Opportunism in buyer-supplier exchange: a critical examination of the concept and its implications for theory and practice

Stephen Kelly, Beverly Wagner, John Ramsay

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Claims that opportunism is widespread in the process of buyer-supplier exchange are commonplace, but direct supporting evidence for such claims is largely absent from the relevant literatures. This paper offers a critique of the treatment of opportunism in supply chains by re-establishing the importance of guile in the concept, and investigates existing published, empirical measures of buyer and supplier opportunistic behaviour. The paper offers evidence that, despite the frequency with which the concept is discussed in the literature and applied in research, and the emphasis given to the risks it generates for
management, opportunism with guile between buyers and suppliers appears to be rare in practice. This paper is the first critical assessment of the concept’s treatment in the Operations Management field, and it argues that practitioners are currently being poorly advised with respect to the phenomenon, as well as drawing conclusions for both practitioners and researchers that differ radically from the prevailing consensus on the subject.
Original languageEnglish
JournalProduction Planning and Control
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 11 Jun 2018



  • opportunism
  • buyer-supplier exchange
  • crtitique
  • guile

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