Journal of International Business Studies

, Volume 50, Issue 1, pp 4–19 | Cite as

Comparing capitalisms and taking institutional context seriously

  • Gregory JacksonEmail author
  • Richard Deeg


A major limitation of existing international business (IB) research remains the rather thin view of institutional context. In this retrospective, we reflect upon and highlight different strategies for overcoming de-contextualized perspectives and developing thicker conceptions of institutions drawing on comparative research. Institutions shape firm behavior not only through their direct or additive effects, but have more complex influences by moderating relationships between firm-level variables or having interactive or configurational effects related to wider sets of institutions. These views can each be extended by adopting a dynamic perspective examining how multinational enterprise (MNE) agency contributes to processes of institutional change. Ultimately, a large gap remains in taking institutions seriously that IB scholars could fill by developing middle-range theories that link and compare how particular kinds of institutions or institutional configurations influence particular kinds of MNE activities.


comparative thinking qualitative/quantitative comparisons institutional theory capitalism comparative management comparative organizational studies Decade Award 



We would like to thank the JIBS Decade Award Selection Committee, Keith D. Brouthers, J. T. Li, and Sarianna Lundan, for acknowledging our past paper and creating this opportunity to reflect on this topic. We would also like to thank JIBS Editor-in-Chief Alain Verbeke for his support, as well as Helena Botto, Tony Edwards, Gerhard Schnyder and Matt Vidal for useful comments and discussion. The anonymous reviewers as well as those present during the award session at AIB Minnesota also provided very valuable comments. Special thanks also go to Witold Henisz (action editor) for guiding our 2008 paper through the revision process with very insightful suggestions.


  1. Allen, M. M. C. 2013. Comparative capitalisms and the institutional embeddedness of innovative capabilities. Socio-Economic Review, 11(4): 771–794.Google Scholar
  2. Amable, B. 2016. Institutional complementarities in the dynamic comparative analysis of capitalism. Journal of Institutional Economics, 12(1): 79–103.Google Scholar
  3. Aoki, M. 2001. Toward a Comparative Institutional Analysis. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  4. Arregle, J. L., Miller, T. L., Hitt, M. A., & Beamish, P. W. 2016. How does regional institutional complexity affect MNE internationalization? Journal of International Business Studies, 47(6): 697–722.Google Scholar
  5. Banalieva, E. R., & Dhanaraj, C. 2013. Home-region orientation in international expansion strategies. Journal of International Business Studies, 44(2): 89–116.Google Scholar
  6. Becker-Ritterspach, F., Lange, K., & Becker-Ritterspach, J. 2017. Divergent patterns in institutional entrepreneurship of MNCs in emerging economies. Critical Perspectives on International Business, 13(3): 186–203.Google Scholar
  7. Becker-Ritterspach, F., & Raaijman, T. 2013. Global transfer and Indian management a historical hybridity perspective. Management International Review, 53(1): 141–166.Google Scholar
  8. Beckert, J. 2009. The social order of markets. Theory and Society, 38(3): 245–269.Google Scholar
  9. Berry, H., Guillen, M. F., & Zhou, N. 2010. An institutional approach to cross-national distance. Journal of International Business Studies, 41(9): 1460–1480.Google Scholar
  10. Bothello, J., Nason, R., & Schnyder, G. 2018. Institutional voids and organization studies: Towards an epistemological rupture, 34th EGOS Colloquium, July 57, 2018. Tallinn, Estonia.Google Scholar
  11. Cantwell, J., Dunning, J. H., & Lundan, S. M. 2010. An evolutionary approach to understanding international business activity: The co-evolution of MNEs and the institutional environment. Journal of International Business Studies, 41(4): 567–586.Google Scholar
  12. Cao, Z., Li, Y., Jayaram, J., Liu, Y., & Lumineau, F. 2018. A meta-analysis of the exchange hazards-interfirm governance relationship: An informal institutions perspective. Journal of International Business Studies, 49(3): 303–223.Google Scholar
  13. Chen, C. J. P., Ding, Y. A., & Kim, C. 2010. High-level politically connected firms, corruption, and analyst forecast accuracy around the world. Journal of International Business Studies, 41(9): 1505–1524.Google Scholar
