Special Issue of the Journal of International Business Studies



Special Issue Editors:

*         Christian Geisler Asmussen (Copenhagen Business School, Denmark,
[log in to unmask])

*         Tailan Chi (University of Kansas, USA, [log in to unmask])

*         Sumit Kundu (Florida International University, USA,
[log in to unmask])

*         Rajneesh Narula (University of Reading, UK,
[log in to unmask])

Deadline for submission: June 1, 2017

Tentative publication date:   Summer 2018


Forty years ago, Buckley and Casson (1976) published The Future of the
Multinational Enterprise.. Following the intellectual legacy of Coase’s
(1937) transaction cost economics, Buckley and Casson (1976: 33) argued that
the multinational enterprise (MNE) internalizes activities across national
boundaries “when markets in intermediate products are imperfect [because]
there is an incentive to bypass them creating an internal market.” Hennart
(1977, 1982), in parallel to Buckley and Casson (1976), contributed to the
theory of the MNE by considering perspectives of transaction costs such as
measurement and enforcement costs arising due to bounded rationality and
opportunistic behavior in markets. Bringing an early resource-based
perspective to internalization theory (before the notion of resource based
view or RBV had even been coined in the field of strategy), Rugman (1981)
explained internalization decisions made by the firm on the basis of firm
specific advantages (FSAs) and country specific advantages (CSAs), while
Rugman and Verbeke (1992, 2003, 2004) expanded on the geographic reach of
these FSAs, thereby making the critical distinction between location-bound
and non-location bound FSAs. Rugman and Verbeke (2001) also uncovered 10
distinct patterns of competence building across borders in MNEs that
resulted from particular interactions between FSAs and CSAs, thereby
acknowledging the joint importance of entrepreneurial action, transaction
cost economizing and requisite resource combination inside the MNE. In
parallel, the Eclectic Paradigm (Dunning, 1977, 1988, 1993; Dunning &
Lundan, 2008) stressed the joint impact of ownership, location, and
internalization advantages to explain the existence and functioning of the
MNE.  In combination, these theoretical advances have contributed to the
establishment of internalization theory as a generally accepted theory of
the MNE - and as an analytical framework that has explicitly or implicitly
underlined much of the progress being made in International Business (IB)
research over the last four decades. Internalization theory allows
predicting a great number of organizational regularities in IB. These range
from entry mode choices - and more generally the governance of international
transactions, including the rise of international new ventures (INVs) - to
internal organizational design in terms of structural and strategic
governance, as well as the structuring of the interface with external
economic actors. Yet, a number of issues still remain unresolved, and new
questions have emerged-in particular, about the continued applicability of
internalization theory in a rapidly changing world, and about the
foundations of the theory in light of new developments in other fields and
disciplines. This special issue on Applying and Advancing Internalization
Theory invites original research that addresses these questions.

As noted by Rugman and Verbeke (2003: 125), The Future of the Multinational
Enterprise was “a superb starting point for the study of the MNE, even if
the complexity of this governance structure has grown far beyond what any
international business scholar … could have predicted 25 years ago”. This
is even more evident today as the nature of the global economy has changed
and continues to change. Novel types of cross-border transactions and forms
of MNEs have arisen, raising questions about the universal applicability of
the theory. It is now time to revisit the theory of the MNE and to challenge
its underlying assumptions. More advanced theoretical and empirical
approaches promise to identify and explain better the little explored causal
mechanisms leading to the existence or absence of MNEs. Analysis of these
mechanisms will highlight not only the “why” but also the “how” of
internalization theory. To advance this research agenda, we invite
manuscripts from a variety of disciplines, including management and
organizational studies, strategy, economics, economic geography, marketing,
etc. Ideally, submitted manuscripts should improve upon the current state of
internalization theory and its implications for managerial practice, by
criticizing or extending the conventional thinking embedded within it. We
welcome diverse approaches to this topic, including (but not limited to)
conceptual models, formal models, simulations, experimental designs, and
empirical studies (both qualitative and quantitative ones). Specifically, we
invite submissions falling within one or both of the two themes described

Theme 1. Applying Internalization Theory to New Realities: Firms and Markets
in the Contemporary Global Economy

Building upon general economic principles, applicable across a wide range of
empirical phenomena, many scholars have credibly used internalization theory
as an analytical tool in different institutional contexts. The theory has
allowed explaining the presence of a variety of governance forms for
managing international transactions (Casson, 1995, 2015; Narula & Verbeke,
2015). At the same time, few will dispute the fact that the world looks
dramatically different today than it did when internalization theory first
emerged. IB scholars therefore need to pay special attention to the new
realities of the international economy and their influence on the evolution
of MNEs.

