This module helps students build an intellectual foundation to business as a field of inquiry. The module presents a ‘big history’ of ideas to expose students to the major schools of thought in philosophy, politics and early thinkers of social science (economics, sociology, psychology, anthropology). By exploring the social movements and counter-movements that have shaped the course of human intellectual history, students will locate the emergence of business and management not only in its economic context, but within a wider arena of social and political transformation. Students will be exposed to competing perspectives on some of the most fundamental problems facing thinking individuals throughout the centuries, and will be strongly encouraged to develop reflective awareness of the ways through which seemingly distant ideas shape the economic organisation of contemporary societies. To this end, moreover, students will have the opportunity to identify and question the soundness of taken-for-granted assumptions underpinning the formations of the worlds we inhabit.
By the end of the module students will have a powerful set of thinking tools by which to interpret events of the past, the present, and visions of the future. The module has two principal aims: first, to impress upon students the importance of the ‘big ideas’ that have impacted most strongly on the development of advanced human societies; and second, to motivate students to reflect on the relevance of these big ideas for their own lives, and for the wider challenges of the contemporary business world. The overarching aim of the module is to establish business management as an intellectually stimulating and liberal subject which affords students with a powerful and enlightening understanding of a contingently emerging world - a world that we are nonetheless often tempted to take as natural and somehow inevitable.
‘Part 2 – Markets and Consumers’ builds on part 1 by introducing some of the conceptual terrain that emerged during the early 20th century under the heading of ‘social science’. Fundamental questions about individuals, groups and societies were divided up and fragmented into a series of specialist disciplines including sociology, psychology, economics, anthropology and geography. Each of these disciplines managed to establish a place within the large universities of Europe and USA, developed their own bodies of specialist literature and professional academics, and continued to grow by attracting increasing numbers of students. Questions about material prosperity become appropriated by economists whereas questions about individuals become the domain of psychology. Business and management can be understood as emerging from this 20th century tradition by making use of, for examples, the theory of markets from economics, class from sociology and individual personality from social psychology. The module will provide a tour of some of the major concepts from this period that continue the tradition of asking deep questions about the nature of the social world.