The Value in an SOM Exchange Program

December 4, 2009

To understand the educational experience at the London School of Economics one need only consider the school’s motto: to know the causes of things. Not surprisingly, knowing the causes of things predicates an understanding of theory – often in too short supply these days. Far from simply justifying events from the past, the true value in theory lies in its ability to predict and understand future events. Better put, as economist Brian Loasby once said “those who reject theory for pragmatism are liable to find themselves adherents to bad theory.”LSE’s home address, The Strand, served as the publishing home for both John Keynes and Adam Smith, and the nearby national library a refuge for Karl Marx during his tenure in London. The result of the presence of these (and other) literary giants is a substantial spill-over into faculty teaching and the curriculum. And every day events confirm their prevalence - Keynesian hydraulics of government spending are once again hailed as the European solution to Government crises, while Smith’s free markets are continually evidenced by the commercial policies within the EU. And, if you are searching for a real perspective on governance, groups from the ULU (student union) and the Marxist society on campus prove that socialist values are alive and well. The numerous labor unions throughout London – and indeed Europe – mean that the pressures between competing ideologies remain strong. Add a diverse student body, with many students arriving from transitional economies in Eastern Europe and tasting benefits of liberal democracy, it is not surprising the streets of LSE are replete with debate. There is also a strong sentiment of European solidarity (British nationalists included) among the LSE faculty. While the political leaning is somewhere to liberal edge of continental Europe, it offers a socialist-tinged viewpoint in contrast to the rhetoric in American business schools, allowing one an alternative analysis of the received wisdom often taken as fact. Which must be said at this point – the LSE is not a business school. And therein lies its strength. Rather, as a division of the University of London, its primary focus is on understanding the role of government and economics in society, which provide the operational framework for business. Which is not only important from the perspective that many business executives experience the “revolving door” into government at some point, but also allows it to maintain a focus on the social side of business. LSE – unbeknownst to some – is particularly recognized as a development institution (in fact, LSE was founded in 1895 on a debate between Sidney Webb and George Bernard Shaw) – which will prove a valuable option for those students interested in business as a tool to address the causes of, and solutions to, social inequity. And the school achieves these goals remarkably well. A strength of the SOM Exchange program is the freedom to choose among courses and faculty, which will suit students with a focused interest who demand the best in academic quality. Overall, LSE is a substantial learning experience, and one which SOM should provide among its options for students in the years to come.

About the author

Leif Linden