Academic journal article Management International Review

Countries, Within-Country Regions, and Multiple-Country Regions in International Management: A Functional, Institutional, and Critical Event (FICE) Perspective

Academic journal article Management International Review

Countries, Within-Country Regions, and Multiple-Country Regions in International Management: A Functional, Institutional, and Critical Event (FICE) Perspective

Article excerpt

Abstract We introduce the focused issue by offering a functional, institutional and critical event or FICE perspective on the relationship between cultural boundaries and the boundaries of modern nation states (termed countries here). Our perspective draws from three kinds of theory that suggest how governmental boundaries have come to be connected in different degrees and in different ways to cultural groups. We use the FICE perspective to integrate the four articles in the focused issue that speak to whether boundaries around countries matter as compared to boundaries around religious groups, within-country geographic regions, and groups of multiple countries.

Keywords Culture * Boundaries * Regions * Institutional theory * Functional theory * Critical events

1 Introduction

Our theoretical purpose in preparing the present focused issue about cultural groups and geographic boundaries is to improve the conceptual basis for debating the meaning that different kinds of geographic boundaries have for cultural groups. Our purpose is not to settle the question of which kind of boundary is most important, although we do take the view that geographic boundaries matter (Peterson and Sondergaard 2011). Hopefully, improving discussion about geographic cultural boundaries will advance research and theory about the relevance that such boundaries have for a broad range of international management issues.

The range of applications is illustrated by the articles selected for the focused issue. The articles consider choices that businesses make about foreign direct investment, structures businesses use for managing distant operations, and behavioral issues they face in managing interdependent, culturally different groups and disparate facilities. The articles also provide information about cultural values that businesses can use to consider a central current controversy--to what extent do country boundaries remain important in a world that is at once increasingly fragmented and increasingly globalized? In such a world, to what extent have countries been displaced by within-country regions or multiple-country groups?

Some articles in the focused issue give examples of how countries are fragmented by within-country variability, and others show how international governmental agreements have reduced some impediments of country boundaries. In order to address all of these possible relationships between boundaries and cultural groups, our intent is to help theory and research about culture and geographic boundaries move beyond assertions about globalization and simplistic examples. Yes, Belgium and Canada certainly both have at least two regions with different cultural heritages. But how different are these two parts compared to differences between Belgium and the cultural regions of other countries like Canada? And what exactly does it mean to talk about a multiple-country French culture that includes France, French Canada, Walloon Belgium, French Switzerland and the former French colonies? International management scholarship needs to progress beyond simple arguments from such examples.

We will proceed by providing additional background which suggests that the question of cultural boundaries is important, briefly introducing the four articles in the focused issue, and providing a theoretical perspective to conceptualize the relationship between cultural groups and geographic boundaries. We then explain how the articles help develop this theoretical perspective. We will conclude with implications for studying culture and geographic boundaries, particularly for research about cultural boundaries that is based on value survey data, and noting some additional topics that the articles in the focused issue address. Throughout, we will treat culture as a coherent way of thinking, feeling, behaving, and interacting that characterizes a group that those inside think of as a cultural "us" and those outside think of as "them". …

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