International business and management studies as an orientalist discourse: a postcolonial critique

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Publication details

Westwood, RI 2006, 'International business and management studies as an orientalist discourse: a postcolonial critique', Critical Perspectives on International Business, vol. 2, no. 2, pp. 91-113.

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Purpose – This paper seeks to interrogate the international business and management studies (IBMS) discourse via postcolonial theory. It demonstrates the value of applying postcolonial theory as a critical practice with respect to that substantive domain.

Design/methodology/approach – The approach is to draw on the critical and intellectual resources of postcolonial theory and apply them in an interrogation of IBMS.

Findings – The paper shows the value of applying postcolonial theory to open up the discourse of IBMS, which is revealed to deploy similar types of universalistic, essentialising and exoticising representations to colonial and neo-colonial discourse. It is revealed to rely on functionalist orthodoxy, realist ontology and neo-positivist epistemology. Furthermore, it masks its own power effects, fails to make explicit its research commitments, especially its political and ethical ones, and remains deeply unreflexive.

Originality/value – The use of postcolonial theory in relation to organisation studies is in its infancy with only a limited number of studies directly related to that critical practice. This paper, then, is a contribution to an important, but emergent arena of scholarship. The interrogation mounted here points to a radical reconfiguration of the field and indications as to where that might take us are made.

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