Abstract: Bridging Organizations, Bridging Disciplines: A Comparative Study of New Zealand Industry Associations

James Reveley and Simon Ville


This paper seeks to reduce a widening gap between the disciplines of business history and organization studies by focusing on the neglected role of industry associations as a form of inter-organizational bridging mechanism. Recent studies emphasize the role of industry associations in mitigating market imperfections rather than as mere rent seekers. Based on this insight, the paper provides a comparative historical assessment of two industry associations within the same commodity export supply chain. This assessment throws light on the reasons why one association performed more effectively than the other, as an inter-firm communicating and coordinating device. In particular, associative strength is contingent upon convergent member interests, the securing of club rather than public good benefits, and the ability to adapt over time to changed external conditions. Given organization studies scholars' ongoing interest in forms of organization that fall between markets and hierarchies, the paper demonstrates how a business history perspective facilitates understanding of the inception, development, and demise of bridging organizations.