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Selling, resistance and reconciliation: A critical discursive approach to subsidiary role evolution in MNEs


  • Julia Balogun

    (Lancaster University Management School, Lancaster, UK)

  • Paula Jarzabkowski

    (Aston Business School, Aston University, Birmingham, UK)

  • Eero Vaara

    (Hanken School of Economics and EMLYON, Helsinki, Finland)


Studies of political dynamics between multinational enterprise (MNE) parents and subsidiaries during subsidiary role evolution have focused largely on control and resistance. This paper adopts a critical discursive approach to enable an exploration of subtle dynamics in the way that both headquarters and subsidiaries subjectively reconstruct their independent-interdependent relationships with each other during change. We draw from a real-time qualitative study of a revealing case of charter change in an important European subsidiary of an MNE attempting to build closer integration across European country operations. Our results illustrate the role of three discourses – selling, resistance and reconciliation – in the reconstruction of the subsidiary–parent relationship. From this analysis we develop a process framework that elucidates the important role of these three discourses in the reconstruction of subsidiary roles, showing how resistance is not simply subversive but an important part of integration. Our findings contribute to a better understanding of the micro-level political dynamics in subsidiary role evolution, and of how voice is exercised in MNEs. This study also provides a rare example of discourse-based analysis in an MNE context, advancing our knowledge of how discursive methods can help to advance international business research more generally.

Suggested Citation

  • Julia Balogun & Paula Jarzabkowski & Eero Vaara, 2011. "Selling, resistance and reconciliation: A critical discursive approach to subsidiary role evolution in MNEs," Journal of International Business Studies, Palgrave Macmillan;Academy of International Business, vol. 42(6), pages 765-786, August.
  • Handle: RePEc:pal:jintbs:v:42:y:2011:i:6:p:765-786

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    Cited by:

    1. Cynthia Hardy & Robyn Thomas, 2015. "Discourse in a Material World," Journal of Management Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 52(5), pages 680-696, July.
    2. Saku Mantere, 2013. "What Is Organizational Strategy? A Language-Based View," Journal of Management Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 50(8), pages 1408-1426, December.
    3. Manuel Hensmans & Guangyan Liu, 2016. "How do the normativity of headquarters and the knowledge autonomy of subsidiaries co-evolve?," iCite Working Papers WP2016-020, ULB -- Universite Libre de Bruxelles.
    4. repec:spr:manint:v:58:y:2018:i:1:d:10.1007_s11575-017-0333-z is not listed on IDEAS
    5. repec:bla:jomstd:v:54:y:2017:i:4:p:403-421 is not listed on IDEAS
    6. Julia Balogun & Claus Jacobs & Paula Jarzabkowski & Saku Mantere & Eero Vaara, 2014. "Placing Strategy Discourse in Context: Sociomateriality, Sensemaking, and Power," Journal of Management Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 51(2), pages 175-201, March.
    7. Conroy, Kieran M. & Collings, David G., 2016. "The legitimacy of subsidiary issue selling: Balancing positive & negative attention from corporate headquarters," Journal of World Business, Elsevier, vol. 51(4), pages 612-627.
    8. repec:oup:jecgeo:v:18:y:2018:i:1:p:139-161. is not listed on IDEAS
    9. Pat McAllister & Anupam Nanda, 2016. "Does Real Estate Defy Gravity? An Analysis of Foreign Real Estate Investment Flows," Review of International Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 24(5), pages 924-948, November.
    10. repec:eee:iburev:v:26:y:2017:i:6:p:1168-1183 is not listed on IDEAS
    11. Lundgren, Mikael & Jansson, Hans, 2016. "Developing international business knowledge through an appreciative inquiry learning network: Proposing a methodology for collaborative research," International Business Review, Elsevier, vol. 25(1), pages 346-355.
    12. Cynthia Hardy & Robyn Thomas, 2014. "Strategy, Discourse and Practice: The Intensification of Power," Journal of Management Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 51(2), pages 320-348, March.

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