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Corporations in Context

Books | Articles and Reports | Educational Materials

In the course of developing a deeper understanding of today’s economic realities, researchers at the Global Development And Environment Institute have generated a number of writings that deal with the role and the nature of corporations.


Introducing Economics: A Critical Guide for Teaching

Mark H. Maier and Julie A. Nelson
M.E. Sharpe, June 2007

This guide for high school teachers is designed to help instructors counter the narrowness (and, often, right-wing bias) of many high school economics curriculum materials. Following the outline of a typical high school textbook, it gives a broader view of arguments on topics including consumption, labor, corporations, the environment, and globalization. In addition, the volume includes a history of the development of high school economics, a description of the competing schools of economics, critical commentary on each of the Voluntary National Content Standards for economics, and an annotated guide to the major organizations involved in high school economics teaching. Read more about this book.

It’s Legal But It Ain’t Right: Harmful Social Consequences of Legal Industries

“No one concerned with literate, informed and relevant – as distinct from self-serving – truth should miss It’s Legal But It Ain’t Right.” – John Kenneth Galbraith

Edited by Nikos Passas and Neva Goodwin, as part of GDAE’s University of Michigan Press series, “Evolving Values for a Capitalist World,” It's Legal But it Ain't Right offers ten chapters that discuss how society can confront the negative effects of:

  • the cigarette industry
  • international arms trade
  • the handgun industry
  • private armies
  • legalized gambling
  • the trade in antiquities
  • industrial agriculture
  • the pesticide industry
  • the pharmaceutical and lobbying industries
  • the meaning of Enron.
Read more about the book including an excerpt from the book's introduction

Evolving Values for a Capitalist World

A book series from Michigan Press
Neva R. Goodwin, Series Editor

In most of the world today, the issue is not whether or how to embrace capitalism, but how to make the best of it. The currently dominant capitalist values include competitive individualism, instrumental rationality, and material success. This Michigan Press series explores questions such as: Will these values suffice as a basis for social organizations that can meet human and environmental needs in the twenty-first century? What would it mean for capitalist systems to evolve toward an emphasis on other values, such as cooperation, altruism, responsibility, and concern for the future? Read more about the Evolving Values book series.

“...a classic collection of key articles on the changing nature and dynamics of multinational enterprises in the global economy.” – David Teece, University of California, Berkeley

Edited by Alfred Chandler (Harvard Business School) and Bruce Mazlish (MIT), published by Cambridge University Press, Leviathans includes “A primer on multinational corporations” by GDAE researcher, Brian Roach, and “The social impacts of multinational corporations” by GDAE Co-director, Neva Goodwin. The book covers the scope, history and development, cultural and social implications, and governance problems of multinational corporations, with an emphasis on their role in the globalization process. Read more about the book.

Economics for Humans

“Julie Nelson ...cares enough about people to insist that we recognize the full range of our economically valuable activities, from the unpaid provision of personal care to the ethical management of corporations. In this sparkling, passionate, personal book Nelson shows how to humanize economics without abandoning its commitment to rigorous description and explanation.”
-- Viviana A. Zelizer, author of The Purchase of Intimacy

Is it asking too much to demand that businesses be socially and environmentally responsible? Many, believing that economies are cold and heartless systems that operate outside human control, would answer yes. But in this impassioned and perceptive work, Julie A. Nelson debunks theories that teach us that our economic lives are somehow separate from our moral values and our human relationships. August 2006 from University of Chicago Press. Read more about this book.


Articles and Reports

Capital Choices: National Systems of Investment is an article by Michael E. Porter of Harvard Business School which surveys the complex topic of national investment practices. It describes the interlinked changes that would be necessary to make the U.S. system more effective in directing capital to those firms that can deploy it most productively and, within firms, to the most productive investment projects. It is Chapter 1 in As if the Future Mattered (in the series Evolving Values for a Capitalist World ).

Two papers by Neva Goodwin analyze “The Meaning of Wal-Mart for Economic Theory, and in our Lives.” The High Cost of Low Prices (published in Orion, January/February 2006, Vol. 25, No. 1, p.11. Reprinted courtesy of Orion, is based on the longer presentation Goodwin wrote for SRI in the Rockies, What You Didn’t Learn in Ec 101 (presented at the 15th Annual Social Investment Forum, SRI in the Rockies, October 9, 2004).

Julie Nelson's working paper Beyond Small-Is-Beautiful (GDAE Working Paper No. 04-01) argues that a relational understanding of firms and markets can help move debates about ethics and business beyond issues of scale.

Working papers and policy briefs from GDAE’s Feeding the Factory Farm project identify and analyze the subsidies that industrial, corporate-owned livestock production facilities receive as a result of U.S. farm policy.


Educational Materials

Microeconomics in Context
This innovative, principles-level text takes a broad "contextual" approach to economics—including serious consideration of ecological, feminist, and social concerns—while still including coverage of the standard microeconomic concepts and models. This book goes beyond a discussion markets and efficiency to address the question of human well-being. It includes such critical concerns as ecological sustainability, distributional equality, the quality of employment, and the adequacy of living standards.
Read more about other GDAE textbooks.

The Limitations of Markets
Economists recognize that markets lead to efficiency and the social good only under certain conditions. This background essay, prepared by GDAE for, describes seven causes of market failure and provides cases and readings related to each.
Read The Limitations of Markets, authored by Neva Goodwin in December 2005.

Teaching Module on Corporate Power in a Global Economy
Standard economic theory fails to address the economic and political significance of modern multinational corporations. In this module, authored by Brian Roach, explanations of firm growth based on economies of scale and scope are supplemented with a discussion of the transnational mobility and influence of large corporations. The social and environmental responsibilities of multinationals are considered, with an emphasis on externalities and the need for a “triple bottom line.” The module concludes with a discussion of ways to encourage large firms to adopt goals that are aligned with the broader goals of society. The student reading consists of 35 pages which includes discussion questions, glossary, references, and additional resources. Download this module.
Read more about GDAE Teaching Modules

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