A Treatise to Challenge the World of Tweets “Information may be abundant, but knowledge remains scarce”. This is the message of a collective of scholars from the Bucharest University of Economic Studies, the Faculty of International Business and Economics
One may reasonably question any new… old-style opus, in times of “fast and furious” facts and figures, expressions of international economic relations (scientific literature markets here included): Isn’t it enough that we are now part of an unseen-before democratization of information, from which we can liberally extract what is of genuine interest for us? Cui prodest writing and reading another “scholastic” tome? What did its authors acknowledge that is so urgent to share and has not yet been tackled and “treated” by other scholars somewhere else or sometime else? Such answers are not at hand prior to or short of holding, opening and immersing into this impressive book entitled: International Economic Relations. Theories, Strategies, Policies, Tools and Case Studies [Gheorghe Hurduzeu and Luminița Nicolescu (eds.), ASE Publishing House, 2019]. We hereby call it a “treatise”. For it is one, by any standard.
The undisputed utility…
The world we live in has become a world of interdependencies. Actually, it always has been that. What is striking now are their scope and scale. Not only that goods and services are (relatively freely) tradable worldwide, and not only that capital and people can (relatively freely) move across the planet, but knowledge itself becomes one particular globally exchangeable something. It is a curious fusing of all of the previous: it is an intangible trait of necessarily materializable items, while also being an idiosyncratic human-capital inbuilt property.
Scientific knowledge, that is the thoroughly processed and professed information, is just a “species” of a broader knowledge “genre”. As well, scientific knowledge on international relations is a subspecies of the above species. As such, it mixes and matches, in an orderly and communicable manner, figments of information, of various depth and extension – distilled from frivolous interpersonal tweets or from stiff intergovernmental treaties –, in forms ranging from scholarly reviews or articles to the topmost creations such as treatises.
What the authors of this treatise did accomplish is of manifold prominence for their specialization.
Firstly, the treatise brought to the fore the common sense of the reciprocation of the phenomena and processes that happen at the micro-, macro-, meso- and mondo- economic levels. Despite methodological lines of division between these layers of economic activity, there is a dynamic continuum spanning them.
Secondly, there is a balanced cohabitation of systematic – theoretical/conceptual – frameworks (dealing with the basic structure and functioning of the international economic relational reality) and of relevant – historical/applied – illustrations (by a very meticulously selected casuistry of the scrutinized landscape).
Thirdly, the volume is a (re)fine(d) combination of cultural and technical acumen. The former regards the human need for a worldview, for a way of living (i.e., internationally). The second is about how things work and can be managed. Both routes are essential for the international economist/businessperson.
Fourthly, it is remarkable that “relations” do not cover only spatial issues, but also temporal maturation of the economic toolbox itself (from theorizing, to doing business and policymaking), linking classical themes (e.g., economic systems, trade, finance) to modern ones (e.g., sustainability, innovation).
The treatise incorporates 22 chapters, filed in four thematic sections. The themes are presented in a uniform manner, each chapter following a well-defined and homologous conceptual matrix, the notions are gradually introduced and defined, and the algorithmic tools used are simple, explicit, and easy to understand. Scanning the tome in brief, we note that the first part presents aspects related to the system of world economy in the context of international economic relations (e.g., major economic systems, international organizations and global governance, as well as the commercial policies that shape international exchanges). The next part surveys the international business environment along with its infrastructural facets (e.g., the financial one) and aspects with major influence in the field of international affairs. A large part of the book focuses on the representative organization, the enterprise, which operates cross-border and on the way in which it carries out specific activities at this level (e.g., negotiation, contracting, management, marketing, foreign trade, risk management and so on). The last part is dedicated to the analysis of a collection of recent challenges related to present-day internationalization (e.g., disruptive innovation and technologies, dematerialized economy and business lobbying).
…And the uniqueness
The publication of this treatise in English is unique in Romania, and there is no work with similar thematic coverage. It was conceived and written by a group of professors from the Faculty of International Business and Economics, within the Bucharest University of Economic Studies, from the two departments of the faculty – namely, the Department of International Business and Economics and the Department of Modern Languages and Business Communication (whose support was invaluable for the English version).
A first source of uniqueness is that the faculty itself is unparalleled in the Romanian higher education system. It is the successor of a school that lived a tormented existence during the Communist regime, with the State apparatus being caught back then in a schizoid struggle between the obsession to internationalize the country economically beyond the Iron Curtain and the congenial fear that the exposure to outside knowledge would give to its well-educated graduates “dangerous ideas” about the “upper hand” of the capitalist West.
A second merit is the fact that the authors defy the borderlines between the bodies of economic studies and the assigned disciplines (economics vs. business), pleading that a more substantive differentiation – for pragmatical even if not for epistemic grounds – is the one between the national and international realms. Given the global and regional metabolisms (of protectionism and integrationism, of cultural moderationism and industrial revolutionism), internationality is a solid “mark” in economic studies.
A third element of its uniqueness is related to the particular moment in which we experience the noted internationality. The keywords in international relations of the last half decade were “Brexit” and “Trump” (as proxies of what is happening in the European Union and the United States, which are among major concerns in a euro-atlanticist country as Romania), followed by “Silk Roads” (China) and “Czarist/Soviet nostalgias” (Russia). Today we pass by the “Coronavirus” folly, as tomorrow we will have to keep up with “Industrial Revolution 4.0” biases.
See for yourself
Coming back to the questions asked from the outset, any decent answer should start by taking a look at (least at the Table of Contents of) the book. And I can only share with you my answers.
First and foremost, putting order in things is an asset in itself. We may have all the information in the world (which truly never happens), but behind this apparent abundance lies the ultimate scarcity of true knowledge. A thoughtfully projected and thoroughly produced unit of scientific literature – such as the present treatise – is all the more important in our times, when “it’s raining news”, when “rivers” of data are flowing towards “oceans” of informative outcomes.
Last, but not least, a product of this kind, coming from a country that speaks of economic growth in terms of “unsustainability” and of economic development in terms of “catching-up”, may seem unreliable. But there is a counter-argument too. Those who strive tend to be more careful with the critical knowledge in a certain field than those who have already attained. Even if there is no such law saying that “those-who-have forget”, there is one stating that “the need is a good master”.
All these elements make me consider International Economic Relations. Theories, Strategies, Policies, Tools and Case Studies a valuable book which is “Made in Romania, for the world”.