A key tenet of internalization is that MNEs arise to exploit imperfections
in markets, imperfections that are influenced by the myriad changes often
referred to under the conceptual umbrella of “globalization”. These
include political developments pertaining to economic integration, trade
agreements, currency regimes, and other supra-national institutions that
transform both the cost of managing firms across borders and of transacting
in international markets (Rugman & Verbeke, 2005). They also include
technological advances such as internet-based collaboration tools, virtual
communities of practice, and online market exchanges, which have equally
strong transaction cost implications (Bakos, 1998; Ardichvili, 2008). In
combination, these developments have paved ways for new types of firms and
novel business models. Firms are also geographically more dispersed than
ever, engage in coopetition, have diffused innovation, and deploy global
teams as well as virtual organizational structures (Axinn & Matthyssens,

Accordingly, two issues that loom large in this new world economic system
are the growth of the service sector and the advent of the digital economy.
The interactions that e-commerce firms have with their customers tend to
possess different attributes and thus alter the cost-benefit calculus of
various governance modes, as compared to the manufacturing sector (Singh &
Kundu, 2002). Increasingly, new ventures aim to internationalize, right from
inception, by leveraging advances in information technology. Widening
geographic spread, alternative governance structures to access and control
unique resources, and internalization of the core of value chain have strong
theoretical implications (Oviatt & McDougall 1994; Verbeke, Zargarzadeh, &
Osiyevskyy, 2014). In this process, the role of the subsidiary has become
more vital, reflected in the growing importance of subsidiary specific
advantage (Rugman and Verbeke, 2001; Mudambi and Navarra, 2004; Meyer,
Mudambi, & Narula, 2011) and reverse innovation in MNEs (Mudambi,
Piscitello, & Rabbiosi, 2014). As reflected in the concept of “meta-MNEs”
(Lessard, Teece, & Leih, 2016), the existence of which can be explained by
internalization theory (Verbeke & Kenworthy, 2008), the ability to earn
economic rents from the creation of knowledge assets in subsidiaries around
the world depends upon advantages of common governance. Yet there are also
substantial costs of managing increasingly complex organizations and
combining external and internal embeddedness in dispersed subsidiaries
(Narula, 2014).

The same technological developments, in parallel with managerial and
organizational developments, have also enabled MNEs to operate with
increasingly porous boundaries (Regan & Heenan, 2010). The twenty-first
century has witnessed the growth of networks and coalitions between firms
(Dunning & Boyd, 2003), while the importance of relational assets and social
capital has increased over time to as firms aim to access new knowledge
(Dunning, 2003). The phenomenon of “quasi-internalization” has thus become
increasingly relevant in today’s competitive landscape as organizations
seek to utilize a middle-of-the-road approach to organize their activities -
via both hierarchy and markets. Since the seminal paper of Hennart (1993) on
the “swollen middle”, there has been a growing interest on MNEs’
minimization of organizational cost by looking at shirking, cheating,
monitoring and other costs, recognizing that the choice is not one between
internalization and externalization, but of a contextually contingent
combination including outsourcing and alliances (Dunning, 2015).

These developments, which are often closely interlinked, present unique
opportunities for theory development as they reveal the diverse strategies,
challenges, and imperatives of the modern MNE. For example, does
internalization theory apply, or perhaps apply differently, to alternative
governance forms and structures, such as service firms, e-commerce firms,
conglomerate businesses, state-owned enterprises, born global firms,
family-owned MNEs, and Bottom-of-the-Pyramid MNEs? Does the rise of new
business models based on new technologies or management principles influence
the choice between internalization and externalization? How do MNEs mitigate
opportunism, moral hazard, free riding, and other associated costs when
generating and leveraging relational assets for productive gains? Is it even
meaningful to continue to talk about the choice between firms and markets
when the nature of contemporary economic exchange is often approaching one
of quasi-internalization? Application of the theory to new and evolving
contexts may bring new insights into subtle mechanisms, and ultimately
inform the structure of the theory itself. With this theme, we welcome
contributions that reflect the applicability (or partial applicability or
even inapplicability) of internalization theory to the new realities of the
contemporary global economy.

