial language the ‘organizational environment’ sums up the (positive or negative) state of the relationship that ties people to the organization to which they contribute with their work. The quality of this relationship is a crucial factor in the functioning of any organization or community, because it is able to influence the activities, processes and results […]. A long and prolific tradition of scientific research in the field of organizational behavior suggests that knowledge and skills generate very marginal effects if they are not accompanied by motivation, involvement, identification and satisfaction and therefore quality of the relationships joining each individual to the multiple facets of the organization (the job, colleagues, direct superiors, company leadership, organization).”
With the change of editor in 2018 and the handover from Guido Corbetta to Fabrizio Perretti, the editorial once again gave space to questions of governance and competition, and there was renewed discussion of the role of the managerial discipline: in particular the relationship between the knowledge generated by academics and its use by various segments of readers, the dialectic between theory-research and theory-utility. Fabrizio Perretti writes:
“The relevance of science to practical activity is a recurring theme that swings between two extremes. On the one hand, there is the position of net independence and separation between theory and practice, in which the search for knowledge does not have to set practical aims. On the other, there is the opposite position of an instrumental type, where scientific research must first of all be oriented according to its applicability and usefulness in active life […]. The fact that managers do not read the scientific articles published in academic journals not only does not surprise us, but need not even be considered a problem. Scientific journals are written by academics for academics, they are not professional or popular publications (as is our magazine, for example) aimed at external readers. This occurs in all disciplines, even in those where the practical relevance is even greater. Do we think that family doctors (and many specialized physicians) regularly read the articles published in prestigious journals such as the New England Journal of Medicine, Nature, or The Lancet? The answer is No. This does not mean, however, that there is no advancement in medical practice. The fact is that there are other channels through which scientific results are disseminated.”
With this editorial, as we have already mentioned, the magazine gave up the “academic-scientific” section to characterize itself for all purposes as a managerial culture publication; recalling the already-cited editorial that appeared in issue No. 1 of 2018, “the aim set by this magazine is not […] only to interpret reality but also to stimulate a continuous reaction, to take part in a public debate involving also management and the same businesses that it studies and whom it addresses.” This new imprinting would be evident in the choice of the thematic dossiers of 2019 dedicated first to Europe and then to the fiftieth anniversary of 1969.
816 articles were published in the period from 2008 to 2018. The number of authors involved, including more than once, was 1282. Of these, 63 percent are men and 37 percent women. The words most used in the titles of the articles are shown in Figure 4. As can be seen, the most frequent terms, apart from “interview” and “case” – which refer to the type of article or the method used – are “Italy,” “enterprise(s),” “crisis,” “market,” “management,” “innovation,” “opportunity” and “private equity,” while Figure 5 shows the most frequent terms in the abstracts of the articles. Note a certain specularity compared with the titles, considering that the most frequent words are: “enterprise/business(es),” “market,” “development,” “management,” “industry,” “performance,” “work,” “value,” “system,” “Italy,” and “growth.”
Figure 4 The most frequent words in article titles (2008-2018)
Figure 5 The most frequent words in article abstracts (2008-2018)
Apart from the most frequent words in the titles and abstracts, the articles have been categorized along two dimensions. The first concerns the disciplines. The three most frequent disciplines (Figure 6) are: strategy, management, and business administration (214 articles, accounting for 26.2 percent of the total), finance and financial intermediaries (139 articles, 17 percent of the total), business organization (115 articles, 14.1 percent of the total). These are followed, in decreasing order, by political economy, marketing, public/health/non-profit management, operations and accounting.
Figure 6 The disciplines of the articles (2008-2018)
The second concerns the macro-topics discussed in the articles. The most frequent macro-topics (Figure 7) were themes of finance and financial intermediaries (126 articles, accounting for 15.4 percent of the total), competitive dynamics and entrepreneurship (107 articles, 13.1 percent of the total), and HRM and organizational behavior (73 articles, 8.9 percent of the total). These were followed in decreasing order by: competition, focus by country and/or sector, strategic/operative marketing/brand management, governance, organizational compositions, networks of businesses and principles of management, ethics, innovation and change, accounting and performance, economic scenarios and society, ICT, production and supply chain, decisions and other topics with a frequency less than or equal to 1 percent (bureaucracy, external communication, knowledge, organizational culture, Jobs Act, territorial marketing, SMEs, project management).
