“The economic theory we know is less and less in a position to meet the reality in the economy!” stated Professor Dr Josef Wieland, Director of the Leadership Excellence Institute Zeppelin | LEIZ and initiator of the first Relational Economics Conference at Zeppelin University. Renowned academics from the UK, France, Italy, South Africa and Germany came to Lake Constance for three days at the end of November to discuss current challenges in the emerging Relational Economics Theory. The conference included presentations and discussions on the latest topics and research projects in Relational Economics Theory.
After the guests were welcomed at our lakeside campus, Professor Wieland introduced his Theory of Relational Economics, followed by intense discussion on the topic. In the following two days, there were presentations by national and international speakers who examined the topic from different perspectives e.g. network theory, culture or law. Talks were given by Professor Dr Birger Priddat, University of Witten/Herdecke, Germany on ‘ad fundamentum: Transactions as Relational Processes’, Professor Lucio Biggiero, Università Degli Studi Dell’Aquila, Italy on ‘Epistemological and Methodological Implications of Relational Approaches in Business and Economic Studies’, Professor Dr Albrecht von Müller, Parmenides Center for the Study of Thinking and Ludwig Maximilians-Universität Munich, Germany on ‘Constellatory Self-Unfolding and Relationality – A New Basic Theoretical Approach and its Implications for the Social Sciences’. Other speakers included Dr Gerhard Fuchs, Universität Stuttgart, Germany on ‘Relational Sociology and Field Theory – Bridges to a New Economic Sociology’, Professor Dr Michael Schramm, Universität Hohenheim, Germany on ‘Relational Processes in the Metaphysics of Alfred North Whitehead’, Professor Dr Jörg Sydow, Freie Universität Berlin, Germany with insights into ‘Managing Global Production Networks: Towards Social Responsibility via Inter-organisational Reliability’, Professor Derick de Jongh, University of Pretoria, South Africa on ‘Responsible Leadership as Co-responsibility: Expressions of Relational Leadership from Germany and South Africa’, Professor Dr Jan Söffner, Zeppelin University, Germany on ‘The New Market of Thinking’, Professor Tim Cummins, University of Leeds, UK on ‘Relational Contracting in Practice: A Virtual Enterprise’ and Professor Adrian Zicari, ESSEC Business School, France who gave the participants insights into the history, nature and chances of ‘Added Value Reporting’. Also happiness in the economic context was analysed in a talk on ‘Public Happiness and Relational Goods’ by Professor Luigino Bruni, from Libera Università Maria Ss. Assunta, Italy.
One of the many striking quotations with which Professor Wieland very successfully stimulated the discussion among the participants originates in Whitehead's works: “All being is a being in relation – there is no isolated being!” He added that all human beings were confronted from scratch with one challenge: There is oneself and the others. Relational Economics Theory is meant to further elaborate on this issue.
Questions that the conference aimed to tackle were, for example, "Is there such a thing as a relational viewpoint?” “Is there knowledge to apply?” “Can we define ideas of taxonomy?” One of the conference’s main intentions was also to examine and discuss Relational Economics Theory regarding the conviction that a societal component is always an integrated part of value-creation processes which, at the moment, leads to the observation that shared value creation is confined to a governance structure. “What are the governance structures of a modern society?”, and, “What is a modern society?” were further challenges to be addressed. “Although,” as Josef Wieland explained, “the company is a place of relation and interaction (see Hobbes), the organisation's goal is just to exist”. Therefore, he continued, the company will not be the central part of the research in this context.
The symposium, held for the first time this year, is also an excellent opportunity for outstanding young academics to present their research and meet renowned academics in this field.This time the following young academics actively participated: Jean Müßgens, Universität Witten/Herdecke, Germany, Marco Möhrer, Zeppelin University, Germany, Dr Julika Baumann Montecinos, Zeppelin University, Germany, Lukas Törner, Zeppelin University, Germany, Leonhard Teichert, Cognostics AG, Germany, Dr Yolande Steenkamp, University of Pretoria, South Africa, Dominik Fischer, Zeppelin University, Germany;
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Prof Dr Wieland sees this successful Relational Economics Conference as the beginning of a series of conferences to be held at an international level at various locations. The findings and the fruitful exchange with other academics will be incorporated into the in-depth research in this context and published on a regular basis.