Academic journal article Management International Review

Tempus Fugit: A Hermeneutic Approach to the Internationalisation Process

Academic journal article Management International Review

Tempus Fugit: A Hermeneutic Approach to the Internationalisation Process

Article excerpt

Abstract This article focuses on a somewhat neglected topic in international business (IB), namely how we conceptualise time. Time is critical to many IB research areas, especially the internationalisation process. Yet the way we conceive time is all too often taken for granted, even though it has wide ramifications for the theories we develop. In this paper, we turn to the literature on the philosophy of time in order to enrich our understanding of the concept, contrasting what we term the 'Newtonian' and the 'hermeneutic' perspectives on time. We analyse the treatment of time in the two most popular internationalisation models: the I and U Models. We also offer a hermeneutic basis for understanding internationalisation processes. Our contribution lies not only in making the case as to how philosophical debates are relevant to our conceptualisation of time, but also in proposing a hermeneutical approach to theorising about internationalisation processes.

Keywords Time * Internationalisation process of firms * Philosophy of time * Hermeneutics

1 Introduction

One of the most vibrant and productive research areas in the field of international business (IB) is undoubtedly the firm's internationalisation process with its numerous sub-fields and specialisation areas. The innovation (I Model) and the Uppsala (the U Model) have become the most widely used models of internationalisation (e.g., Welch and Paavilainen-Mantymaki 2014), even though they have also evoked a great deal of criticism over the years (cf., Andersen 1993). Focusing on these two most commonly used models, we analyse how each of them treats time. They are often viewed as being interchangeable (cf., Hadjikhani 1997), even though they treat time differently: the former is quite linear and the latter is more cyclical. We argue that the two models incorporate time implicitly, rather than explicitly: in other words, the concept of time is taken for granted, and its complexity and potential are ignored. Equally, researchers who have sought to empirically investigate and extend the models frequently neglect to do so upfront, or to define what it stands for in their research.

In this article we turn to philosophy to reconsider how we define and conceptualise time, arguing that if IB scholars were to be more time-conscious in their research they could offer new theoretical insights. We take the stance that although we should value the contribution of existing internationalisation models, we should recognise the need to revisit their assumptions and limitations. Since the development of the I and U Models the world has changed, and along with it, so has our experience of time. Postmodernism (e.g., Foucault 1973; Feyerabend 1975; Habermas 2006), for example, has offered the concepts of space suspension and time compression (e.g., Welge and Holtbriigge 1999) to encapsulate these transformations. Space suspension refers to globalisation, the surmounting of spatial barriers by the development of transportation and communication technologies that make everything instantaneously connected, irrespective of geographical distance. Time compression, in turn, refers to the experience of time as having accelerated. 'Quartile thinking', global outsourcing, the virtualisation and digitalisation of society and applications offering instant communication, to give a few examples, have transmitted this acceleration to all aspects of life (e.g., Hassan and Purser 2007; Shove et al. 2009). Among the sources, as well as the victims, of time compression are companies, which are faced with the choice of either updating their business models, operating cultures, organisational structures and survival strategies--or perishing. Further uncertainty comes from various events such as financial and political crises that affect the business environment in which companies operate. No internal operation within firms has been left untouched by these changes, including the internationalisation process. …

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