Department of Management

Understanding culture in international management: Functionalism, constructivism, and the emerging practice turn

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Abstract: The understanding of culture in international management (IM) research has often been approached from two different theoretical orientations. One stream of research has proposed that culture is a set of relatively stable collective values that are transmitted to the individual in a straightforward and linear manner. In this functionalist perspective, culture is perceived to be a fixed entity firmly delimited by the nation state. Hence, the cross-national distance between comparable values has been a central scholarly focus in this tradition. An alternative and less pervasive line of research has adopted a constructivist approach. Here culture is considered a complex, dynamic interpersonal process. These two perspectives have developed relatively independently and offer scholars and students of IM different analytical insights. In this article we account for key characteristics of the two approaches and offer an alternative, integrative perspective that takes into account some central insights of both research trends, namely practice theory. In doing so, we avoid some of the inherent analytical pitfalls associated with the more radical functionalist and constructivist perspectives.

Original languageEnglish
JournalInternational Studies of Management and Organization
Volume48
Issue3
Pages (from-to)264-276
Number of pages13
ISSN0020-8825
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2018

    Research areas

  • Bourdieu, constructivist, culture, functionalist, international business, international management, practice theory

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