The use and abuse of French and Raven in the channels literature

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This paper aims to stimulate reflection upon our understanding of power in marketing channels through a critical review of power-base research centred on the use of French and Raven (1959). Through a review of seminal articles that have shaped the field and consideration of enduring problems in power-base usage, the paper argues that the numerous studies of this topic have not produced a coherent body of either empirical or theoretical knowledge. In particular, the empirical studies have produced results, some of which are contrary to theoretical predictions, others which contradict previous findings, and an increasing number which indicate that results are significantly affected by the cultural context within which a study is conducted. A detailed reading of French and Raven’s (1959) paper shows it to be less rigorous than would be expected of such a frequently cited and influential paper, but also that its application to organisational studies of power is questionable. This paper provides the first critique of this well-established research field and argues that the extensive use of French and Raven has been detrimental in limiting the conceptualisation of power that informs our understanding of the phenomenon.

Keywords: inter-organisational power; marketing channels; power; power bases; social power

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: University of Oxford and Lancaster University, UK 2: Lancaster University Management School, UK

Publication date: July 1, 2013

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