Sub-theme 11: The politicized multinational company: contested transnational spaces and the role of actors and institutions


Stewart Clegg, University of Technology, Australia
Mike Geppert, Friedrich Schiller University of Jena, Germany

Call for Papers

Issues of power and politics in and around MNCs have either been neglected or discussed in a rather one-dimensional way, especially in the field of International Business (IB). Whenever mainstream IB research ‘dared’ to venture into the study of organizational power and politics in MNCs, the focus of analysis tended to be narrowly based on functionalist and managerialist ideas. Recently, the focus on studying organizational power in MNCs has been broadened, enriched by a more ‘reflective theoretical conversation’ (Jack et al., 2009). The former ‘black box’, MNC, has been opened by critically addressing the role of social actors and institutions in order to better understand both the power of MNCs as well as power relations within MNCs.

In this subtheme, we are interested in analysis of the macro-political space of power and politics of MNCs. Questions to be addressed here include the power of MNCs in relation to the host countries in which their subsidiaries are based, relations that are often described as ‘asymmetrical’ (Clark and Geppert, 2006) or ‘hegemonic’ (Levy, 2009), especially in the context of emerging economies. Accordingly, we would like to invite submissions on the power and politics of MNCs within newly emerging ‘transnational social spaces’ (Morgan, 2001), where power relations are constructed socially through an interplay of various (trans-) national actors and elites.

Moreover, we are interested in the meso- and micro-analysis of power and politics within the MNC: in other words, inunderstanding the organizational space of the MNC, e.g. power relations and micro-political strategies of powerful key actors. Accordingly, we welcome studies which shed some more light on the on-going political ‘contests’ (Edwards and Belanger, 2009), comprising actors and groups of actors with different interests who draw on different resources within the MNC itself, within the local and national spaces in which the MNC operates. We wish to explore the role of key actors, their conflicting perceptions and sensemaking, the powerful boundaries that they construct to border social and economic relations, resistances to change, the powers of knowledge flows and creation in innovative work, the influences of dominant ideologies as well as of national and transnational institutions operating to constitute power and political behaviour in MNCs.

Without wishing to limit the topics of interest we suggest the following as possible themes for paper submissions:

  • What are the meanings of power and politics within the contexts of internationalization and the MNC?
  • What are the rationales and ideologies of powerful key actors who influence the power of and in MNCs?
  • What is the nature of headquarters-subsidiary power relations?
  • How are cross-border transfers of knowledge conducted: are they imposed or negotiated locally?
  • Are there differences in the ways in which the power games of and within MNCs are played, related to different home country and industry spaces?
  • What are the interests pursued and resources drawn on by key actors within politicized MNCs?
  • What are the micro-political consequences of certain global management approaches, such as coercive comparisons, in local plants?
  • How does history matter? What are the global and national factors shaping the structuration of politicized MNCs?
  • What conceptual ideas about power and politics in the context of multinationals are most useful? What role can more general social and political theory play in addressing MNC power and politics?
  • Are Western conceptual constructs generalizable across non-western societies? If not, what changes in theorizing and methods for the study of the politicized MNC are needed?


Clark, E. & Geppert, M. (2006). Socio-political processes in international management in post-socialist contexts: knowledge, learning and transnational institution building, Journal of International Management, 12(3): 340-357.

Edwards, P.K. & Belanger, J. (2009). The MNC as a Contested Terrain, in S. Collinson and G. Morgan (eds), Images of the Multinational, Oxford: Wiley, 193-216.

Jack, G.A., Calas, M.B., Nkomo, S.M. & Peltonen, T. (2008). Critique and international management: an uneasy relationship?, Academy of Management Review, 33(4): 870-884.

Levy, D. L. (2008). Political Contestation in Global Production Networks, Academy of Management Review, 33(4): 943-962.

Morgan, G. (2001). The Multinational Firm. Organizing across Institutional and National Divides, in G. Morgan, P.  Hull Kristensen and R. Whitley (eds), The Multinational Firm: Organizing across Institutional and National Divides, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1-24.

Stewart Clegg is Research Professor and Director of the Centre for Management and Organization Studies Research at the University of Technology, Sydney.  A prolific publisher in leading academic journals in social science, management and organization theory, he is also the author and editor of many books.

Mike Geppert is Professor of Strategic and International Management at the Friedrich Schiller University of Jena (Germany). His research focuses on cross-national comparative studies of management, work and employment in MNCs. Mike is board member of the European Group of Organizations (EGOS) since 2010 and coordinator of the EGOS Standing Working Group (SWG 11) on ‘Multinational Corporations: Social Agency and Institutional Change’.

Posted On: June 8, 2014
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