Multifaceted Norms in SMC Export Cooperation: a Discourse Analysis of Normative Expectations

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School of Business | Doctoral thesis (monograph) | Defence date: 2003-12-02
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217 s.
Acta Universitatis oeconomicae Helsingiensis. A, 226
This study focuses on normative expectations in cooperation. The purpose of this study is to enrich the view of long-term cooperation and to develop a multifaceted view of behavioral expectations in long-term cooperation between SMCs. This purpose was addressed through the following two sub-questions: 1. What discourses reflecting normative expectations can be identified in export cooperation between SMCs? 2. What kind of a cooperative relationship is constructed through the normative expectations functioning in export cooperation between SMCs? The theoretical framework for this research is based on the theory of contractual exchange developed by Ian Macniel, who is a lawyer. His theory presents a continuum where the self-interest maximiser is separated into the discrete end of a continuum of relationships and where the exchange is guided by discrete norms. In the relational end of the continuum, Macneil’s relational norms imply valuing the well-being of the relationship and its preservation. Parties seem to be expected to aim at making interpretations and actions on the basis of what is believed to be the welfare of the joint organization and the other party/parties. The focus in this study is on the relational end of the continuum. The purpose of the framework here is not to guide the analysis as such, but rather to serve as a basis for understanding the findings of the study and to be used as a platform for discussion of the findings of the analysis. The dissertation is carried out as a qualitative case-study using discourse analysis. It argues that by analysing discourse and discourses it is possible to unfold normative behavioral expectations shared by the parties: what they consider acceptable or unacceptable in the cooperation on the one hand or normal behavior on the other. To provide contextual background for the reader and to make the discourse analysis understandable, a case-description has been provided. The empirical context of the research focuses on an export circle in Finpro’s Export Cirles program. The circle in question received a subsidy from the Finnish Ministry of Trade and Industry (MTI) for the duration of its existence. The data analysed through the discourse analysis comprise interviews with representatives of the company members in one export group. The case description was based on both interview data collected at one point in time and on documentary material that was created during different phases and for the purposes of cooperation. The data unfolds into a bundle of discourses. The main discourses appearing in the data are 1) the Discourse of Results and Efficiency, 2) the Discourse of Unity, 3) the Discourse of Creating Boundaries, and 4) the Discourse of Adapting to Constraints. The findings show that three kinds of normative expectations function in cooperation between SMCs: relational norms, discrete norms, and norms of moderated autonomy. The conceptual world of Macneil’s relational exchange seemed to follow an ideal of ‘operating harmoniously together.’ Analysis of the research data brought out normative expectations that are instead dominated by shared expectations of ‘effective business management in the relational atmosphere of mutual understanding.’
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Möller, Kristian, professor
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