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Paper info: The dearth of debt in the IMP framework


The dearth of debt in the IMP framework


Olof Wadell

Place of Publication

The paper was published at the 35th IMP-conference in Paris, France in 2019.



Beginning in the late 1970s, the IMP framework was developed to analyse industrial markets. In the IMP framework, the concept of exchange is fundamental. IMP scholars commonly view companies as units of exchange rather than as units of production. Exchange in the IMP framework is divided into economic exchange and social exchange, with the former implying contractual obligations (shift of property rights) and the later unspecific obligations. Even though some IMP scholars have sought to highlight the passage of time between giving (selling) and receiving (buying), it has been argued that “such a partitioning of an exchange transaction does not alter, the basic characteristic of the economic exchange as means to obtain access to valued resources”. However, in this paper, I argue that ‘partitioning of an exchange’ is an important aspect of the study of industrial markets. By not acknowledging such partitioning we describe markets totally free from debt. Debt is commonly viewed as money owed by one actor to another or, in the case of non-market relations, an obligation that can be quantified. Our whole society operates on debt and industrial networks are no exception. However, within the IMP framework there is a dearth of studies regarding the concept. The purpose of this paper then, is to comment on why the concept of debt has not been included in the IMP framework and point out some directions for how it could be incorporated.