Figure 7 The macro-topics dealt with by the articles (2008-2018)
One way to better understand the editorial line of the magazine is to focus attention on the feature columns that characterize it. These columns are specialized by topic, follow the evolution of that topic, and are born and die with time. Reconstructing their path therefore tells us something about the subjects that the magazine has considered most important.
In the period referred to in this article the following columns were initiated: “The Window on the World” (issue No. 5 of 2009 – issue No. 1 of 2014), “China Lab” (issue No. 6 of 2012 – issue No. 5 of 2013), “Diversity Management (2010-2015), “The Private Equity and LBO Market” (2009-2015), “Euroscenarios” (2014-2018), “Numbers” (2014-2015), “The Costs of Bureaucracy” (2016), and “Work and Wellbeing” (2017). The column “The Market of the Rules” was renamed, from issue No. 1 of 2010, “Money, Finance, Rules” while the column “Stories of Extraordinary Entrepreneurship” was renamed, from issue No. 3 of 2014, “Businessmen and Businesses” (the column was published until 2015, when it was put online).
The column “The Window on the World” represents an evolution of the column “Doing Business in China,” which began in issue No. 1 of 2005. Following the death of the column’s editor Maria Weber, the editorial committee of the magazine decided to assign the column to Bettina Gehrke and Margherita Sportelli with the idea of going beyond China to deal more in general with the BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India and China), the Middle East, Asia and Africa:
“Aside from the geographical distances and differences, our intention as editors was to go beyond the comparative stereotypes, keep ‘culture’ in the center as the key word of understanding, but guiding its analysis in a practical direction. We are profoundly convinced that being able to act practically and effectively in another country means understanding how people think in that country, in the context of their culture and belonging, […]. Despite all the differences, the countries we have encountered present some common characteristics: a fairly recent liberalization of the economy, institutions in transition, uneven development and disparity of incomes. The emerging markets appear as increasingly integrated into the world economy, because of the global flows not only of people but also of ideas and resources. And yet […] all the countries have maintained their distinctive cultural characteristics, their own style of management and their own orientations of value, making understanding their culture a very important variable in the chances of success of the business. Some key words have recurred […] and have been: change, complexity, paradoxes, together with the emergence of hybrid cultural forms represented by the convergence and the coexistence of traditional cultural models with the organizational values of the West. The tension between cultural differences and convergence has in fact led to an increasingly convinced awareness of the need for a style of leadership adaptable to the context, able to integrate and balance contradictory values and criteria in a continuous acceptance of the oxymoron. From awareness that one cannot transfer tout court a cultural and managerial experience made in India to another, to be had for example in Mozambique, there also arises what a manager of quality today must develop: a cognitive and behavioral complexity that is not limited to technical skills.”
China, however, did not disappear from the magazine’s radar because it was to be the subject of an ad hoc column, edited by Fabrizio Perretti, entitled “China Lab,” reviving the name of the SDA Bocconi’s observatory active between 2012 and 2018. Starting in 2016, the column changed its name to “China Watching” and has been published only online.
The “Diversity Management” column edited by the researchers of the observatory of the same name at SDA Bocconi, had the aim of publishing data, results, and experiences relating to the management of diversity (gender, sexual orientation, age, ethnic group, ability etc.) in companies. In the first article of the column we read:
“The column will from time to time present the results of the most significant research projects, the most significant organizational experiments and cases, and the reflections and opinions of experts on the subject. The purpose is to demonstrate with objective data and concrete experiences how the management of diversity in modern organizations is necessary to cope with social change taking place and to ensure functional development not only for the competitive advantage of the enterprise but also to the well-being of the people who inhabit it.”
Since 2016, the column – now called “Article 3” – has been published on the magazine’s website. Also dedicated to diversity management was the dossier of issue No. 1 of 2016, entitled “All the Best of Diversity.”
The column “The Private Equity and LBO Market” analyzes and interprets the risk capital market for Italian unlisted (private equity) companies with the aim of:
“developing a managerial awareness and culture on the subject of opening to risk capital in support of growth, favoring the coming together of the interests of the entrepreneur and management with those of institutional investors in a market that is not easily understood. The sector presents a certain opacity and still today there is little empirical research able to offer a clear photograph of the operations carried out and the operating conditions of trading.”