  14. Clegg, S., Geppert, M., & Hollinshead, G. 2018. Politicization and political contests in and around contemporary multinational corporations: An introduction. Human Relations, 71(6): 745–765.Google Scholar
  15. Corredoira, R. A., & McDermott, G. A. 2014. Adaptation, bridging and firm upgrading: How non-market institutions and MNCs facilitate knowledge recombination in emerging markets. Journal of International Business Studies, 45(6): 699–722.Google Scholar
  16. Crilly, D. 2011. Predicting stakeholder orientation in the multinational enterprise: A mid-range theory. Journal of International Business Studies, 42(5): 694–717.Google Scholar
  17. Cristiani, A., & Peiro, J. M. 2018. Human resource function, unions and varieties of capitalism: Exploring their impact on human resource management practices based on CRANET data. Employee Relations, 40(6): 1072–1098.Google Scholar
  18. Cullen, J. B., Johnson, J. L., & Parboteeah, K. P. 2014. National rates of opportunity entrepreneurship activity: Insights from institutional anomie theory. Entrepreneurship Theory and Practice, 38(4): 775–806.Google Scholar
  19. Danis, W. M., Chiaburu, D. S., & Lyles, M. A. 2010. The impact of managerial networking intensity and market-based strategies on firm growth during institutional upheaval: A study of small and medium-sized enterprises in a transition economy. Journal of International Business Studies, 41(2): 287–307.Google Scholar
  20. Deeg, R., & Jackson, G. 2007. Towards a more dynamic theory of capitalist variety. Socio-Economic Review, 5(1): 149–180.Google Scholar
  21. Deephouse, D. L., Newburry, W., & Soleimani, A. 2016. The effects of institutional development and national culture on cross-national differences in corporate reputation. Journal of World Business, 51(3): 463–473.Google Scholar
  22. Detomasi, D. 2015. The multinational corporation as a political actor: ‘Varieties of Capitalism’ Revisited. Journal of Business Ethics, 128(3): 685–700.Google Scholar
  23. Dilli, S., Elert, N., & Herrmann, A. M. 2018. Varieties of entrepreneurship: exploring the institutional foundations of different entrepreneurship types through ‘Varieties-of-Capitalism’ arguments. Small Business Economics, 51(2): 293–320.Google Scholar
  24. Dixon, S. E. A., Day, M., & Brewster, C. 2014. Changing HRM systems in two Russian oil companies: Western hegemony or Russian spetsifika? International Journal of Human Resource Management, 25(22): 3134–3156.Google Scholar
  25. Doh, J., Husted, B. W., Matten, D., & Santoro, M. 2010. Ahoy there! Toward greater congruence and synergy between international business and business ethics theory and research. Business Ethics Quarterly, 20(3): 481–502.Google Scholar
  26. Doh, J., Rodrigues, S., Saka-Helmhout, A., & Makhija, M. 2017. International business responses to institutional voids. Journal of International Business Studies, 48(3): 293–307.Google Scholar
  27. Edwards, T., Sanchez-Mangas, R., Jalette, P., Lavelle, J., & Minbaeva, D. 2016. Global standardization or national differentiation of HRM practices in multinational companies? A comparison of multinationals in five countries. Journal of International Business Studies, 47(8): 997–1021.Google Scholar
  28. Estrin, S., Meyer, K. E., & Pelletier, A. 2018. Emerging Economy MNEs: How does home country munificence matter? Journal of World Business, 53(4): 514–528.Google Scholar
  29. Fainshmidt, S., Judge, W. Q., Aguilera, R. V., & Smith, A. 2018. Varieties of institutional systems: A contextual taxonomy of understudied countries. Journal of World Business, 53(3): 307–322.Google Scholar
  30. Farndale, E., Brewster, C., Ligthart, P., & Poutsma, E. 2017. The effects of market economy type and foreign MNE subsidiaries on the convergence and divergence of HRM. Journal of International Business Studies, 48(9): 1065–1086.Google Scholar
  31. Farndale, E., Brewster, C., & Poutsma, E. 2008. Coordinated vs. liberal market HRM: the impact of institutionalization on multinational firms. International Journal of Human Resource Management, 19(11): 2004–2023.Google Scholar
  32. Faulconbridge, J., & Muzio, D. 2016. Global professional service firms and the challenge of institutional complexity: ‘Field relocation’ as a response strategy. Journal of Management Studies, 53(1): 89–124.Google Scholar
  33. Fligstein, N., & Zhang, J. J. 2011. A new agenda for research on the trajectory of Chinese CAPITALISM. Management and Organization Review, 7(1): 39–62.Google Scholar
