Department of Management

Traversing cultural boundaries in IB: The complex relationships between explicit country and implicit cultural group boundaries at multiple levels

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  • Mark F. Peterson, Maastricht University, Maastricht, Maastricht University, Homestead, United States
  • Mikael Søndergaard
  • Aycan Kara, Indiana University Southeast, United States

International business (IB) scholars continue to struggle to theorize the relationship between country and cultural group boundaries. To progress, we first consider functional, institutional, and critical event explanations for cultural characteristics and boundaries. Second, we contrast theories of explicit global structure based on countries with theories based on implicit cultural groups. Third, we consider the implications of explicit country-based and implicit culture group-based theorizing for the relationship between explicit country boundaries and implicit cultural group boundaries. We do so at three levels that are roughly analogous in country-based and culture group-based theorizing: country/ethnic group, country cluster/civilization, and within-country region/subcultural group. Political science and other fields that help to understand the relationship between countries and cultural groups, but that seldom appear in IB discussions of culture, are emphasized. One main conclusion is that countries remain linked to cultures because of continuing political reasons for cultural groups to seek to be governed by co-ethnics. Political considerations other than cultural identity, however, also continue to promote important discontinuities between country and cultural group boundaries. We suggest that IB scholars and scholarly IB associations should reconsider their traditional way of defining the IB field because of our advancing understanding of the complex mix of correspondence and discontinuity between country and cultural group boundaries.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of International Business Studies
Pages (from-to)1081-1099
Number of pages19
Publication statusPublished - 2018

    Research areas

  • CHINA, ECONOMIC-DEVELOPMENT, ETHNIC DIVERSITY, EUROPE, FICE, INTERNATIONAL-BUSINESS, PERFORMANCE, PERSONAL VALUES, REGIONAL FOREIGNNESS, UNITED-STATES, WORK VALUES, country clusters, cross-country diversity, cross-cultural management, cultural groups, intra-country diversity

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