January 2017JIBS Book Review

Comparative International Management

By: Arndt Sorge, Niels Noorderhaven, and Carla Koen

Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group, 20159780415744836

Reviewed By: Subbu Kumarappan

Ohio State University ATI

‘Comparative International Management’ intends to develop a theoretical framework of various management approaches across different countries with varying institutional setups. The book highlights managerial patterns in the context of countries’ cultural attitudes, history, and offers country specific explanations. The authors have done a commendable job at synthesizing myriad management and business practices, into a cohesive theoretical framework and help international business (IB) readers appreciate the differences, compare, and contrast alternative conceptual frameworks. The book includes mini-case scenarios, expanded case studies, and study questions for classroom discussions from the book’s companion website. The pedagogical goals are well served with illustrative examples and summary of key studies in the area of comparative international management. The PowerPoint slides provide limited information such as chapter outline, figures, and study questions.

The book contains 12 chapters: the first three chapters focus on the universalistic and particularistic theories of management, etic and emic approaches to the impact of culture on management and business practices, and management of resources (HR, operations, and innovation). Other chapters focus on the institutional issues such as the impacts of socio-economic systems on the diversity among management issues, how strategies vary with the institutional structure, and the similarities and differences across management styles. The integrative case presented in the last chapter describing the evolution of airlines industry. The book does a commendable job of combining various country level examples to develop a cohesive structural framework for the comparative international management. The primary authors of the textbook are Arndt Sorge, Niels Noorderhaven, and Carla Koen; their scholarly achievements in the areas of IB, social sciences, with an emphasis on entrepreneurship are represented in this book. Other authors that contributed individual chapters include Ayse Saka-Helmhout (one chapter on HR management), Ilir Haxhi (on corporate governance), and Sjoerd Beugelsdijk (on the diversity of business networks and economic clusters).


The book makes a valid argument for how the managers within the same company may behave differently depending on the country’s culture and geographical distribution. The use of etic and emic perspectives (second and third chapters) help explain how socio-cultural and psychological factors impacts managerial styles (Helfrich, 1999). Many IB researchers are familiar with the etic approach where the country’s citizens are characterized based on Hofstede’s cultural dimensions and other similar measures. The book makes an emphatic case for an alternative emic approach, where a country’s culture is given precedence. The illustrative case study by D’Iribarne comparing the cultural logic and sociological factors in France, the U.S.A, and the Netherlands would be of interest to IB researchers.


In some cases, certain authors are discussed more extensively than others to describe the societal differences (D’Iribarne, 1996; Womack, Jones, and Roos, 1990). The authors have relied on the historical significance for certain examples (for example, polder model; Karsten, van Veen, & van Wulfften Palthe, 2008) and combined it with social science approaches (hermeneutics and emic studies). In spite of various explanations, the discussion of emic approaches may leave the readers with the impression that the managerial differences may never be resolved even within a firm at a global level.


My interest in this book is to learn representative examples to include in my undergraduate teaching. The book offers a wide variety of industry case studies: mining, telecommunications, airlines, automobiles, finance and banking, manufacturing, beer brewing, and IT sector. The international comparisons are largely limited to European countries, the U.S.A, China, and Korea. Some references to African countries are present. My interests in the agricultural industry and inefficiencies with public sector enterprises ‘license-raj’ in India are not explained directly (Majumdar 2004). But, the book contains sufficient information to answer such issues. Among the BRIC bloc of countries, only China has been referred to. Given the recent interest in BRIC countries, more focus on those areas would have made the book more appealing. The diversity and plurality among the various cultures in India could have been very interesting for the emic approach used in the book. IB researchers would have been benefited more if the book had addressed the data limitations or the methodological difficulties in emic approaches.


The students in regional economic growth and global entrepreneurship would also find the book useful. I was also piqued by the questions: ‘is there a convergence or divergence in the managerial practices occurs across the globe? what factors can lead to convergence given the advancements in communication in the last few decades?’ My impression is that the book provides more evidence for divergences than convergence. Typically, most texts treat international management practices as a ‘continuum’ (example: Hofstede’s dimensions; Gooderham, Grøgaard, & Nordhaug, 2013; Hofstede, 1993). This book also presents various such continuums, suggesting that there would always be extremes and the differences in management styles are inevitable and efforts to homogenize them would turn out to be futile. Certain chapters in the book talk about how ‘normative rhetoric’ differs from ‘everyday practice;’ readers would have benefited with a direct reference to this difference between the rhetoric and the practice.


Also, the issues in collecting data for comparing international management, advantages and disadvantages in alternative analytical methods would have been very useful for researchers. In spite of the 20 figures and 36 tables the book gets a bit heavy on text. The graduate students or upper level undergraduate students interested in the international management theory may be assigned with specific chapters for classroom discussions, if not the entire book. The typographical errors are surprisingly very few for a book of this size and scope. Two comments at the back of the book read: ‘there is no substitute for personal international experience’ and ‘it will be particularly useful for students on advanced undergraduate and postgraduate programmes.’ Both comments are true and the book certainly helps readers gain a broader understanding of international through the similarities and differences.


d’Iribarne, P., 1996. The usefulness of an ethnographic approach to the international comparison of organizations. International Studies of Management & Organization, 26(4), pp.30-47.


Gooderham, P.N., Grøgaard, B., & Nordhaug, O, 2013. International management: theory and practice. Edward Elgar Publishing.


Helfrich, H., 1999. Beyond the dilemma of cross-cultural psychology: Resolving the tension between etic and emic approaches. Culture & Psychology, 5(2), pp.131-153.


Hofstede, G., 1993. Cultural constraints in management theories. The Academy of Management Executive, 7(1), pp.81-94.

Karsten, L., van Veen, K. and van Wulfften Palthe, A., 2008. What happened to the popularity of the Polder Model? Emergence and disappearance of a political fashion. International Sociology, 23(1), pp.35-65.

Majumdar, S.K., 2004. The hidden hand and the license raj to an evaluation of the relationship between age and the growth of firms in India. Journal of Business Venturing, 19(1), pp.107-125.


Womack, J.P., Jones, D.T. and Roos, D., 1990. Machine that changed the world. Simon and Schuster.


Published at http://aib.msu.edu/JIBS/BookReviews/HTML/2017-02.html
Reviewed on: January 21, 2017
(c)2017 - Academy of International Business

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