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alliances

Siegfried P. Gudergan

The concept of alliance has been used widely in
a variety of contexts with definitions generally
being discipline bound. Theoretical and
empirical research into alliances has had exten
sive interdisciplinary appeal. Research into alli
ances has been conducted in a multitude of
disciplines, including sociology, psychology,
economics, political science, law, strategic man
agement, and organizational behavior. The
word alliance has a set of meanings, including
a confederation described as the act of forming
an alliance; a formal agreement establishing an
association or alliance between nations or other
groups to achieve a particular aim; a coalition,
being an organization of people, nations, or
businesses involved in a pact or treaty; a bond,
being a connection based on kinship or com
mon interest; and a confederation as a state of
being allied or confederated. We define alli
ances as a unified effort involving two or more
organizations, groups, or individuals to achieve
common goals with respect to a particular
issue. This view of alliances is closely related
to its sociological roots and suggests that an
alliance has a number of defining features.
First, an alliance brings together two or more
individual parties whether people or organiza
tions. Second, an alliance requires these parties
to be interconnected in some way with resource
dependencies. Interconnectedness is a state of
being connected reciprocally. Third, the alli
ance must share common goals, interests, or
values. Fourth, there is an assumption that the
individual parties maintain at least some level of
autonomy.
The functioning of alliances involving auton
omous parties is based on shared norms and
behavioral expectations (Macneil 1980). Draw
ing on sociological foundations, researchers
such as Macaulay (1963) and Macneil (1978,
1980, 1981) have examined behavior in alliances
being shaped by norms, obligations, and reci
procity. The work of Clegg and his co authors
(2002) on alliance cultures and associated value
systems supports this notion; so do Dyer and
Singh (1998), Gudergan et al. (2002), and Ring
and Van de Ven (1992, 1994). Common to a lot
of work is that alliances can be characterized by
social dilemmas where one partys interest can
be in possible conflict with the common interest
of the alliance.
Social relations that underlie alliances
explain the nature of the connection between
the parties to an alliance and possible tensions.
These relations are characterized by different
levels of chemistry, politics, and associated
political and professional relations, dealings
and communications. They are associated with
human action and activity within groups and
can be viewed as a union of political organiza
tion comprising social and political units. This
suggests that an alliance is the state of being
allied or confederated, reflecting unification
and coalition. Associated bonds reflect the
attachment representing a connection that fas
tens alliance activities. Group actions, or activ
ities by the parties in alliances, are those taken
by a group of individuals and/or organiza
tions. While such actions are associated with
transactions and communalism, they are also
characterized by embedded conflict.
Social control plays a vital role in alliances
and is defined as the control exerted actively
or passively by group action. Such control in
alliances is reflected in the power, manage
ment, and leadership occurring in alliances
affecting duties, responsibilities, obligations,
and accountabilities. Social and other institu
tional enforcement mechanisms applying to
the alliance influence the extent of compliance
with agreements.
Agreements entailing explicit and implicit
understandings result from oral and written