American Corporations are Unquestionably Superior to German Firms

  1. Students are required to produce an essay, that is an argumentative piece of work based on comparative evidence (facts) and reasons (positions, opinions, arguments, etc). This is NOT a report.
  2. In sum, the essay requires students to demonstrate knowledge and understanding of the module material i.e., essential reading


Topic for the essay: ‘American corporations are unquestionably superior to German firms.’ Discuss.

You need to produce an essay in which, (answering the ‘what?’ question), examine the main institutional factors that explain such differences (answering the ‘why?’ question), and discuss their broader implications (answering the ‘so what?’ question).

A typical structure will look something like this:

  1. Introduction to the debate (200 words)
  2. Summary of Similarities and Differences i.e., answer to the ‘what?’ question (400 words)
  3. Explanation of Similarities and Differences i.e., answer to the ‘why?’ question (800 words)
  4. Discussion of Similarities and Differences i.e., answer to the ‘so what?’ question (400 words)
  5. Conclusion (200 words)

Your essay must show evidence of knowledge and understanding of conceptual and empirical material covered in the module, as well as of essential reading.
Please note that the essential reading represents the necessary minimum to pass this assignment. You are expected to go beyond this and conduct your own research in addition to, and not instead of, the essential reading for your topic.

What do the ‘what’, ‘why’ and ‘so what’ questions mean?

These questions can be used for various purposes. They differ in the manner that they are used and what type of answers they are seeking. For the purposes of this assignment, this is what we mean:

The what question is used to request specific information about key aspects of your topic. If you are writing, for example, about corporate governance, then you would probably answer the what question by systematically analysing the main similarities and differences (i.e., ‘comparing’) of the shareholder and stakeholder models.

The why question is used to ask for an explanation about something. It is a question
concerning the cause or reason for something. It is more of an authoritative question. Continuing with the above example, in order to answer the why question, you’d probably try to establish the cause/reason countries operate within different models of corporate governance by ‘zooming out’ and looking at corporate governance as just one institutional element of broader types of capitalism: liberal and coordinated market economies.

The so-what? question is, essentially, a hypothetical question that a reader will ask if they can see why your argument is important. For this reason, all good essays ought to explicitly address the issue of their significance. How do you answer the so what question? You need to state, and make your argument, and then you need to tell your readers why that argument needs to be made. So, using the same example again. After you have analysed different models of corporate governance, and explained why different countries operate within different models, you need to take your essay
forward by, for example, arguing that countries operating under the shareholder model may learn a great deal from the stakeholder model, or anything else that you consider significant, provided that you state your argument/opinion and support it with evidence and reasons.

The following was also the answer from my lecturer to the students:

  1. For American corporations are unquestionably superior to German firms can
    the comparative discussion be focused solely on the Corporate Governance aspect?

You may. Two observations though. First, as a general rule, the fewer the aspects, the better the argument needs to be in order to be convincing. It can be done but can be challenging. Second, in tackling this question, my advice is also to look into our discussion of different views of the capitalist firm i.e., the property view of the firm (LMEs/Anglo-Saxon), vs the community view (CMEs) in its two variants: the co-determined firm& (Germany) and the;employee-fauvoring firm; (Japan).

reading by Dore is essential:
Dore, R. (2006) Stock Market Capitalism, Welfare Capitalism. Japan and Germany versus the
Anglo-Saxons, Oxford: Oxford University Press. Chapter 4: Corporate Governance: From the
employee-favouring firm to the shareholder-favouring firm (pp. 71-132).

List of references that you MUST use.

Albert, M. (1993) Capitalism vs. Capitalism, New York: Four Wall Eight Windows. Chapter 6: The Other Capitalism, pp. 99-126 & Chapter 7: The Economic Superiority of the Rhine Model, pp. 127-146.

Can We Do It Ourselves? (Sweden, 2015)

Chang, H-O (2009) 23 Things they don’t tell you about capitalism. London: Penguin.

Dore, R. (2006) Stock Market Capitalism, Welfare Capitalism. Japan and Germany versus the Anglo-Saxons, Oxford: Oxford University Press. Chapter 2: A Society of Long-Term Commitments (pp. 23-48), Chapter 9: The Co-determined Firm (pp. 182-206), & Chapter 10: The Organised Community (pp. 207-215).

Koen, C. I. (2005) Comparative International Management, London: McGraw-Hill.

Sorge, A., Noorderhaven, N., and Koen, C. (2015) Comparative International Management. Second Edition. Abingdon: Routledge.

The Corporation (Canada, 2005)

Recommended films:
The Corporation (2003)
Can We Do It Ourselves? (2015)
The New Corporation (2022)
Dirty Money (USA, 2018) Series 1. Episode 1: Hard NOx. Not currently available. On VW Scandal read book ***
Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room (2005)
Bigger than Enron (USA, 2002)

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