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Paper info: Taking Macneil's Contract Theory to New Directions


Taking Macneil's Contract Theory to New Directions


Eiren Tuusjärvi and Tarja Pietiläinen

Place of Publication

The paper was published at the 25th IMP-conference in Marseille, France in 2009.



This paper opens a new field of theoretical discussion to connect norms, decision making and the outcomes of business relationships. Macneil (1980) developed his theory of contractual relations and showed a connection between exchange relationships in different relational contexts and norms guiding these relations. Here we are discussing Macneil's theory through strategic management research and furthering the theory to connect the norms with the outcomes of the relationships and thus, elaborating the relevance of the theory. To summarize the key areas connected in this paper: (1) interaction structure; reflected in the norms in the relationship (2) basis of setting objectives for business relationships (3) outcomes of the relationship  the extent of future orientation and the business possibilities that the cooperation will open. As a result, we suggest a new reflection on the dimensions which affect the emergence of norms. Finally, our paper outlines three dimensions as central in the development of norms guiding exchanges in relationships; (1) interests (objectives) (2) power (3) the company's interaction culture.