SIU Journal of Management, Vol.8, No.1 (June, 2018)

Welcome to the Vol.8, No.1 (June, 2018) issue of the SIU Journal of Management.

CONTENTS

Volume 8, Number 1, June, 2018
Editor’s Introduction

SPECIAL ISSUE: FOOD INSECURITY IN LAO PDR, MYANMAR, THAILAND AND VIETNAM

1. Introduction to the Project – John Walsh (Introduction to the Food Insecurity Project in Four Mekong Region Countries)
2. Food Insecurity in Lao PDR – Nittana Southiseng (8.1.Southiseng)
3. Food Insecurity in Myanmar – Myat Thander Tin
4. Food Insecurity in Thailand – Petcharat Lovichakorntikul (8.1.Lovichakorntikul)
5. Food Insecurity in Vietnam – Nancy Huyen Nguyen (8.1.Nguyen)
6. Methodological Issues for the FAO’s Food Insecurity Experience Survey – Aimee Hampel

PEER-REVIEWED RESEARCH ARTICLES

1 Relocation and Integration of Internally Displaced Children into Public Schools in Nigeria: Some Policy Issues – Subair S. Tayo and Aliyu M. Olasunkanmi
2. An Empirical Study on Organizational Justice and Turnover Intention in the Private Commercial Banks of Bangladesh – Popy Podder, Md. Sahidur Rahman and Shameema Ferdausy
3. Justice and Righteousness in Amos 5:21-27 and Its Implications for Nigerian Society – Oluwaseyi Nathaniel Shogunle

 

BOOK REVIEWS

1. We Were Eight Years in Power: An American Tragedy by Ta-Nehisi Coates – John Walsh
2. No Is Not Enough: Defeating the New Shock Politics by Naomi Klein – John Walsh (8.1.Klein)
3. Services Marketing: People, Technology, Strategy by Jochen Wirtz and Christopher Lovelock – John Walsh
4. High-Speed Empire: Chinese Expansion and the Future of Southeast Asia by Will Doig – John Walsh (8.1.Doig)

CALL FOR PAPERS

AUTHOR’S GUIDELINES

ABOUT SHINAWATRA UNIVERSITY

EDITORIAL ADVISORY BOARD

Competition Policy, Connectivity and E-Commerce in Myanmar

IMG_0066

I am back now from the first workshop on the third phase of the ERIA (eria.org) project on Digital Connectivity in ASEAN and East Asia, held at the One Farrar Hotel in sunny Singapore. It went well and attendants presented some interesting proposals for the research they intend to undertake. Proposals are to be revised by the end of the month when convenor Dr. Lurong Chen will submit a book proposal and then the second workshop will be in February, 2019 in Jakarta for presentation of draft papers.

Here is the abstract of my project:

Competition Policy, Connectivity and E-Commerce in Myanmar

Abstract

The purpose of competition policy is to help structure and regulate market activities so that they are comparatively free and fair for both consumers and also companies and other institutions. It is based on the premise that development, broadly defined, will be best achieved by creating market conditions that are neutral with respect to enterprise ownership (i.e. public or private) and derivation (i.e. domestic or international investment). This premise has been challenged by historians of economic development who note that developed nations achieved their status by systematically contravening the tenets of this approach. Nevertheless, competition policy has a number of impacts on connectivity, which is itself an important measure of economic and social development. The ability of people, companies and institutions to connect with each other and external sources (physically or virtually) influences the ability they have to identify and take advantage of new or variant commercial or social opportunities. This is particularly true with e-commerce, since this can only meaningfully take place when there is a level of connectivity between those people who are involved in the various transactions. These issues, which are complex and difficult to manage in even the most developed states, are particularly problematic in a country such as Myanmar, which not only has to contend with less developed nation status but also has to contend with very low levels of physical infrastructure, high levels of inequality, great diversity in terms of ethnic minority peoples and the legacy of both colonialism and instances of civil war. This raises practical questions of promulgating regulations and principles in a number of different languages when there is limited technical capacity – this issue has proved to beyond the ability of transnational corporations such as Facebook to manage successfully. Informed by empirical research conducted in the first two phases of this research project, this paper uses critical and comparative analysis to identify strengths and weaknesses of Myanmar’s emergent regime of competition policy in the light of how such processes have taken place in regional neighbours such as Cambodia, Thailand and Vietnam. An account of the provision of e-commerce providers and platforms in Myanmar is included. Policy issues are highlighted but so too are both governance and enforcement issues in the context of a diverse nation with many centrifugal forces working upon them. Recommendations are drawn from this analysis.

