In parallel with a theoretical acceptance of the importance of the laws of competition to formulate strategy, the realization is growing that cooperative behavior among firms is at the root of many success stories in today's management. This situation calls for an effort to develop a theoretical framework to study both aspects of firm behavior (cooperative and competitive) as compatible, complementary aspects of a unique reality. Indeed, the cooperative relationships of a firm can be the source of its competitive strength.
This paper develops the concept of strategic network, as a tool to understand those cooperative relationships and their role in the strategy of the firm. There are three main tasks of the paper: first, to show that strategic networks are but a ‘mode of organization’; second, to study the economic conditions of existence of a network; finally, to analyze the conditions of existence of a network from the point of view of its internal consistency. In a final section some of the most obvious strategic implications of the framework are outlined.