Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Copyright © 2008, Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Introduction from the Editors
Welcome to issue 1 of volume 4 of critical perspectives on international business. As we enter our fourth year of publication, we have recently received data on how cpoib is being accessed and used by the academic community globally. We are delighted to find that cpoib has been taken up by customers across the world, with institutions on every continent subscribing to it, and similarly, with downloads being made by readers on every continent. Overall figures on customer and download numbers show an upward trend and whilst, as might be expected, the UK and USA are the main country markets, around half of downloads are taken up by readers in other countries, with Australia, Malaysia, Canada, South Africa, Colombia and India being in the top ten download markets. In terms of numbers of downloads, the “best seller” paper has now been downloaded over 2,400 times in total and, in terms of “immediacy” of impact, the highest impact paper achieved over 500 downloads in the six months following publication.
In addition to the above data gathered by Emerald, in the run up to the UK Research Assessment Exercise (RAE), cpoib is one of very few “new” journals that have been included in the journal quality ranking of the Association of Business Schools (ABS). In addition, it has, at the time of writing, been listed on the Business Academic Research Directors Network (BARDsNET) draft journal rankings list for the Australian Research Quality Framework (RQF) exercise. Overall, we feel that these data show that cpoib is making an impact at a global level.
We are also pleased to note a growing number of submissions that cite extant publications in the journal, building upon and developing the discussions within cpoib. For all of these indicators of success, we must thank you, our contributors and readers, along with our reviewers and Editorial Advisory Board colleagues. However, we must point out that we seek to maintain the highest standards of writing and of peer review within cpoib. As such, we continue to reject over half of the submissions made and to ask many submitting authors to develop a more critical engagement with their topics before moving to the review stage. We need, therefore, to continue to urge you – and to urge you to encourage others – to submit top quality academic papers and stimulating position papers for our consideration.
In this issue, we present three academic papers, each of which engages with an issue of critical importance to the discourse of international business (IB) in a unique way. First, we present Ben Tipton’s paper which challenges, amongst others, the assertion of many mainstream IB textbook writers that “Thumbs-up is a rude gesture in Australia”. Tipton draws upon examples from a range of popular IB textbooks and, in particular, upon engagement by the authors of these with the concept of “culture”. Through a detailed analysis of the origins of ideas and of the perpetuation of error across multiple editions and multiple texts, and drawing upon the work of other critical academics, he shows that what is presented as evidence and example of cultural traits and behavioural norms within various cultures is frequently based upon “straightforward errors of fact, more subtle errors of interpretation, and serious problems with definitions and application of theories of cultural difference”. Tipton’s text provides educators in the field of IB with a salutary caution on the unquestioning acceptance of what is presented as “fact” and “knowledge” in the field of cultural theory, as presented in popular and enduring textbooks, even where this is seen to be consistent across different authors and over time.
The second academic paper, by Mehdi Boussebaa and Glenn Morgan, engages with the issue of how international firms “manage talent” across national boundaries. They do this through presentation of evidence from an empirical study of management perceptions and understandings of the success and/or failure of attempts to transfer organizational practices from the British to the French business unit of an international firm. The British unit had taken over the French unit – not, as the writers point out, in the way of a successful “big fish” swallowing a failing “small fish”, but at the level of the British firm acquiring ownership of its equal in France. Considering this position of equal strength of the two units at the time of takeover, and drawing upon the literature on talent management, the authors discuss how the different institutional frameworks for education and development in Britain and France present “the impossibility of treating the social categories of cadres in France and managers in the UK along the same lines”. They conclude that, in seeking to promote a programme of talent management across different national settings, the international firm should avoid assuming the transferability of organizational frameworks across business units, without consideration of the institutional frameworks of the country into which is seeks to transplant its practices.
In the final academic paper, Gard Hopsdal Hansen contemplates the role of the qualitative researcher in the field of IB and, in particular, the different subjectivities that she or he can adopt as a theorist, a fieldworker, or a narrator – engaging with issues of detached observation, “messy” engagement and (re)presentation. In doing this, Hansen draws metaphorically upon the voices of “the Geographer” and “the Explorer” from Saint-Exupery’s novel The Little Prince. In questioning these two characters, Hansen’s dialogue is one of self-interrogation as he seeks to analyse his own practices as an IB researcher. He engages in reflexive thinking about the benefits and limitations of both the Geographer’s and the Explorer’s approaches and what they constitute as “knowledge”. This is an engaging text in which the author posits that “we will never capture the full complexity of the situations and phenomena we attempt to study”, but in which he challenges us, occasionally, to “leave our studies and take a look at the far side in order to learn from the unknown”.
In addition to the three academic papers, we include two position papers, each of which engages with the issues of hegemonic self-interest by parties involved in IB. In the first paper, Brendan McSweeney questions the “taken-for-granted” assumption within much IB literature, that profit maximization by multinational enterprises is beneficial, and asks if it might, rather, be “a recipe for economic and social disintegration”. He outlines the historical antecedents and genealogy of the contemporary logic of shareholder value, but questions whether its perpetuation in the present is based upon self-reinforcing anecdotal evidence that lacks empirical evidence. McSweeney presents data that show that, in the age of corporate profit generation and individual wealth maximization for the few, the economic and physical well being of the many is at as great a risk as ever. He challenges those who assert that criticism of individual wealth is based upon a “politics of envy”, and asks that we “as academics… at least try to question claims which are not evidence-based, indeed which are often contradicted by the evidence, and to consider in whose interests particular policies serve”.
The final piece in this issue, by Prem Sikka, is based upon two “blogs” that he wrote for publication in the web issue of The Guardian newspaper in the UK. The blogs present a critique of the hegemonic rule over international accounting practices by the International Accounting Standards Board (IASB). Sikka states that “the IASB claims to advance business accountability and transparency, but is itself a highly secretive organisation. It is the offshoot of a private company registered in the US state of Delaware, a place well known for corporate secrecy”. He tells how the Board is funded by the “big four” global accounting firms and asserts that it acts in their interests and those of their corporate clients, restricting the possibilities for any form of public accountability. In their original context, the blogs elicited a stream of responses, both supportive and critical, which showed that the academic debate can be opened up to wider public participation. In the context of cpoib, Sikka prefaces and follows the substantive content of the blogs, on global accounting practices, with a text that develops the notion that, through engagement in a different form of discourse and using alternative media, academics can engage a wider audience than that of the academic journal.
We hope that you will enjoy reading this issue of cpoib, that it will stimulate further critical debate and discussion about key issues of relevance to IB, and that it will provoke further responses not only within the academic community through the pages of this journal, but in the wider context of global society through transfer into the classroom and beyond.
Joanne Roberts, George Cairns