Keywords: competition policy; connectivity; e-commerce; Myanmar

Review of Corey’s Caliban’s War

519SvVB+hGL._AC_US218_

Caliban’s War, The Expanse Book 2

James S.A. Corey,

New York, NY: Orbit, 2012

ISBN: 9-780316-129060

611 pp.

On the day on which it was reported (or at least I noticed it for the first time) that a form of miniature planet that has come to be known as the Goblin is one of three distant bodies which take up to 40,000 years to orbit the sun and which suggests the presence of an as yet undiscovered larger than Earth-sized planet in a remote part of the solar system, it is perhaps instructive to be reminded of the enormity of space and the risks that would be faced by those traversing it in fragile spaceships. The sailors of the past also faced death and ruin at any moment but their downfalls were likely to be comparatively lengthy affairs during which time it might be possible to come to some kind of terms with one’s own maker. Space flight, on the other hand, runs a perpetual risk of immediate, unexpected death from a wide range of possible reasons, many of which are beyond our control for the foreseeable future. All of this danger becomes, of course, intensified when people start shooting each other. Alas, it seems impossible for the people of the earth, Mars, the Outer Planets Alliance and the ominous seeming alien infestation on Venus to be able to live together in peace and harmony. How would people think about themselves and their future in such a situation?

In the case of The Expanse, an imagined universe based on the solar system of the relatively near future, most people tend towards the nihilistic, focusing on hedonistic highlights among the drudgery or else personal career development goals, in addition to the idealistic, who aim to develop the lot of humanity one nutrient-yielding plant at a time. The former includes most of the crew of the Rocinante, which is an advanced Martian warship that has fallen into the hands of our hero-adventurers, while the latter includes the ship’s captain, James Holden, whose moral issues tend to drive most of the action, albeit set against a background of deeper and more powerful forces. In the first book of the series, Holden was involved in the events that led to the infection of Venus (read the earlier book first) and now his decision suddenly to help a distraught botanist on a destroyed orbital habitat find his lost daughter leads to the peregrinations of the principal characters. While they search for her, the rest of humanity seems doomed to an internecine war that might destroy all of the inhabited planets or, at least, ruin the trust that might make further progress possible, especially with respect to the emergent alien threat. This threat is also intensifying as more evidence emerges of the power and reach of what appears to be an implacable enemy.

This is a jolly romp through space with chases and explosions and unexpected twists and turns that are likely to keep a reader hooked for the duration of the ride (and perhaps others of this multi-volume series too, I believe half a dozen have been published so far). In this sense, the book is a little old-fashioned: there is sufficient technology to get the characters around the solar system as required and to abridge the occasional plot hole but the characters are not fundamentally changed by it. Everyone (apart from the deprived outer planet rats) has access to a kind of smart phone but they are not in any way controlled by the content or possibilities provided. There do not seem to be sports or cultural production on any organized scale, no one quotes any song or poetry or even film that might have been produced or which exists at the current time. It seems likely that the authors (two of them writing under a pen name) were aiming for the television series that has now been made. That is OK, since this is an entertainment and it succeeds in those terms. There is more thought-provoking work available for the who might wish to read it.