  34. Fortwengel, J. 2017. Understanding when MNCs can overcome institutional distance: A research agenda. Management International Review, 57(6): 793–814.Google Scholar
  35. Fortwengel, J., & Jackson, G. 2016. Legitimizing the apprenticeship practice in a distant environment: Institutional entrepreneurship through inter-organizational networks. Journal of World Business, 51(6): 895–909.Google Scholar
  36. Friel, D. 2011. Forging a comparative institutional advantage in Argentina: Implications for theory and praxis. Human Relations, 64(4): 553–572.Google Scholar
  37. Fung, S. Y. K., Zhou, G. G., & Zhu, X. D. 2016. Monitor objectivity with important clients: Evidence from auditor opinions around the world. Journal of International Business Studies, 47(3): 263–294.Google Scholar
  38. Garcia-Cabrera, A. M., & Duran-Herrera, J. J. 2016. MNEs as institutional entrepreneurs: A dynamic model of the co-evolutionary process. European Management Journal, 34(5): 550–563.Google Scholar
  39. Geary, J., & Aguzzoli, R. 2016. Miners, politics and institutional caryatids: Accounting for the transfer of HRM practices in the Brazilian multinational enterprise. Journal of International Business Studies, 47(8): 968–996.Google Scholar
  40. Geppert, M., Williams, K., Wortmann, M., Czarzasty, J., Kagnicioglu, D., Kohler, H. D., Royle, T., Ruckert, Y., & Uckan, B. 2014. Industrial relations in European hypermarkets: Home and host country influences. European Journal of Industrial Relations, 20(3): 255–271.Google Scholar
  41. Greenwood, R., Raynard, M., Kodeih, F., Micelotta, E. R., & Lounsbury, M. 2011. Institutional complexity and organizational responses. Academy of Management Annals, 5: 317–371.Google Scholar
  42. Hall, P. A., & Soskice, D., (Eds.). 2001. Varieties of Capitalism: The Institutional Foundations of Comparative Advantage. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  43. Hartmann, J., & Uhlenbruck, K. 2015. National institutional antecedents to corporate environmental performance. Journal of World Business, 50(4): 729–741.Google Scholar
  44. Hollingsworth, J. R., Schmitter, P. C., & Streeck, W. 1994. Governing Capitalist Economies. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  45. Holmes, R. M., Miller, T., Hitt, M. A., & Salmador, M. P. 2013. The interrelationships among informal institutions, formal institutions, and inward foreign direct investment. Journal of Management, 39(2): 531–566.Google Scholar
  46. Holmes, R. M., Zahra, S. A., Hoskisson, R. E., DeGhetto, K., & Sutton, T. 2016. Two-way streets: The role of institutions and technology policy in firms’ corporate entrepreneurship and political strategies. Academy of Management Perspectives, 30(3): 247–272.Google Scholar
  47. Horak, S., & Restel, K. 2016. A dynamic typology of informal institutions: Learning from the case of Guanxi. Management and Organization Review, 12(3): 525–546.Google Scholar
  48. Hutzschenreuter, T., & Grone, F. 2009. Product and geographic scope changes of multinational enterprises in response to international competition. Journal of International Business Studies, 40(7): 1149–1170.Google Scholar
  49. Ioannou, I., & Serafeim, G. 2012. What drives corporate social performance? The role of nation-level institutions. Journal of International Business Studies, 43(9): 834–864.Google Scholar
  50. Jackson, G., & Deeg, R. 2006. How many varieties of capitalism? Comparing the comparative institutional analyses of capitalist diversity Max-Planck-Institut fuer Gesellschaftsforschung, Discussion Paper, 06/2.Google Scholar
  51. Jackson, G., & Deeg, R. 2008. From comparing capitalisms to the politics of institutional change. Review of International Political Economy, 15(4): 680–709.Google Scholar
  52. Jackson, G., Helfen, M., Kaplan, R., Kirsch, A., & Lohmeyer, N. 2019 forthcoming. The problem of de-contextualization in organization and management research. In T. B. Zilber, J. M. Amis, & J. Mair, (Eds), Research in the Sociology of Organizations, The Production of Managerial Knowledge and Organizational Theory: New Approaches to Writing, Producing and Consuming Theory.Google Scholar
  53. Jackson, G., & Rathert, N. 2017. Private governance as regulatory substitute or complement? A comparative institutional theory of CSR adoption by multinational corporations. In C. Dörrenbächer, & M. Geppert, (Eds), Research in the Sociology of Organizations: Multinational Corporations and Organization Theory: Emerald.Google Scholar
