Research Handbooks in Business and Management series
Edited by Jorma Larimo, Niina Nummela and Tuija Mainela
Chapter 4: Transaction cost perspectives on alliances and joint ventures: explanatory power and empirical limitations
Transaction cost economics (TCE) has been extensively applied by international business scholars to analyze joint ventures and strategic alliances. It provides a theoretical basis to analyze how firms organize their transactions with other firms, and hence their choices of governance structures, for example, between JVs and other organizational forms. However, TCE has also been frequently critiqued and empirical findings on some of the constructs derived from TCE find inconsistent results. This chapter critically evaluates the TCE literature on cross-border business activity to evaluate to what extent this empirical literature actually supports or refutes TCE-based arguments, and to provide directions for future research. We identify four major challenges: (1) the level of analysis used to proxy transaction costs, (2) contextual drivers of transaction costs, especially in emerging economies, (3) the theoretical ambiguity of TCE arguments with respect to distance and experience, and (4) the assumption that JVs are a flexible (low-risk) mode of operation. This discussion leads to suggestions on how to design empirical research more consistent with the theory.
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