Review of Stross’s Dark State

5116zWON+mL._AC_US218_

Dark State, Empire Games Book 8

Charles Stross

London: Tor, 2018

ISBN: 9-781447-247586

349 pp.

If there were more than one Earth, maybe many more, then would each world develop in the same way? Might some have moved out of the Goldilocks zone that permits life (i.e. neither too hot nor too cold etc) and remained barren and airless? Might some still offer dinosaurs? Might some just have got stuc in a repressive feudal society that discriminates against all kinds and categories of people who differ from the socially determined ideal? This is a premise that has been explored more than once but Stross takes the premise further: if it were possible to move from place to place but that ability to move were controlled and risky, then what kinds of power structures would evolve to maintain the society of Worldwalkers, as we have learned to call them over the now eight novels of this series? More interestingly, perhaps, is the extent to which change and technological transfer will take place when information asymmetries are removed and societies start to learn about the presence of each other.

In the first series of six novels, these themes were embedded in the progress of the USA, unfortunately burdened by the baleful influence of the Cheney faction, with its seemingly inevitable descent into militarism once it realised the existence of the Worldwalker threat – this was not such a surprising development since the people of the second Earth were using their ability suddenly to appear on the first Earth carrying small but possibly expensive cargo by developing an extensive criminal network distributing illegal narcotics. Relations between the two sides soon reached the state of open warfare and, this being America, bombs were dropped in profusion and enemy agents and anyone resembling such a person were rounded up , interned and tortured. This situation posed a serious risk to other Earths, who were stimulated to take radical actions to protect themselves and their ways of life. Also, serious incentives were created for technology transfer on as extensive and rapid basis as possible – under pain of extensive punishment, some second Earth agents manage to source antibiotics credited with saving the lives of millions of people. The stakes are high, of course.

In the first of this second series of novels taking place in this imagined universe, the Americans have decided to try soft power in addition to the hard power that threatened to lead to a nuclear escalation that would cause unimaginable destruction. An agent has been inserted and not just any old agent but a direct descendant of Miriam, now a dowager society lady, who was our introduction into this world all those books ago. Soft power needs intelligence to be applied effectively and Rita, the agent concerned, will aim to provide that becoming as involved in the other society as possible. At the beginning of this book (spoiler alert and in any case do read the earlier books first) she is one of a number of characters being obliged to renegotiate her position in a new society and having to do so from a position of weakness. One of the great pleasures of these novels is that they explore ways in which women can work themselves into positions of power or maintain their existing level of power without the benefit of long-term familial networks or the erotic capital so evident in the Game of Thrones approach to sociological investigation.

The various societies concerned have become more sophisticated and complex as forms of plurality have replaced or are replacing unitary systems, while the addition of new generations and relationships make keeping up with what is going on much more difficult than before. Although this book contains a prefatory list of principal characters, endnotes and an appendix explaining possible historical development, Stross’s penchant for relatively short section rotating among numerous protagonists can make it occasionally jarring to work out where we have suddenly arrived. However, this is a comparatively minor issue and Stross expertly escorts the reader around various locales, including one version of Earth which seems about to be menaced by a joint alien-black hole assault. It will be fascinating to see how all of the various threads will be brought together in the next episode.

Review of Corey’s Leviathan Wakes

51M0tTJhZqL._AC_US218_

Leviathan Wakes

James S. A. Corey

New York, NY: Orbit, 2011

ISBN: 9-780316-129084

582 pp.

Mankind has moved to the planets, well, Mars and some of the moons of Jupiter and larger bodies in the asteroid belt. Alas, all is not well in the solar system since the rugged individualists of Mars disdain what they consider to be the feckless inhabitants of decadent Earth and the populations of both planets look down on the anarchic pirates, scavengers and dreamers of the outer planets, who refer to themselves as Belters.

