Sub-theme 17: Changing East Asian Business Systems

Richard Whitley
Manchester Business School, University of Manchester, UK
Barbara Krug
Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University, The Netherlands
Xiaoke Zhang
Manchester Business School, University of Manchester, UK

Call for Papers

In the last twenty years or so since scholars began to analyse how and why major East Asian business systems differed (e.g. Orru et al., 1997; Whitley, 1992), the prevalent ways in which economic activities are organised and governed in the region's major economies have continued to vary not only between themselves, but also to differ from those dominant in Europe and North America (Carney et al., 2009; Walter & Zhang, 2012). Additionally, the distinctive patterns of economic organisation that became established in the post-war trajectory of capitalist development of these economies have been seen as going through substantial transformations since the early 1990s. In particular, the sustained processes of internationalisation and institutional change have raised questions about the internal homogeneity and external distinctiveness of East Asian business systems.

This subtheme is intended to bring together scholars interested in exploring the evolving patterns of East Asian business systems in three major ways. First, to extend Whitley's (1992) comparative business systems framework to cover both Northeast Asia (China, Japan, South Korea and Taiwan) and Southeast Asia (mainly Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand), as well as to bring it to bear on the analysis of recent changes and continuities in East Asian business systems over the past two decades. Second, to develop a more systemic understanding of how ownership and control structures, inter-firm competition and co-ordination and work management processes are interconnected and constitute distinctive patterns of economic coordination and control. Third, to describe and explain the key changes that have taken place in the ways in which economic activities are co-ordinated, firms governed and employment relations structured in Northeast and Southeast Asia.

We especially welcome contributions that consider the following issues:

  • How should Whitley's (1992) framework be developed to deal effectively with the variety of economic coordination and control systems found in the developed, emerging market and nominally socialist economies in the region, particularly in view of recent institutional changes across a range of Northeast and Southeast Asian countries?
  • To what extent, and in what ways, have recent changes in established East Asian business systems constituted qualitative and radical ruptures with their past patterns of organisation?
  • What have been the primary causes of institutional changes at the interface between systemic forces, market pressures and socio-political structures? More specifically, how have external and market influences altered the structures of interests, power and ideas in different political economies and how have cross national economic forces been mediated by state actions, dominant coalitions and policy discourses?



Carney, Michael, Eric Gedajlovic & Xiaohua Yang (2009): 'Varieties of Asian capitalism: towards an institutional theory of Asian enterprise.' Asia Pacific Journal of Management, 36 (2), 361–380.
Orru, Marco, Nicole Biggart & Gary Hamilton (eds.) (1997): The Economic Organization of East Asian Capitalism. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
Walter, Andrew & Xiaoke Zhang (eds.) (2012): East Asian Capitalism: Diversity, Continuity and Change. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Whitley, Richard (1992): Business Systems in East Asia. London: Sage.


Richard Whitley is Professor of Organisational Sociology at Manchester Business School, University of Manchester. Recent authored and edited books include: "Reconfiguring Knowledge Production" (OUP, 2010), "Business Systems and Organizational Capabilities" (OUP, 2007), "Changing Capitalisms?" (OUP, 2005), "The Multinational Firm" (OUP, 2001), "Divergent Capitalisms" (OUP, 1999). He has recently edited two special issues of 'Organization Studies', one on "The Dynamics of Innovation Systems" (2000) and one on "Institutions, Markets and Organisations" (2005). In 1998–99 he served as the Chair of the European Group for Organizational Studies, and in 1999–2000 he was the President of the Society for the Advancement of Socio-Economics. In 2007 he was elected a Foreign Member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Letters, History and Antiquities.
Barbara Krug is Professor of Organisation Theory and Economics of Governance at the Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University, Rotterdam. She has held numerous visiting fellowships and professorships at leading universities in Asia, Europe and North America. Recent edited and authored publications include: "China's Rational Entrepreneurs. The development of the new private business sector" (Routledge, 2004); China's Cconomy in the 21st Century" (Edward Elgar, 2007); and "Political Embeddedness in China: Strengths and Limitations" (in: G. Morgan & R. Whitley, eds., Capitalisms and Capitalism in the Twenty-First Century, Oxford University Press, 2012).
Xiaoke Zhang is Professor at Manchester Business School, University of Manchester. His major research interests are in comparative political economy, with a regional focus on East Asia. His publications include "East Asian Capitalism" (co-edited with Andrew Walter, Oxford University Press, 2012), "The Political Economy of Capital Market Reforms in Southeast Asia" (Palgrave Macmillan, 2011), "International Financial Governance under Stress" (co-edited with Geoffrey Underhill, Cambridge University Press, 2003), and "The Changing Politics of Finance in Korea and Thailand" (Routledge, 2002).