Big corporations have been an essential factor of economic globalisation in the past. Lately though, it can be observed that globalisation increasingly affects small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), as well. These companies, often seen as the backbone of the German economy, have a unique organisational and social structure, which results in SME-specific ways of internationalisation.
The PhD project focuses on the effects of internationalisation processes of small and medium enterprises on the complex intra-organisational relations between management, employees and interest representations. Drawing on the approach of Betriebliche Sozialordnung (Kotthoff/Reindl), the in-plant social relations are conceptualised as a social system established through the interaction of the different actors in the plant. The theoretical framework takes into account the unique social structure of SMEs with its strong connection between the management and the employees in SMEs, based on reciprocity and a common understanding of the plant as a common project of all the actors involved. The internationalisation process is therefore understood as an organisational change that puts this established social order, or Betriebliche Sozialordnung, in the plant under pressure to transform, raising the question of how a particular social order in a plant is affected by the internationalisation process of the company.
To answer this research question, the internationalisation processes of SMEs from the machine builder and automobile supplier industry are compared within the framework of a qualitative case study approach. As an exemplary field, the PhD project focuses on the establishment of subsidiaries in China. The dissertation is based on qualitative data consisting of 80 guided interviews and supplemented ethnographic observations carried out in 2013 and 2014 in six German small and medium-sized companies and their respective subsidiaries in China. The dissertation originated within the context of the research project 'Going global' which focused on the social and organisational implications of internationalisation processes of small and medium-sized enterprises. The project was conducted under the leadership of Prof. Ursula Mense-Petermann at Bielefeld University, and funded by the Hans-Böckler-Stiftung.
Andre Meyer is a doctoral candidate at the BGHS and a research and teaching assistant at the faculty of sociology at Bielefeld University. His current research and teaching is focused on economic sociology and the sociology of work, concerning internationalisation processes of small and medium enterprises and economic sociological theory as well as sociological perspectives on capitalism.