Life is not easy in space, both because of the constant threat of a sudden rupture of the environment suit, spaceship or habitat which leads to almost instant disaster and the longer term issues of living constantly in claustrophobic conditions and without any decent food (it would not be for me, that is). Unsurprisingly, people become tetchy and polite society seems to be at a bit of a premium. Since the distances between the different locations, while enormous from the present day perspective, are comparatively small for people in spaceships and since communication is effectively instantaneous there is considerable scope for people going to other people’s houses with a view to sorting things out face-to-face. The technology for this sort of existence has all been invented and is mostly in the background when it is not required for the purposes of the plot. As it happens, no other types of technology have been invented and so it is necessary for pilots to fly the ships, soldiers to shoot the guns and throw the grenades and diplomats to travel from place to place speaking to various communities. There are very few robots, drones or indeed automation of any sort. It makes Earth’s apparently excessive level of unemployment slightly problematic. Anyway, never mind – the author (actually two authors, Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck writing together under the name James S.A. Corey) apparently created The Expanse (as the series of novels is called) as the background to a role-playing game and then became preoccupied by telling the stories that flowed from it themselves. It is easy to believe this because the principal protagonists are a small group of four individuals flying about in a ship, the Rocinante, which is an important character in its own right. There is something of the bourgeois in the story-telling technique, since it involves the protagonists taking matters into their own hands and resolving plot situations with a judicious word in the nick of time or the application of a solid smack in the mouth. This lends the action an old-fashioned feeling that has been successful, since the book is advertised as being part of the New York Times bestselling series and has also been made into a series of television programmes.

The action in this initial book centres on the captain of the ship, Holden, and a dishevelled detective, Miller. There are secret science experiments, dangerous alien technology and fixing ships in space under duress. The plot drives the book along at a good pace and my version of the book has large pages and plenty of white space, which intensifies the feeling of zipping through the narrative at a rapid pace. There are some quite nice effects based on multiple perspectives of the same event, although these do give the impression that the authors would like to be writing for the screen directly. The characterisation is sufficient unto the need of a science fiction novel and neither language nor gender roles have changed very much over the course of some decades, although perhaps later episodes will investigate these issues in a little more depth.

Overall, this book is a lot of fun and I look forward to reading more in the series – it is not the deepest thinking in the world but it is an enjoyable, slightly old-fashioned space opera.

Review of Selected Short Stories by Rabindranath Tagore

Selected Short Stories

Rabindranath Tagore

London: Harper Press, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-00-792558-2

IX + 162 pp.

South Asian literature is starting to make some inroads into the western understanding. In part, this is because of the emergence of a middle-class and bourgeois style of living that makes descriptions more accessible (e.g. Aravind Adiga and Vikram Seth) or because literary genius through a form of magical realism can transcend time and space (e.g. Arundhati Roy and Salman Rushdie – an anglo-South Asian, of course). There has always been the gentles humanism of R.K. Narayan, whose charming characterisation brings about class and gender contradictions and conflicts in a way that admirers of Jane Austen would, in my opinion, appreciate. However, there is still a gap in understanding and this is a gap that is reified by colonial writers or those in support of them that argues that East is East and West is Wester and there can be no understanding by one of the other. This is of course nonsense – now as it has always been. It is only necessary to think of the spread of the principal religions and philosophies to realise how ideas can spread: Buddhism was taken up from India to Afghanistan (and probably further west) and to Korea and Japan in the east. Few people would reasonably argue that there are no significant social and cognitive differences along these journeys.

So it is possible to understand and appreciate art, in this case literature, from a very different culture. That which is different and follows different approaches and objectives is not inherently inferior but does require some effort on behalf of the reader. Asian writers tend not to win major international literary prizes and reading the work in translation can provoke mystification rather than empathy, notwithstanding that it is possible to penetrate such mysteries. Asian literature (to commit a gross generalisation) works in different rhythms, has different stylistic emphases and rarely includes the kind of psychological analysis of character associated most closely with Freud that now pervades western literature. This is in addition to the numerous sometimes subtle references to social and familial relationships that are often contained implicitly within language and which cannot be explained without interpolations or footnotes. It is tempting for some readers – Rudyard Kipling is the particular example in this case – to conclude that stories concerning relations between different people behaving in difficult to understand ways are not worth very much. When reversed, it is clear that this is foolish because otherwise we could dismiss so many western writers for exactly the same reasons.

