Strategic management has become a core activity of organisations and the adjective 'strategic' has now been applied to most fields of management. Consequently, understanding business strategy has become an issue of critical importance in organisation and management studies.
By analysing changes in late twentieth century political economy, it is argued that the process of strategy is a key dynamic for firms, economies and capitalism itself However, post-Fordist changes in the process of capital accumulation now gives strategic management a different nature from that of its origins in the Fordist industrial environment of the 1960s. Specifically, these changes indicate three main directions for the future study of strategic management. These are:
• An increased attention to intangible (soft) resources and the role that they play in the process of strategy.
• More research is needed into strategy as localised practice and the investigation of the relationship between praxis, practice and practitioners.
• The ontological and methodological consequences of researching subjective and processual phenomena within organisations.
These research opportunities are hindered by the dominance of the functionalist paradigm within strategic management which emphasises the objective, structural and quantitatively measurable aspects of organisation. This has resulted in several gaps within the strategic management literature.
The resource-based view of strategic management seems well-positioned to examine internal processes within the firm but its full potential has not been realised due to the constraining influence of the dominant functionalist paradigm, embraced by management and organisation scholars, within the strategic management literature. Hence, the primary objective of the thesis is to develop an alternative approach to the resource-based view that can examine the concerns of post-Fordist strategic management.
Recently, attention has been given to developing theory and method that utilises different organisation studies paradigms. It is argued in this thesis that one literature that can be successfully applied to the resource-based view to bridge functionalist and interpretivist paradigms is 'actor-network theory'. The ways in which actor-network theory can be applied to the resource-based view to examine topics not well accommodated within the resource-based view are discussed.
Actor-network theory has been mentioned within the mainstream of management journals such as the Academy of Management Review but remains relatively unknown within the strategy literature. Consequently, exemplar actor-network studies are discussed in relation to more well-known research methodologies. Finally, as a means of demonstrating some of the theoretical developments within the thesis, actor-network theory is applied to a particular category of strategic management, that of firm internationalisation.