Industry Decline as Historical and Theoretical Construct: A Review and Prospects for Future Studies

Juha-Antti Lamberg, Jari Ojala, and Mirva Peltoniemi

Prior research has framed industry decline as a process with a clear narrative structure: researchers narrativize causes and consequences as clear and determined processes starting in prosperity and ending in collapse; in this process managers and government officials accelerate decline by making poor choices. However, the theoretical explanations of industry decline are not clear in the literature. We review and analyze books and articles that empirically focus on industry decline. Our analysis suggests that the literature tends to rely on a few metatheoretical arguments. This has important consequences for the way in which decline is framed and explained. We identify four metatheoretical clusters of literature, all of which operate on a narrow set of arguments. We propose that understanding the limitations of distinct metatheoretical arguments is important for an enhanced theoretical and historical understanding of what industry decline is, how it happens, and why. We also propose that integrating theoretical constructs from the industry life cycle theory with historical knowledge is a way to advance the current state of research. Thus, this study contributes to research about how and why industry decline happens by re-structuring and clarifying latent theoretical themes in the research.