This brings us to the extraordinary polymath Rabindranath Tagore. The first non-European winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature (1913), the composer of the national anthems of two countries, a person who had the privilege to travel to Britain and its elite universities, reject them and return to write stories of rural Bengal (here in the translation of someone whose name I could not find) that quite fully comply with Kipling’s dismissal. We have, in this slender collection, stories of families who have become ruined through some unspecified economic changes, with women locked in space and time but whose compassion knows no bounds, sons who mock the traditions in which they were raised and daughters whose only value is as a potential marriage catch. The relationships between the characters are marked by variations in caste, class, gender and ethnicity relations that require careful study by western readers to understand. Not only that but the very obvious agents of change in the society described – imperialism and its attendant internationalisation and the spread of capitalism – only very fleetingly appear, as in a European doll that excites the imagination of a small boy or the arrival of a new brand of tobacco that challenges its smokers to re-evaluate their relationship with the past. When estates are degraded and futures won and lost, it is not (at least in this collection) because of the intervention of powerful external forces but the willingness and ability of characters to adhere to their historically designated modes of behaviour – which we must all believe are rooted in virtue and dignity rather than opportunism and luck. Such characters expect or at least aspire to expect that the remainders of their social relationships will remain the same and, therein, lies their tragedy. Yet underlying all of this is the statement and restatement of virtue and of love that characterises many of those portrayed or else is the missing element of those who appear to have prospered in the changed circumstances. There is much that has been achieved in this vein in these stories.

Books by Rabindranath Tagore do not seem to be very prominent these days and I imagine I would not have come to this book if it were not for the sainted San Min bookshop sandwiched between where I am writing this and the Zhongshan Junior High School MRT station. This edition is part of the Collins Classics series that are sold at a reasonable price and contain some prefatory remarks about the life and times of the author and an extensive concluding glossary that presumably incorporates vocabulary from the whole range of books in this series. Having had this opportunity to sample the work of Tagore in this way, I will be happy to seek out a more representative selection of his oeuvre.

Review of Stephen Baxter’s The Massacre of Mankind

The Massacre of Mankind: Sequel to the War of the Worlds

Stephen Baxter

London: Gollancz, 2017

ISBN: 9-781473-205116

455 pp.

As he has demonstrated with his sequel to The Time Machine, the legacy of H.G. Wells, one of the most loved and valued of British science fiction writers (and both fiction and political thought more generally), has been rightfully entrusted to Stephen Baxter. Baxter has established for himself a reputation as not just a prolific, best-selling author but someone who has demonstrated the ability to work in partnership with another author (e.g. Terry Pratchett) and in another writer’s envisioned universe without doing anything to destroy or devalue it. So it is that the front cover proudly notes ‘Authorised by the H.G. Wells estate.’ On the whole, this is a good thing since there is a penchant these days for adding to existing canon in well-respected literature and, plainly, since I ave read and am now reviewing this book, this is something I share to some extent. I imagine that it will not please everyone but, then, nothing ever does.

Presumably, potential readers of this book will be aware of the basic outline of the original, either through the novel, the film, the Orson Welles radio dramatization or just through osmosis via proximity to popular media consumption. The enigmatic Martians prowl the lances and alleyways of southern England in their metal tripods, deploying their murderous heat rays to boil the valiant British resistance. They are halted by the intervention of the common cold but these are creatures who think in the long-term and, a decade later, the two planets reach their conjunction once again and the stars are right for a second round of invasion. The first part of the book shows us some of the original protagonists and how they in real life, so to speak, rather resent the way they were portrayed in the original text. There are a few dozen pages of this and then the dawning realisation that the Martians are going to come back and have another go and then we get what we are waiting for and the monsters reappear on the scene. They have not been idle in the meantime and have come back not just single spies but in battalions sufficient to conquer not just the Home Counties but the entire planet. The action begins around the world and the promised massacre of mankind is made real before our very eyes.

