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Keywords:

  • contextualized theory;
  • cross-context theorizing;
  • theory development

abstract

This paper expands recent appeals for more context sensitive organizational research to include organizational theory. It does this by systematically examining the interface between theory and context, characterized herein as contextualizing theory (theories in context) and theorizing about context (theories of context). The results of this analysis challenge recent criticisms of Chinese organizational scholarship for relying too much on Western theory. As an alternative to discontinuing the practice of cross-context theory borrowing, ways of making this borrowing more context sensitive are explored. The use of context effects to explain organizational phenomena, as well as their essential contribution to all forms of cross-context scholarship, is also examined. In addition, specific suggestions are offered for overcoming the obstacles facing scholars engaged in cross-context theorizing, especially scholars in new research contexts interested in using and improving ‘mainstream’ theory.