A Very Short, Fairly Interesting and Reasonably Cheap Book about International Business

Rudolf R. Sinkovics (Manchester Business School, Manchester, UK)

Critical Perspectives on International Business

ISSN: 1742-2043

Article publication date: 23 October 2009




Sinkovics, R.R. (2009), "A Very Short, Fairly Interesting and Reasonably Cheap Book about International Business", Critical Perspectives on International Business, Vol. 5 No. 4, pp. 318-319. https://doi.org/10.1108/17422040911003051



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2009, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

The market for books on international business (IB) is fairly crowded. New books or editions of existing textbooks are appearing at regular intervals, as authors and publishers aim to tap into this lucrative market segment. Hence, it is only fair to ask what “a very short, fairly interesting and reasonably cheap book” could add to existing material.

Initially I was slightly discouraged to start reviewing this book, basically a function of the book title and the positioning chosen by the publisher. As can be inferred from the title, the book contains fewer words than the average IB textbook and thus carries a lower price tag. This selling proposition does not necessarily translate into an interesting read and – in my view – is thus a rather problematic strategy from a publisher's perspective.

Having overcome this initial barrier, and allowing myself a more involved and deeper look into the book, I was positively enticed by the approach taken by the authors. While thoroughly rooted in IB theory and thinking, it goes beyond the often flattening and standardising writing routines of mainstream IB textbooks, that predominantly address issues of performance and success in culturally and politically heterogeneous marketplaces. The authors' writing is premised upon three fundamental ideas, which open up a plethora of rich and inspirational thinking and serve as a conduit in transcending the established orthodoxy. First, rather than conveying yet another primer of “how to” become a successful manager in IB, their book is written with concerned “stakeholders” and “citizens of the world” in mind, who are all positively or negatively affected by IB practices. Second, the authors don't adopt the dominant paradigm of IB with its emphasis on profitability, revenue generation, and market growth and expansion through internationalisation and globalisation. Rather, they draw upon history and theory to point at the trajectory which IB has taken and provide contrasting perspectives and critical views on implications of IB for nation states, multinational enterprises (MNEs), power distribution between actors and supranational institutions. Third, the authors move beyond the early view that IB is confined to “firm‐level” perspectives and discuss firm externalities such as working conditions of labour‐force or toxic waste disposal and ethical dimensions. To this end, the book moves IB thinking beyond simple “how to” questions and calls for reflection about issues of “why” and “with what effect”. The book generates enthusiasm about “what can be done about it” and thus manages to grasp a unique position in the market of IB textbooks.

The book is organised in three parts. Part one deals with theories of international trade and international business, comprising of classical and neo‐classical theories of international trade, twentieth‐century developments in trade theories and IB practice and investment theories of international business. Part two deals with actors in international business, i.e. institutions such as the IMF, World Bank, WTO, UN, ILO, etc., and international business organisations, specifically MNEs, their origin and development. The third part deals with management issues in the business environment. This entails functional perspectives in delivering goods and services such as global research and development, international marketing as well as financial, accounting and governance issues and people management in the international arena.

The distinguishing feature of the book is the concluding sections. These appear throughout the book, synthesise theoretical reasoning and are deemed to poke, provoke and inspire critical reflection of the reader in his/her view of the implications and impact of IB on society at large. Overall, it is impossible to read this book and not to be stimulated about the connections of IB and the challenges which are associated with its organisation and orchestration. The demonstration of how power within and of multinational firms and trans‐national institutions are intertwined makes this book stand out. After reading this book, I fail to see how any serious undergraduate or graduate course on IB, international strategy or multinational management could live without it on the recommended reading list. While it is truly “very short” and thus may not suffice to serve as single textbook for such courses, it sports an attractive price tag and certainly features and excellent reference list with rich material for further research. In one sense, the authors have proven the marketing team of Sage Publications wrong; it is not only “fairly interesting”, but also a compelling and outstanding book.

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