Theme 2. Advancing Internalization Theory by Rethinking its Foundations:
Rationality, Learning, and Evolutionary Dynamics

Just as the context of internalization theory has changed, so has the way in
which academics within and outside IB think and theorize about this context.
With these changes, there is a so far largely untapped opportunity to
integrate theoretical advances and empirical approaches from other
disciplines into research on the MNE. Such integration has only recently and
partially begun to take place, with various perspectives making excursions
into the realm of IB. These include different disciplines, such as political
economy (Henderson, Dicken, Hess, Coe, & Yeung 2002) and economic geography
(Baldwin & Venables, 2013), as well as different approaches to theorizing,
such as those related to microfoundations (Foss & Pedersen, 2004), general
equilibrium modeling (Buckley & Hashai, 2009), co-evolutionary economics
(Pitelis & Teece, 2010), equifinality (Raymond & St. Pierre, 2013), and
agent-based simulation (Asmussen, Larsen, and Pedersen, 2016). However,
uncharted territory still abounds and it is an open question how these
perspectives can be subsumed into internalization theory, and in what ways
they extend, refine, and challenge this theory. With this theme, we
therefore aim to “open up the black box” of internalization theory and
revisit its foundations.

One issue that sits squarely in this black box is the issue of behavioral
assumptions. Internalization theory mostly predicts that effective
governance forms will prevail, thereby implicitly or explicitly deriving its
predictions from a profit-maximizing (or cost minimizing) paradigm
(reflecting its roots in economic theory). Empirical evidence, in turn,
mostly supports the predictions emerging from this paradigm, including
predictions of foreign entry modes (e.g., Anderson & Gatignon, 1986; Agarwal
& Ramaswami, 1992), location choices (e.g., Friedman, Gerlowski, & Silberman
1992; Mariotti & Piscitello, 1995), and performance (e.g., Kirca et al.,
2011; Kirca, Fernandez, & Kundu 2016). However, we know surprisingly little
about how these outcomes actually emerge. At the same time, economists
themselves have continued to refine and challenge the notion of rationality.
More precise concepts developed within the Coasean paradigm, such as adverse
selection, moral hazard, holdup, have further enriched the analysis using
the basic internalization approach (Chi, 1994), and imperfections such as
bounded rationality and bounded reliability have been more completely
developed (Verbeke & Greidanus, 2009; Kano & Verbeke, 2015). Even more
radical departures from orthodoxy have come from new perspectives such as
behavioral game theory (Camerer, 1997) and fairness equilibrium (Rabin,
1993). In this process, the barriers between economics and the other social
science disciplines have become more porous and alternatives to economic
rationality concepts, for example altruism (McWilliams, Siegel, & Wright,
2006) and collective identification (Cooper & Thatcher, 2010), have been
applied to organizations and business settings.

These observations raise a number of related questions pertaining to
internalization theory. For example, who makes the decisions about
internalization and externalization? What guides these decision processes in
terms of expectations, learning, and feedback loops, and how are those
influenced by bounded rationality and by the challenges of measuring
transaction costs? Which selection mechanisms (for example, competition in
the markets for managers, capital, labor, or products) ensure efficient
outcomes and under which conditions? What are the dynamic implications in
terms of the evolution of firms and markets in a global context, and the
performance of firms in the short and long term? To answer these questions,
we need a better understanding of the causal mechanisms underlying the
theory of the MNE, the scope of predictions supported by its assumptions,
and the consequences of relaxing these assumptions. Obviously, any
modifications to the assumptions and analytical logic of internalization
need to be explicitly spelled out to ensure commensurability and logical

In rethinking the foundations of internalization theory along the above
lines, new theoretical developments in adjacent research fields may provide
leverage. These include, for example, the considerable research efforts on
the governance of global value chains that have been undertaken since the
1990s in the fields of sociology, economic geography, development studies,
and political economy. Scholars in these fields have examined issues such as
sourcing (Gereffi 1999; Kaplinsky 1998; Dolan & Humphrey 2000) and contract
manufacturing (Schmitz & Knorringa, 2010). Since the early 1990s, various
frameworks have been put forward in attempting to explain how global
industries are organized and governed (Coe, Dicken, & Hess, 2008). In their
discussion of the organization of economic activities, these studies
implicitly relate to the issue of global markets versus hierarchies that
internalization theory also addresses, but so far very little
cross-fertilization has occurred between these research streams.

