Wednesday, August 09, 2006

World: The structure of capital, part 1: demutualisation

I'm reminded of my thesis work in economics. The topic was demutualisation, but it threatened to blow out, because there was a very interesting strand to chase down.

The most successful organisational structure, from the point of view of capital, is the joint-stock company. It's unparalled in its success in accumulation, that is, raising more capital. In this sense, profit distribution can be seen as the bait, a necessary cost of accumulation. Some might call this view a little topsy-turvy - isn't the prime aim of capital agglomerations to generate profit? Hmm, it's all a matter of perspective.

Mutual organisations were largely formed in the 19th century, for particular purposes - largely social and benevolent. Over the latter half of the 20th century (in particular) there was a great rush of demutualisation for a number of reasons. The main two that I saw were: managerial bias in favour of joint stock companies (in this "managerial" category I also include corporate advisors); and a far greater ability to raise capital - particularly through share issues.

That was largely my thesis. The deviant strand was an interest in the changing structure of capital formation over time: the forces involved, the mechanisms, and in particular the implications. There's a lifetime of research in this, and I still have some ambitions.

One important aspect that cannot escape me is the control of these capitals. This control is shared between managers and shareholders. Large shareholdings are sometimes favoured, in that their degree of influence provides clarity. Rupert Murdoch, for example. This clarity can also be achieved by consistent managerial vision. But in the competitive world, this consistency is seldom achieved, as managers change tack, absorb fads, try something different to get that competitive edge.

At this time and this place, I'm just ruminating. Next up will be a countervailing, almost contradictory perspective, on the rise of superannuation funds.

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