Chapter 7 Anatomy of relationship significance: A critical realist exploration

Organizational Culture, Business-to-Business Relationships, and Interfirm Networks

ISBN: 978-0-85724-305-8, eISBN: 978-0-85724-306-5

ISSN: 1069-0964

Publication date: 26 August 2010


Markets-as-networks (MAN) theorists contend, at least tacitly, the significance of business relationships to the firm – that is, business relationships contribute somewhat to corporate survival or growth. One does not deny the existence of significant business relationships but sustain, in contrast to the consensus within the MAN theory, that relationship significance should not be a self-evident assumption. For significance cannot be a taken-for-granted property of each and every one of the firm's business relationships. The authors adopt explicitly a critical realist meta-theoretical position in this conceptual paper and claim that relationship significance is an event of the business world, whose causes remain yet largely unidentified. Where the powers and liabilities of business relationships (i.e., relationship functions and dysfunctions) are put to work, inevitably under certain contingencies (namely the surrounding networks and markets), relationship effects ensue for the firm (often benefits in excess of sacrifices, i.e., relationship value) and as a consequence relationship significance is likely to be brought about. In addition, relationship significance can result from the dual impact that business relationships may have on the structure and powers and liabilities of the firm, that is, on corporate nature and scope, respectively.


Sousa, F. and de Castro, L. (2010), "Chapter 7 Anatomy of relationship significance: A critical realist exploration", Woodside, A. (Ed.) Organizational Culture, Business-to-Business Relationships, and Interfirm Networks (Advances in Business Marketing and Purchasing, Vol. 16), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp. 363-404.

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