Issue No. 3 of 2014 saw the introduction of the columns “Euroscenarios” and “Numbers.” “Euroscenarios” is dedicated to macro-economic scenarios and has the following aims:
“With the crisis, the macroeconomy entered directly into company financial statements. Acquiring awareness and monitoring the evolution of the macro-scenarios became an obligation for every company manager, much more than in the past and independent of the precise corporate function they performed. Despite the failure of economists to foresee the crisis, today more than yesterday, knowing the macroeconomy is necessary to make a difference in the company. With the new column “Euroscenarios,” E&M offers its readers points of view and stimuli to reflection on these macroscenarios; always starting from concrete cases, from a graph or a table illustrating a problem or a macroeconomic or market opportunity. In this issue we shall begin by talking about reindustrialization”
“Numbers”, on the other hand, is dedicated to business analytics and big data. These are the motivations behind the introduction of the column:
“That numbers are important for deciding is well-established. We are in the age of big data and business analytics. Companies and scientific communities are now aware that the computerization of business makes an enormous volume of data available to companies. It is not necessary to have millions of customers to be surrounded by it. And, above all, there is agreement on the fact that effectively organizing and interpreting customers translates into a competitive advantage.”
In 2016 a mini-series of articles dealing with the costs of bureaucracy was published in the paper magazine:
“E&M continues the publication – begun in E&MPLUS (www.economiaemanagement.it) – of a miniseries of articles on the question of bureaucracy, its costs, and the principal needs of simplification. The articles, the result of a collaboration with Assolombarda’s Simplification Monitoring Center, present a series of concrete cases of poor bureaucracy, starting with reports by businesses, also examining possible solutions to the critical situations that Italian businesspeople face. The miniseries consists of an introductory article and five interventions on more specific matters such as the environment, building, taxes, work and pensions, and health and safety.”
Finally, during 2017, a miniseries was published with the title “Work and Wellbeing,” edited by Beatrice Bauer. The column is dedicated to the subject of workers’ well-being and the link between management and psychology:
“How can one work well with others without understanding how their heads work, what emotions they feel, what pushes them to behave in a certain way? And can we interact well with others without knowing ourselves and our psychological dynamics? Each of us develops his or her own understanding of these phenomena with experiences and often through failures, even serious ones. The problem is that often this naïve psychology, developed in the field, is more a collection of clichés than a useful instrument for improving the working environment and one’s results in relations with others. Scientific research in the psychological field produces thousands of studies each year, which could help company organizations to be better environments for the personal development of the individuals who are a part of them and for their productivity. The objective of this new E&M series is to build a bridge between the most interesting and useful results of psychological research and therapeutic practice and the world of those who work in companies.”
The last decade of the history of Economia & Management brings us to the present day. The context in which the magazine moves is one of crisis: Italian society is frayed, gripped by rancor and malice, the economy is lagging, the business world is none too well and is polarized between a few companies able to cope with global competition and many enterprises that have not been able to harness it or adapt to the technological and global context as shaped after the 2008 crisis. The magazine attempts to deal with some problems linked to the economic and financial crisis, reinforces its awareness-creating activity by offering columns dedicated to topical issues: the importance of scenarios, the relevance of facts and figures, and the need to develop managerial models that take into account the diversity of people’s socio-cultural backgrounds. At the conclusion of the decade, the magazine also loosened the trade-off between rigor and relevance by focusing on relevance, thus trying to enter the public debate and spreading ideas able to provide a lens for reading the present and the future. It is no coincidence that the title of issue No. 2 of 2019, dedicated to 1969, was “Back to the Future” and Fabrizio Perretti thus concluded the introduction to the dossier on the subject:
“If 1968 was symbolically the year of imagining a new world, 1969 was the year in which the transformation began, sowing some of those seeds whose fruits we see today. 1969 can in fact be considered the year of the meeting between the material and the imaginary, and also the conflict that was generated by that meeting. It was the year that the merger between technology and society became evident, that would open new prospects to create the worlds dreamt of and imagined in the previous years, and maybe also some nightmares.”
