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Strategic Alliances as Social Facts: Business, Biotechnology, and Intellectual History [Hardcover]

Anne Huff , Mark De Rond
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
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Book Description

19 Jun 2003
How can we explain a proliferation of alliances when the probability of failure is higher than success? And why have we emphasized their order, manageability and predictability whilst acknowledging that they tend to be experienced as messy, politically charged and unpredictable? Mark de Rond, in this provocative book, sets out to address such paradoxes. Based on in-depth case studies of three major biotechnology alliances, he suggests that we need theories to explain idiosyncracy as well as social order. He argues that such theories must allow for social conduct to be active and self-directed but simultaneously inert and constrained, thus permitting voluntarism, determinism, and serendipity alike to explain causation in alliance life. The book offers a highly original combination of insights from social theory and intellectual history with more mainstream strategic management and organizations literature. It is a refreshing and thought-provoking analysis that will appeal to practitioner and academic researcher alike.

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 230 pages
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press (19 Jun 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0521811104
  • ISBN-13: 978-0521811101
  • Product Dimensions: 23 x 15 x 2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 2,106,651 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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'An absorbing account of strategic learning in a hi-tech sector. Written in an elegant and witty style, it opens the analysis to a wide audience. The case histories are likely to be quoted in management teaching and research for some time to come.' Professor Raymond Loveridge, Said Business School, University of Oxford

'… a tour de force analysis of strategic alliances …' R. Duane Ireland, . David Robbins Chair in Strategic Management, Robins School of Business, University of Richmond

'… what makes de Rond's approach unusual … is his underlying passion. When the chips are down, de Rond is … a philosopher, and his real objective is not an empirical study of the roots of success in business alliances but a philosophical crusade to demolish the intellectual basis of any attempt at simple, reductive explanations.' The Business Economist

Book Description

Mark de Rond examines the social dimension of strategic alliances and the importance of the individuals involved. Based on in-depth case studies of three major biotechnology alliances, the book combines insights from social theory and intellectual history with mainstream strategic management literature to provide a refreshing and thought-provoking analysis.

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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
By Mike M
Mark has written an intellectually sharp, thought provoking and very readable account of the life of three strategic alliances in the biotech industry. Through witty narrative and insightful quotations Mark is leading the reader through his argument for a new platform with which to view such a distinct social phenomena as an alliance between independent organizations.
The book offers a great reference list and I defitively recommend it to anyone considering case based research into not only alliances but most business contexts.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.0 out of 5 stars  1 review
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars More useful than usual academic treatments of alliances 27 Feb 2007
By A. J. Sutter - Published on
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
If you're a businessperson, most academic literature about strategic alliances (SAs) seems to have been written about another planet. I've been involved in lots of SA deals, but most management scholars' papers about them either belabor the obvious, or else provide little that I can recognize from real life.

The present book is adapted from the author's Oxford U. Ph.D. dissertation, and definitely shows it. It's full of citations to the academic literature, methodological hand-wringing about interviews with businesspeople, and repetitious recaps for nodding dons about what previous chapters have shown, what the present one will show, etc. (A footnote on p.142 even contains a fossil reference to the book as a "thesis".) However, the author recognizes the drawbacks of most other academic work and tries to make this one a bit more practical. He partly succeeds.

The best chapters are the detailed case studies of three different biotech alliances. They're much deeper than typical business book case studies, and lack the customary hype. They give you a very vivid overview of the many unexpected ways in which SAs can get screwed up -- as well as the many ways in which they can bounce back from disaster, or be reckoned by all parties to have succeeded even though they didn't meet their original milestones. These studies are worthwhile reading even if you don't work in the biotech field. While some of the author's "evolution diagrams" in these chapters aren't always coherent or intelligible, you lose nothing by ignoring them.

Another well-made practical point is that if you think you'll manage an SA by planning and control, forget about it. Continuous adaptation, navigation and consultation are more useful. If your actions tend to be swayed by business books and Harvard Business Review articles, then the critique in chapter 1 of many economic and sociological approaches to SAs might be a useful antidote.

I also liked the author's attention to philosophy, e.g. Hume, Heidegger, I. Berlin et al. This is all too rare in business books, but useful to help you examine many assumptions that you might have taken for granted. (A philosophical point of view is especially valuable for recognizing and understanding the impact of metaphors on management, though that topic isn't really addressed directly in this book.)

That said, I think the presentation could have been greatly simplified, in order to convince business folks that philosophy has something to say to them. A key point for the author is that we shouldn't expect something as messy as a real-life SAs to fit neatly into one consistent economic, managerial or philosophical paradigm. To explain this, he nicely enlists help from Isaiah Berlin's essay "The Hedgehog and the Fox". But from the build-up he gives the essay you'd think it was as complex as Hegel, existentialism or the "Critique of Pure Reason". At least when I was in college, "Hedgehog" was more or less standard reading for most undergraduates, even if you didn't take a course that assigned it. (One of my classmates even named a software company after it.) The reason is that it's both wonderful and short -- and isn't rocket science, either. So while I was happy to see it mentioned, its treatment in the book is a little pompous, given the modesty of the essay itself. The author's discussion of the structuration theory of A. Giddens is less useful or convincing.

If you're a businessperson new to SAs or looking for a how-to, this isn't the book for you. But if you have a few deals under your belt and are looking to enrich your perspective about them, you might find it worth wading through the academic passages of this relatively short book. And if you're an academic in this field, my guess is that you could benefit quite a bit from reading it.
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