  54. Jones, C., & Temouri, Y. 2016. The determinants of tax haven FDI. Journal of World Business, 51(2): 237–250.Google Scholar
  55. Judge, W. Q., Fainshmidt, S., & Brown, J. L. 2014. Which model of capitalism best delivers both wealth and equality? Journal of International Business Studies, 45(4): 363–386.Google Scholar
  56. Kang, N. 2014. Towards middle-range theory building in development research: Comparative (historical) institutional analysis of institutional transplantation. Progress in Development Studies, 14(3): 221–235.Google Scholar
  57. Khan, Z., Shenkar, O., & Lew, Y. K. 2015. Knowledge transfer from international joint ventures to local suppliers in a developing economy. Journal of International Business Studies, 46(6): 656–675.Google Scholar
  58. Khanna, T., & Palepu, K. G. 1997. Why focused strategies may be wrong for emerging markets. Harvard Business Review, 1: 41–51.Google Scholar
  59. King, M. R. 2015. Political bargaining and multinational bank bailouts. Journal of International Business Studies, 46(2): 206–222.Google Scholar
  60. Kobrak, C., Oesterle, M. J., & Rober, B. 2018. Escape FDI and the varieties of capitalism: Why history matters in international business. Management International Review, 58(3): 449–464.Google Scholar
  61. Koning, M., Mertens, G., & Roosenboom, P. 2018. Drivers of institutional change around the world: The case of IFRS. Journal of International Business Studies, 49(3): 249–271.Google Scholar
  62. Li, M. H., Cui, L., & Lu, J. Y. 2014. Varieties in state capitalism: Outward FDI strategies of central and local state-owned enterprises from emerging economy countries. Journal of International Business Studies, 45(8): 980–1004.Google Scholar
  63. Marano, V., & Kostova, T. 2016. Unpacking the institutional complexity in adoption of CSR practices in multinational enterprises. Journal of Management Studies, 53(1): 28–54.Google Scholar
  64. McGuire, S., Lindeque, J., & Suder, G. 2012. Learning and lobbying: Emerging market firms and corporate political activity in Europe. European Journal of International Management, 6(3): 342–362.Google Scholar
  65. Meyer, K. E., & Peng, M. W. 2016. Theoretical foundations of emerging economy business research. Journal of International Business Studies, 47(1): 3–22.Google Scholar
  66. Mills, C. W. 1959. The Sociological Imagination. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  67. Moen, E. 2016. Succeeding in international competition by making use of home-country institutions. Critical Perspectives on International Business, 12(1): 83–99.Google Scholar
  68. Musacchio, A., & Lazzarini, S. G. 2014. Reinventing State Capitalism. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  69. Naughton, B., & Tsai, K. S., (Eds). 2015. State Capitalism, Institutional Adaptation, and the Chinese Miracle. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  70. Nölke, A., & Taylor, H. 2011. Indian Multinationals, Comparative Capitalism and Implications for Global and Host Country Economic Institutions. In L. Brennan (Ed) The Emergence of Southern Multinationals. London: Palgrave Macmillan.Google Scholar
  71. Oswick, C., Fleming, P., & Hanlon, G. 2011. From borrowing to blending: rethinking the processes of organizational theory building. Academy of Management Review, 36: 318–337.Google Scholar
  72. Peng, M. W., Sun, S. L., Pinkham, B., & Chen, H. 2009. The institution-based view as a third leg for a strategy tripod. Academy of Management Perspectives, 23(3): 63–81.Google Scholar
  73. Puffer, S. M., McCarthy, D. J., & Boisot, M. 2010. Entrepreneurship in Russia and China: The impact of formal institutional voids. Entrepreneurship Theory and Practice, 34(3): 441–467.Google Scholar
  74. Rathert, N. 2016. Strategies of legitimation: MNEs and the adoption of CSR in response to host-country institutions. Journal of International Business Studies, 47(7): 858–879.Google Scholar
  75. Regner, P., & Edman, J. 2014. MNE institutional advantage: How subunits shape, transpose and evade host country institutions. Journal of International Business Studies, 45(3): 275–302.Google Scholar
  76. Saka-Helmhout, A., & Geppert, M. 2011. Different forms of agency and institutional influences within multinational enterprises. Management International Review, 51(5): 567–592.Google Scholar
  77. Santangelo, G. D., & Meyer, K. E. 2011. Extending the internationalization process model: Increases and decreases of MNE commitment in emerging economies. Journal of International Business Studies, 42(7): 894–909.Google Scholar
