MIT Sloan Professor Richard Locke

Others have researched and articulated the global nature of business today, but MIT Sloan professor Richard Locke and a team of MIT faculty members are looking beyond the mere extent of global connections. They're trying to determine how globalization can upgrade conditions for people in developing countries.

Locke, Alvin J. Siteman Professor of Entrepreneurship and Political Science, has organized 14 faculty members from across MIT for the “Globalization, Economic Development and Standards Project.”

The project will perform research on what he refers to as “a more virtuous way of doing business” and bring together key players in the globalization debate.

The United Nations already has asked Locke and his colleagues to provide intellectual guidance and technical support for its Global Compact initiative. That initiative aims to encourage companies to incorporate internationally recognized labor standards, environmental protection measures, and human rights norms in their managerial practices.

Spearheads Italy program

The project represents a new facet of Locke's work. Much of his other work is focused on the developed world.

Considered an expert on the Italian political economy, he is director of the new MIT Italy Program.

The program:

  • Provides opportunities for student internships in Italian companies and laboratories.
  • Supports faculty collaborations with researchers in Italy.
  • Works with corporations, governments, and not-for-profit organizations in learning how to internationalize industry, education, and research.

His book, Remaking the Italian Economy (Cornell U. Press, 1995, 1997), was chosen by Choice Magazine as an “outstanding academic book of the year” when it was published in 1995.

He's also done considerable work in Eastern Germany on the process of institutional change following the fall of the Berlin Wall.

And he's working on a new book, Building Trust in a Rent-Seeking World, which examines cooperative patterns of economic development in eastern Germany, southern Italy, and northeast Brazil.

Rethinking labor-market laws

With three MIT colleagues, Locke also has analyzed the state of U.S. labor-market laws and called for reform.

He joined MIT Sloan professors Paul Osterman and Thomas Kochan, and MIT economics professor Michael Piore in the groundbreaking study.

The research team interviewed more than 250 people — drawn from business, labor, community groups, academia, and government — and traced the evolution of labor-market laws — from the New Deal to the social regulations of the 1960s.

The project, funded by the Ford and Rockefeller Foundations, yielded Working in America (MIT Press), a book that highlights the need for new labor-market laws.

“Underlying the current system are assumptions about who is working, what workers do, and how much job security workers enjoy,” write the authors.

“Economic and social changes have rendered those assumptions invalid and have resulted in mismatches between labor institutions and efficient and equitable deployment of the work force, as well as between commitments to the labor market and family responsibilities.”

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MIT Sloan students are immersed in an atmosphere that challenges outdated assumptions and looks for innovative solutions to new and old problems.