Management International Review

, Volume 51, Issue 6, pp 755–786

Fifty Years of International Business Theory and Beyond

  • Alan M. Rugman
  • Alain Verbeke
  • Quyen T. K. Nguyen
Focused Issue: 50 Years of MIR

DOI: 10.1007/s11575-011-0102-3

Cite this article as:
Rugman, A., Verbeke, A. & Nguyen, Q. Manag Int Rev (2011) 51: 755. doi:10.1007/s11575-011-0102-3


  • As the field of international business has matured, there have been shifts in the core unit of analysis. First, there was analysis at country level, using national statistics on trade and foreign direct investment (FDI). Next, the focus shifted to the multinational enterprise (MNE) and the parent’s firm specific advantages (FSAs). Eventually the MNE was analysed as a network and the subsidiary became a unit of analysis.

  • We untangle the last fifty years of international business theory using a classification by these three units of analysis. This is the country-specific advantage (CSA) and firm-specific advantage (FSA) matrix. Will this integrative framework continue to be useful in the future? We demonstrate that this is likely as the CSA/FSA matrix permits integration of potentially useful alternative units of analysis, including the broad region of the triad.

  • Looking forward, we develop a new framework, visualized in two matrices, to show how distance really matters and how FSAs function in international business. Key to this are the concepts of compounded distance and resource recombination barriers facing MNEs when operating across national borders.


Multinational enterprises (MNEs) Firm specific advantages (FSAs) Country specific advantages (CSAs) Compounded distance Subsidiary Network Regions Resource recombination barriers Theory 

Copyright information

© Gabler Verlag 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Alan M. Rugman
    • 1
  • Alain Verbeke
    • 2
  • Quyen T. K. Nguyen
    • 3
  1. 1.Henley Business School, International Business and StrategyUniversity of ReadingReadingUK
  2. 2.McCaig Chair in Management, Haskayne School of BusinessUniversity of CalgaryCalgaryCanada
  3. 3.Henley Business School, International Business and StrategyUniversity of ReadingReadingUK