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Ian Macneil And Relational Contract Theory: Evidence Of Impact

Josetta McLaughlin, Jacqueline McLaughlin, Raed Elaydi

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Purpose – This paper seeks to describe the work of Ian Macneil, a legal scholar advocating the use of relational contract theory and behavioral norms to evaluate exchange relations in business. The aim is to show through bibliometric and comparative analyses that Macneil has influenced management scholarship and dialogue about relational contract theory to an extent not recognized by management scholars. Design/methodology/approach – Evidence of impact is evaluated through a bibliometric analysis of primary and secondary citations. This is followed by a comparison of Macneil's theory with four theories – integrated social contract theory, stakeholder theory, transaction cost theory, and rational choice theory. Findings – Results indicate that Macneil has had a substantial impact on researchers working in different business disciplines, from marketing to economics and management. Bibliometric analysis reveals that his work is widely cited, suggesting that Macneil's contribution extends beyond legal scholarship to influence business scholarship. Research limitations/implications – Implications are that Macneil's relational contract theory should be considered when developing frameworks for guiding research on workplaces that are increasingly relational, connected and global. This is especially relevant in cases where workplace exchange appears on the surface to be non-contractual and based on societal customs and norms. Originality/value – This paper recognizes the work of a major legal scholar in the formulation and discussion of relational contract theory in business scholarship. It introduces concepts that can support and act as a guide for future research on forms of relational exchange and recognizes the importance of Ian Macneil's work in supporting that research stream.