Steven Brakman (49) has been appointed Professor of International Economics at the Faculty of Economics.
He was already Professor of Globalization with an endowed chair and also holds a professorial chair at the Radboud University Nijmegen.
Brakman regularly uses his expertise in his work as a consultant for companies, and he thinks that the cliché image of science as an ivory tower is ‘utter nonsense’.
‘Globalization sounds more appealing than “international economics”,’ says Brakman, ‘but in reality globalization is an application area of international economics. We use the knowledge, ideas and models to study the consequences of globalization, what is referred to as “the world getting smaller”.’
The professor is often invited to participate in discussions, in particular debates with anti-globalists about the pros and cons of globalization. ‘Those are fun, as these groups tend to have the most fierce discussions,’ he says. ‘They are wrong, however. The main misconceptions are that globalization is something new, is developing rapidly and is resulting in exploitation. However, globalization has always existed – in fact, we are still in its early stages – and ‘exploitation’ is caused by other factors, such as national technological developments.’
Randstad versus the North
Brakman is developing and applying international trade theory in cooperation with a number of fellow researchers, mainly from Utrecht and Rotterdam. ‘We concentrate on questions such as why there are such great differences between countries, but also between regions within a country. For example, why is the Randstad one big conurbation while the North is so empty? We examine which company behaviours result in the development of conurbations. The old models still assume that all companies behave in the same way. However, it has recently been shown that differences between companies in fact result in specific settlement patterns.’
Brakman cooperates with Prof. Arjen van Witteloostuijn on consultancy assignments for companies. ‘For example, a Works Council may ask us for a second opinion about a provisional decision such as a merger or the closure of a branch. We then conduct market analyses and assess the effects of changes. Companies know where to find us and I have noticed that our cutting-edge academic knowledge gives us an advantage over the large consultancy firms – we deliver more than just a PowerPoint presentation. The cliché image of science as an ivory tower is therefore utter nonsense. My students are made aware of that too, and the practical examples are very useful in the lectures about international economics and multinationals.’
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