Rethinking Ethnocentrism in International Business Research

Snejina Michailova*, Rebecca Piekkari, Marianne Storgaard, Janne Tienari

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

15 Citations (Scopus)


Research summary: For nearly five decades, international business (IB) research in general and the literature on organizational design and staffing of multinationals in particular have treated ethnocentrism mainly as an adverse attribute. Limited attention has been paid to the disciplines that originally established the concept-anthropology, sociology, and psychology. These disciplines have examined ethnocentrism as a positive, neutral, or negative phenomenon with a complex hierarchical structure. IB literature, in turn, has almost exclusively adopted a negative view, suggesting that ethnocentrism hinders adoption of a global strategy. This article borrows insights from the three base disciplines to rethink the concept of ethnocentrism in IB research and to draw implications for global strategy research. The article also calls for a more careful borrowing of concepts from other disciplines. Managerial summary: This article is about ethnocentrism. Ethnocentric people tend to believe that their group, organization, culture, or ethnicity is superior to others. Ethnocentrism can exist in international business, for instance, where home country staff consider themselves superior to foreign staff in other countries. In international business research, ethnocentrism is usually considered undesirable, something that should be eliminated. However, sociology, anthropology, and psychology, where the concept was originally established, have adopted a wider, far more nuanced and intellectually richer view that also acknowledges the neutrality and benefits of ethnocentrism. We draw on this more refined view to rethink ethnocentrism in international business and show implications for global strategy research.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)335–353
Number of pages19
JournalGlobal Strategy Journal
Issue number4
Early online date2017
Publication statusPublished - 2017
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


  • Base disciplines
  • Concept borrowing
  • Ethnocentrism
  • International business research
  • Multinational corporation


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