  78. Sartori, G. 1991. Comparing and miscomparing. Journal of Theoretical Politics, 3(3): 243–257.Google Scholar
  79. Schiehll, E., & Martins, H. C. 2016. Cross-national governance research: A systematic review and assessment. Corporate Governance-an International Review, 24(3): 181–199.Google Scholar
  80. Schneider, B. R. 2013. Hierarchical Capitalism in Latin America: Business, Labor, and the Challenges of Equitable Development. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  81. Schneider, M. R., Schulze-Bentrop, C., & Paunescu, M. 2010. Mapping the institutional capital of high-tech firms: A fuzzy-set analysis of capitalist variety and export performance. Journal of International Business Studies, 41(2): 246–266.Google Scholar
  82. Shi, W. L., Sun, S. L., Yan, D. Y., & Zhu, Z. 2017. Institutional fragility and outward foreign direct investment from China. Journal of International Business Studies, 48(4): 452–476.Google Scholar
  83. Shirodkar, V., Konara, P., & McGuire, S. 2017. Home-institutional imprinting and lobbying expenditure of foreign firms: Moderating effects of experience and technological intensity. British Journal of Management, 28(4): 589–608.Google Scholar
  84. Smit, H., Pennings, E., & van Bekkum, S. 2017. Real options and institutions. Journal of International Business Studies, 48(5): 620–644.Google Scholar
  85. Storz, C., Amable, B., Casper, S., & Lechevalier, S. 2013. Bringing Asia into the comparative capitalism perspective. Socio-Economic Review, 11(2): 217–232.Google Scholar
  86. Streeck, W., & Thelen, K., (Eds). 2005. Beyond Continuity: Explorations in the Dynamics of Advanced Political Economies. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  87. Teng, D., Fuller, D. B., & Li, C. C. 2018. Institutional change and corporate governance diversity in China’s SOEs. Asia Pacific Business Review, 24(3): 273–293.Google Scholar
  88. Tilly, C. 1984. Big Structures, Large Processes and Huge Comparisons. New York: Sage.Google Scholar
  89. van Essen, M., Heugens, P., Otten, J., & van Oosterhout, J. 2012. An institution-based view of executive compensation: A multilevel meta-analytic test. Journal of International Business Studies, 43(4): 396–423.Google Scholar
  90. van Hoorn, A., & Maseland, R. 2016. How institutions matter for international business: Institutional distance effects vs institutional profile effects. Journal of International Business Studies, 47(3): 374–381.Google Scholar
  91. Vogel, S. K. 1996. Freer Markets, More Rules: Regulatory Reform in Advanced Industrial Countries. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.Google Scholar
  92. Whitley, R. 1992. Business Systems in East Asia: Firms, Markets and Societies. London: Sage.Google Scholar
  93. Witt, M. A., de Castro, L. R. K., Amaeshi, K., Mahroum, S., Bohle, D., & Saez, L. 2018. Mapping the business systems of 61 major economies: A taxonomy and implications for varieties of capitalism and business systems research. Socio-Economic Review, 16(1): 5–38.Google Scholar
  94. Witt, M. A., & Jackson, G. 2016. Varieties of capitalism and institutional comparative advantage: A test and reinterpretation. Journal of International Business Studies, 47(7): 778–806.Google Scholar
  95. Witt, M. A., & Lewin, A. Y. 2007. Outward foreign direct investment as escape response to home country institutional constraints. Journal of International Business Studies, 38(4): 579–594.Google Scholar
  96. Witt, M. A., & Redding, G. 2013. Asian business systems: institutional comparison, clusters and implications for varieties of capitalism and business systems theory. Socio-Economic Review, 11(2): 265–300.Google Scholar
  97. Wood, G., Dibben, P., & Ogden, S. 2014. Comparative capitalism without capitalism, and production without workers: The limits and possibilities of contemporary institutional analysis. International Journal of Management Reviews, 16(4): 384–396.Google Scholar
  98. Zhu, J. S., Zhu, C. J., & De Cieri, H. 2014. Chinese MNCs’ preparation for host-country labor relations: An exploration of country-of-origin effect. Human Resource Management, 53(6): 947–965.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Academy of International Business 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Free University BerlinBerlinGermany
  2. 2.Temple UniversityPhiladelphiaUSA

Personalised recommendations