I have read many of Baxter’s books and in none of them has he ever been very good with respect to characterisation and dialogue and, despite doing his best in this case, does it really manage it here. More successful are the attempts to imagine the political and social changes that might have been brought about by the first war (at least to a certain extent: there does not appear to have been any consideration of what might have happened in the numerous European colonies in Africa, Asia and elsewhere and the people living there play next to no part in this text. Not the least of these is the fact that the principal protagonist is a woman who would have found it previously quite difficult to have such ability to move around the plot in the militarised, fascistic society to which Britain has declined. To be honest, it is just as well that we are reminded of her gender from time to time because there is precious little of an intellectual hinterland or consciousness that would jog the reader’s attention.

Stephen Baxter has developed a well-earned reputation as one of Britain’s leading science fiction writers and one who has an interest in long-term social and the long-term of historical evolution. This extensive vision has had to be compromised to some extent because of the nature of this particular project. Nevertheless, there is still much to enjoy here.

 

 

Review of Stephen Baxter’s Xeelee: Vengeance

Xeelee: Vengeance

Stephen Baxter

London: Gollancz, 2018

ISBN: 9-781473-217195

345 pp.

I first began reading Stephen Baxter’s books a number of years ago when he began producing stories about an implacable alien enemy, the Xeelee (we are prompted to pronounce this as Ch-e-lee). Now they have returned with two novels to complete the earlier sequence, which has been republished in omnibus volumes. The overall mood has become even darker as it appears that even the possibility of a rival must (as in the case of Liu Cixin’s novels) provoke a civilisation to undergo determination to eliminate any threat in its entirety. The creation of faster than light wormhole technology, furthermore, has brought about the possibility of destroying history and replacing it with one more amenable to the last mover. However, this is a very dangerous business because it depends on always having another branch of the universe in time that can be used to destroy the most recent recreation of reality brought about by the enemy. Since we evidently live in a gunslinger universe, therefore, it seems inevitable that there will always be another bunch of marauding bug-eyed monsters with an extra ace up their time travelling sleeve.

Anyway, this situation provides Baxter with perhaps one of the favourite tasks of the science fiction author: killing millions and millions of people and anticipating the extinction of mankind (this is suggested on the back page blurb and the promise of a final novel, Xeelee: Redemption indicates that the good guys will get a final chance to put things right). This he does with gusto and that provides the main enjoyment of reading this novel. There are, of course, human characters (Although I sometimes suspect that these would be removed if possible) and they are mostly related to Michael Poole, the non-diverse protagonist who has led the human resistance and has a mile-high statue of himself created on a distant planet (then again, so did Arthur Dent and look what good it did him). His job is to highlight human ingenuity and then see it fail to prevail in the face of the superior physics of the invading enemy with the sense of inevitability we used to associate with the German football team before it started to lose against Mexico and South Korea. There is much to be admired about the relentless enmity of the Xelee as they prosecute their campaign of the absolute extinction of humanity in all phases of the universe. That, as mentioned, there is another book to come should warn the astute reader that this goal is not fully achieved, at least at this stage.

I do enjoy Stephen Baxter’s books but readers interested in explorations of gender, of new social and political struggles and new methods of personal interaction will be disappointed. The characters are very similar to each other and could almost have been drawn from 1950s television. The dialogues and internal monologues exist primarily to propel the plot forward with all speed and to link together the different aspects of the malicious alien force. Not everyone will be happy with this, especially now we have reached a stage of fiction in which much more sophisticated explorations of existence within science fiction has been reached. However, it works for me and I am looking forward to the concluding book in the series.