G. Corbetta, “Per una rivista dedicata a chi lavora nelle e per le aziende,” Economia & Management, No. 1, 2014.
P. Bianchi, La rincorsa frenata: l’industria italiana dall’unità alla crisi globale, Bologna, il Mulino, 2013; G. Amato, A. Graziosi, Grandi illusioni: ragionando sull’Italia, Bologna, il Mulino, 2013; E. Felice, Ascesa e declino: storia economica d’Italia, Bologna, il Mulino, 2015; G. Crainz, Storia della repubblica, Roma, Donzelli, 2016; M. Salvadori, Storia d’Italia: il cammino tormentato di una nazione 1861-2016, Torino, Einaudi, 2018.
A. Finos, “La creatura di Guillermo Del Toro, un inno alla diversità: “Il mio mostro cerca solo amore”,” la Repubblica, 1.9.2017.
Censis, L'Italia preda di un sovranismo psichico, 7.12.2018, available online at: www.censis.it/rapporto-annuale/litalia-preda-di-un-sovranismo-psichico.
G. Berta, La via del nord: dal miracolo economico alla stagnazione, Bologna, il Mulino, 2015, p. 83.
P. Fleming, “The human capital hoax: Work, debt and insecurity in the era of Uberization,” Organization Studies, 38(5), 2017.
G. Ritzer, “The McDonaldization of society,” Journal of American Culture, 6(1), 1983, pp. 100-107.
The size of a word indicates the frequency with which that word appears in the titles of the 65 editorials.
V. Perrone, “Elogio della malinconia. Realismo, creatività e possibilità di cambiamento,” Economia & Management, No. 1, 2008.
G. Soda, “Se l’impresa intercetta i movimenti sociali, il processo vince sul prodotto,” Economia & Management, No. 4, 2011.
A. Sironi, “La crisi finanziaria internazionale un anno dopo: quali lezioni per le banche e le autorità di vigilanza?,” Economia & Management, No. 5, 2008.
A. Sironi, “Crisi finanziaria e riforma delle regole: quali implicazioni per le banche e il sistema economico?,” Economia & Management, No. 3, 2010.
A. Sironi, “Le agenzie di rating sul banco degli imputati: colpevoli o innocenti??,” Economia & Management, No. 3, 2012.
M. Onado, “Popolari: la lunga strada della riforma,” Economia & Management, No. 3, 2015; G. Ferri, “Una rottamazione avventata,” Economia & Management, No. 3, 2015; S. Gatti, “Credito cooperativo: i perché della riforma,” Economia & Management, No. 2, 2016.
G. Corbetta, “Idee per la costruzione di team manageriali di valore,” Economia & Management, No. 6, 2014.
F. Perretti, “La crescita delle imprese: limiti e prospettive,” Economia & Management, No. 2, 2018; F. Perretti, “Dall’equilibrio politico al catastrofismo ecologico,” Economia & Management, No. 3, 2018; F. Perretti, “Il ritorno dei padri fondatori,” Economia & Management, No. 4, 2018.
F. Perretti, “La ricerca scientifica sul management: a chi serve?,” Economia & Management, No. 6, 2018.
From the overall number of contributions published in the period 2008-2018, the following have been excluded: the 65 editorials which have been analyzed separately, the features “Fotogrammi,” “Fuori campo” and “Letti per me” because they refer to different disciplines from those that fall within the field of management. These features will be analyzed separately and their analysis will be presented in the fourth article of this series.
The size of a word indicates the frequency with which that word appears in the titles of the 624 articles analyzed.
On the basis of the information obtainable from the title, the abstract, the text, the author(s) and the bibliographical references, the researchers have subdivided the articles, first of all between the following disciplines: accounting (programming and control, book-keeping and financial statements), communication, law, political economy, finance and financial intermediaries, management of cultural organizations, public/health/non-profit management, marketing, operations (production, logistics), business organization (organizational theories, organization behavior, HRM), history, strategy, and management (strategic management, business administration). Subsequently, one or two key topics were identified. These key topics, for simplicity of exposition, were grouped in a series of macro-themes which are: organizational composition, brand management, bureaucracy, change and innovation, customers and consumers, organizational behavior, external communication, competition, knowledge, accounting and balance-sheet, corporate culture, decisions, competitive dynamics, ethics, focus by country/industry, foundations of management, governance, HRM, ICT, entrepreneurship, Jobs Act, strategic/operative marketing, territorial marketing, performance, SMEs, production/supply chain, project management, business networks, economic scenarios, society, financial themes.
S. Cuomo, A. Mapelli, C. Paolino, “Dalla retorica manageriale all’azione concreta,” Economia & Management, No. 3, 2010.