Selling, resistance and reconciliation: A critical discursive approach to subsidiary role evolution in MNEs
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- Balogun, J., Jarzabkowski, P. & Vaara, E. J Int Bus Stud (2011) 42: 765. doi:10.1057/jibs.2011.13
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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.