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Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Copyright © 2007, Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Welcome to issue 3 of volume 3 of critical perspectives on international business. In this second general issue of 2007 we break from our usual tradition of presenting between four to five academic papers that have been subject to double blind peer review and one position paper subject to editorial review. Instead this issue consists of one academic paper and five position papers. The position papers result from an invitation to our Editorial Advisory Board members to write papers exploring particular contemporary international business topics with a view to provoking further contributions to the field.
These position papers have been subject to editorial review and as part of this process authors were required to revise their papers. The papers in this issue focus on topics ranging from our theoretical understanding of international production, the implications of offshoring and the nature of organizing for international business, to the political economy of communications and a postcolonial perspective on international business. In addition, we include a piece that addresses the developing world’s ship breaking business and its representation in various non-academic media. The issue concludes with a review of two books that adopt very different approaches to the subject of marketing.
The issue begins with an academic refereed paper by Grazia Ietto-Gillies, entitled “Theories of international production: a critical perspective”, in which she warns against the adoption of the economists neo-classical paradigm for the development of an appreciation of international business in the contemporary world. To justify this, Ietto-Gillies briefly considers the main theories of international production from an historical perspective, before analysing the role of the nation-state in explanations of international production. Although many existing theories of international production are concerned with efficiency, Ietto-Gillies argues for the need to take into account the strategic behaviour of transnational companies (TNCs), in particular, behaviour towards labour and governments. Operating across boarders can give rise to strategic advantages arising from: different regulatory regimes; the ability to fragment labour, thereby reducing the scope for worker resistance; negotiations with governments; and, risk spreading. Ietto-Gillies provides a valuable analysis of strategic versus efficiency-based approaches to international production, concluding that a move towards a more efficiency-driven neo-classical approach would be a step in the wrong direction.
Issues concerning the ability of TNCs to fragment labour, and the power that they can wield over nation-states are touched upon in the first position paper in this issue. In “Offshoring, exit and voice: implications for organizational theory and practice”, Raza Mir, Ali Mir and Hari Bapuji explore the impact of corporate offshoring on the economic and psychological contracts between firms and their employees. Making use of Alfred Hirschman’s theory of exit and voice the authors argue that offshoring decreases the regenerative power promised by both exit and voice in helping organizations to recover from decline. The paper considers the challenges for researchers and management educators of the wide divergence of views on and evidence of the impact of the practice of offshoring.
In “Organizing: skyscrapers and multitudes” Martin Parker challenges the hegemonic model of organization, suggesting that alternatives are possible. For Parker, the dominant conception of organization arises from three aspects of management: the increasing celebration of the managerial class; the application of managerial language to increasingly “informal” areas of life; and the diffusion of specific forms of expertise by business schools. While market managerialism, which, since the collapse of the Soviet system has become synonymous with market liberalism, is often presented as inevitable, Parker points to alternatives and notes the emergence of resistance to market managerialsim from management academics and practitioners, as well as global civil society movements.
An alternative to the capitalist perspective is offered in “Political economy of communication: a critique”, in which Phil Graham contends that communication is the very basis of international business today. He argues that capitalism has given way to a new form of global corporatism characterised by: a separation of ownership of the means of production from their control; a general separation of industry from business; and a subjugation of the “going concern” by overriding concerns. According to Graham these developments in the social relations that characterise the contemporary world are achievements of communication. Hence, the changes in political economic relations require an analytical perspective derived from a political economy of communication. He goes on to provide an alternative non-capitalist view of globalization and proposes a new theoretical and analytical synthesis for political economy of communications.
Robert I. Westwood and Gavin Jack call for international business and management scholars to embrace postcolonial theory in their “Manifesto for a postcolonial international business and management studies: a provocation”. Although postcolonial theory has been taken up in other disciplines; including literary studies, history, anthropology and the humanities; more generally, management and international business studies have largely neglected this perspective. Through the presentation of a manifesto, the authors seek to mobilize the theoretical and political resources of postcolonial theory with the aim of radically reorienting the field of management and international business studies.
The final paper of this issue by George Cairns, “Postcard from Chittagong: wish you were here?”, opens up discussion on the ship breaking industry of countries such as Bangladesh, India and Pakistan. Cairns draws upon a range of publications and the work of photographers from across the world. Within the various representations of the ship breakers of Chittagong in Bangladesh, he finds a mix of critiques of a dangerous, exploitative and environmentally harmful business that should be highly regulated or closed down, and of an industry that is essential to the economic growth of the country and offers employment where no other option exists. In the photographic studies, he sees ugliness and pollution beside sculptural beauty and vivid colours, and workers who are exploited yet smiling. From the multiple “realities” of the industry, he argues for an analytic approach of “concerned ambivalence” instead of what he sees as a hegemonic developed world condemnation.
This issue concludes with Bill Donaldson’s insightful review of two welcome additions to the marketing literature; first, A Very Short, Fairly Interesting and Reasonably Cheap Book about Studying Marketing by Jim Blythe, followed by Marketing Graffiti – The View from the Street, by Michael Saren. Donaldson engages with the very different stylistic approaches adopted by the two authors from a personal perspective grounded in the site of reading rather than authoring.
The pieces published in this issue highlight a variety of important areas in need of further investigation and debate. We hope that these papers will inspire readers to take up the challenge of researching these often neglected aspects of international business activity. As CPOIB has grown in its short life to include a wide range of critical discussions of various aspects of international business from across the globe, we hope that it has some impact outside of the academic community, and does not merely represent yet another academic “talking shop”.
In attending the annual conference of the UK Jubilee Debt Campaign in London last month (April 2007), I (George) was made aware by speakers from several African nations that pressure on “developed world” governments by their own citizens is seen as being essential in bringing about any change to the global order, and is considered as having been key to recent debt cancellations. It was very pleasing to know that action is effective, but it was somewhat disappointing to be unable to identify any other academic delegate. Those that I spoke to were mostly concerned citizens who gave up their free time to support the Campaign. I did wonder if we, as academics, really engage with issues in the world outside academe, or merely absorb its issues for our own exploitation. Hopefully, with CPoIB we can pursue a strategy of engagement.
Our thanks go to all contributors, including authors, reviewers, and the EAB members. We encourage readers to contribute to the journal. As always, we welcome academic paper submission, viewpoint pieces, reviews and review essays, as well as suggestions and proposals for special issues.
George Cairns, Joanne Roberts