Finally, similar to the governance aspects, the spatial aspects of
internalization theory arguably remain equally underdeveloped, leaving ample
opportunities to further integrate geographic aspects into studies of the
MNE (Dunning, 1998). The ongoing analyses of semi-globalization (Ghemawat,
2003) and discontinuities in geographic space (Beugelsdijk and Mudambi,
2013) suggest the need to revisit accepted IB theories with the added
insight of supra-national geographic levels, such as regions (Rugman and
Verbeke, 2004; Arregle, Miller, Hitt, & Beamish, 2013; Verbeke & Asmussen,
2016), and of sub-national geographic levels, such as cities (Goerzen,
Asmussen, & Nielsen, 2013). With this theme, we aim to integrate insights
from the above-mentioned disciplines (and potentially other ones)  outside
of IB, into our understanding of the existence and boundaries of the MNE.


Of the two themes, the first has an emphasis on phenomena and the second on
theory, but both themes have in common their focus on the MNE. Importantly,
the two themes are not independent-for example, it is possible that the
application of internalization theory to new contexts requires a
re-specification of its assumptions, or that the change of assumptions leads
to new predictions that require specific context for empirical testing.
Overall, the aim of the special issue is to encourage academic research that
develops more fine-grained analysis of how the MNE decides on its boundaries
and on the organizational forms it takes. On particularly important,
“intelligently controversial” questions, the editors may decide to foster
debate using a point-counterpoint format. We hope that the collection of
papers in our special issue will contribute to the evolving research on MNEs
so as to create a more formative unified theory and a common epistemology
for comprehending the evolution of MNEs within the ongoing progression of
international business activities.

Submission Process

All manuscripts will be reviewed as a cohort for this special issue.
Manuscripts must be submitted in the window between May 15, 2017, and June
1, 2017, at  <> Please indicate in the cover letter
which theme(s) of the two described above the submitted manuscript
addresses. All submissions will go through the JIBS regular double-blind
review process and follow the standard norms and processes.

For more information about this call for papers, please contact the Special
Issue Editors or the JIBS Managing Editor (
<mailto:[log in to unmask]> [log in to unmask]).


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About the Guest Editors (Listed Alphabetically)

Christian Geisler Asmussen is a Professor of Strategic and International
Management at Copenhagen Business School. Drawing on a background in formal
economics but applying a multi-disciplinary approach to his research, he
focuses in particular on the interaction between competitive advantage,
geographic scope, and organizational structure. His research has been
awarded numerous prizes from the Danish and international research
communities, including the Barry M. Richman best dissertation award from the
Academy of Management and the Haynes Prize for most promising scholar from
the Academy of International Business. He currently heads a research project
aiming to uncover the drivers of the micro-location choices of multinational

Tailan Chi is a Professor of International Business & Strategy and
Co-Director of the Center for Global Business Studies at the School of
Business, University of Kansas. He is an editor of the Journal of
International Business Studies and serves on the editorial boards of the
Strategic Management Journal, Journal of World Business, Global Strategy
Journal, International Journal of Strategic Change Management, and Journal
of International Business & Economy.

Sumit Kundu is a Professor and James K. Batten Eminent Scholar Chair in
International Business in the College of Business at Florida International
University. He is the Vice President of the Academy of International
Business [2014-2017] and serves on the editorial boards of Journal of
International Business Studies, Journal of World Business, Global Strategy
Journal, Journal of International Management, International Business Review,
Management International Review, Cross Cultural and Strategic Management -
An International Journal, and Thunderbird International Business Review.

Rajneesh Narula is the John H. Dunning Chair of International Business
Regulation at the Henley Business School, University of Reading, UK. His
research and consulting have focused on the role of multinational firms in
development, innovation and industrial policy, R&D alliances and
outsourcing. He has published over a 100 articles and chapters in books on
these themes. He regularly acts as a consultant and advisor to the European
Commission, UNIDO, UNCTAD and the OECD, and a variety of other international
organizations. He holds honorary appointments at UNU-MERIT, Norwegian School
of Business and Oxford University.

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