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Asian varieties of service capitalism?

Journal article
Authors A. Jones
Patrik Ström
Published in Geoforum
Volume 90
Pages 119-129
ISSN 0016-7185
Publication year 2018
Published at Department of Business Administration
Centre for International Business Studies
Pages 119-129
Language en
Keywords Business services, Varieties of capitalism, Knowledge economy, Asia, Japan, China, variegated capitalism, producer services, political-economy, business, firms, internationalization, challenges, innovation, geography, clusters, Geography
Subject categories Economics and Business


There is currently only limited empirical research and theoretical conceptualisation of the role of knowledge intensive business services (KIBS) in the economies of Asia within economic geography or elsewhere in the wider sodal scientific literature. This paper argues that existing theoretical understandings of KIBS are inadequate to conceptualise the nature of ongoing KISS development in Asian economies - both emerging and mature - and seeks to address this absence by developing a theoretical framework that draws on a range of existing theoretical approaches within and beyond economic geography. To do this, it proposes the concept of 'service capitalism', developed from work concerned with varieties of capitalism (VoC), variegated capitalism and advanced service industries. The paper elaborates its theoretical argument by presenting research into two forms of Asian service capitalism through two case studies examining respectively the specific nature of Japanese KISS and the development of KIBS in China. Using the case studies, it demonstrates how service industry development in both these Asian economies exhibits distinctive characteristics that are a consequence of both local institutional, corporate, and socio-cultural contexts but are also interconnected the wider global economy in complex ways. The paper thus presents a significant and disruptive challenge to existing theories of KISS development as based on the western experience, and contemporary deployments of the varieties of capitalism and variegated capitalism approaches.

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