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abstract

Detailed case study research conducted at Japanese multinational retail firms in both their home country and their subsidiaries in China is undertaken to assess a range of prominent theoretical perspectives that have been used to account for the transfer of organizational practices. Approaches based upon culturalist, national business systems, industry sector, international division of labour, and agency perspectives are shown to be inadequate, individually, to account for the complex patterns of transfer, local adoption, and adaptation in these multinational companies. These findings highlight the value of conceptual bricolage and multi-level analysis for developing explanations that can encompass and explicate complex patterns of hybridization. The paper also identifies important factors in the dynamics of hybridization that have been neglected or downplayed in much of the existing literature. These include the significance of context specific, firm level perceptions of sources of competitive advantage as a key motive encouraging transfer of parent company practices. Crucial factors constraining transfer are the practices and norms prevalent in local labour markets. Additionally, transfer by multinational companies to transitional economies with high levels of deinstitutionalization illustrates problematic dimensions for various theoretical perspectives, including influential neo-institutionalist models.