S C A N D I N AV I A N J O U R N A L O F
Scand. J. Mgmt. 23 (2007) 127–145 www.elsevier.com/locate/scaman
National business systems research: Progress and prospects
Warwick Business School, University of Warwick, Coventry, UK
Abstract The paper provides an overview of the development of the national business systems approach to the study of organizations. The ﬁrst section outlines the approach taken to understanding national business systems and their relationship to organizations. It notes the creative tension which existed within the approach between ideal types of national systems and speciﬁc empirical studies which were more actor centred and concerned with change and process in institutions and organizations. The second section focuses on a series of concepts and debates which emerged from the growing interdisciplinary nature of the debate on comparative capitalisms. These debates have shifted the focus of discussion away from typologies and more towards issues of change and process and the interaction of national contexts and international processes. The third section illustrates this new focus through analysing the contribution of the national business systems approach to the study of multinationals and international institutions. It argues that the national business systems approach is central to understanding the interaction between organizations, national contexts and international ﬂows of capital, labour, technology and knowledge and international rule systems for coordinating these ﬂows. r 2007 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved. Keywords: National business systems; Institutional change; Multinationals; International rules
1. Introduction In the 1990s, the business systems approach broke with the still dominant universalistic and contingency models of organizations which emphasized issues of size, technology and ÃTel.: +44 2476522580.
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128 G. Morgan / Scand. J. Mgmt. 23 (2007) 127–145
market structure as determinants of organization structure and strategy. Instead it argued for the centrality of the distinctive institutional context in which organizations were located (Whitley, 2003). It was the institutional context, primarily though not necessarily national, which became the key for understanding the organization. As a consequence, it was argued that the study of organization and management had to become thoroughly imbued with a comparative institutional perspective, reﬂected both in the construction of explanations and in the methodology of the discipline. The purpose of this review paper is to examine the original contributions of the national business systems approach, to identify recent developments and to suggest areas where this approach is currently making a signiﬁcant mark. The paper is organized in the following sections. The ﬁrst section presents the basic model of how national institutional settings affect organizations focusing particularly on the early work of Whitley and others in developing a comparative approach. It seeks to clarify what that approach set out to achieve and therefore where its selfimposed limits and its creative tensions could be identiﬁed. The second section argues that what is now being developed in order to overcome these problems is a shared interdisciplinary vocabulary and conceptual framework for analysing actors, institutional change and processes of co-dependency and co-construction in a globalizing world. The third section suggests some key areas in which this reformulation is contributing to a new informed understanding of organizations between national contexts and international ﬂows. 2. National business systems: the basic model The national business systems approach begins from the idea that different forms of capitalism...