Sub-theme 11: (SWG) What's Up in the Contemporary MNC: New Research Perspectives

Christoph Dörrenbächer
Berlin School of Economics and Law, Germany
Florian Becker-Ritterspach
German University in Cairo (GUC), Egypt
Susanne Blazejewski
Alanus University, Germany

Call for Papers

Over the past forty years, research on the inner dynamics of multinational corporations (MNCs) has provided a rich account of issues associated with cross-cultural management, organizational structures and intra-organizational relationships. Changes in the real world of MNCs, a great openness to interdisciplinary work as well as the ups and downs in academic paradigms, turned research on the inner dynamics of MNCs into a lively academic field. Mapping the current frontiers of this field and moving them forward is the basic aim of this sub-theme. Based on a review of the current literature, we invite conceptual and empirical contributions that touch upon the following three topical areas, that from different angles all have a particular focus on social agency in MNCs. Accounts of new research perspectives outside these areas are highly welcome, too.


1. Managerial control in MNCs: A global elite perspective

Up until now, the different management strata controlling and managing MNCs, have received rather little attention (Morgan, 2011). However, recent empirical research has provided rich evidence that gender, class, education, profession, ethical values, political beliefs as well as the individuals’ organizational positioning do have a strong impact on managerial behavior and decision making in MNCs. To conceptually capture and integrate these impacts we propose to study the behavior of managerial actors in MNCs from an elite perspective.

Submissions to the first topical area of our sub-theme might address questions such as:

  • Who belongs to MNC elite and what are elite distinctions in MNCs?
  • What are mechanisms of elite formation in MNCs?
  • To what extend and in what particular aspects does elite status influences the organizational behavior of MNC managers?
  • How does elite behavior comply with home and host country institutional settings?
  • What is the role of managerial discourses promoted by MNC elites?
  • Do we witness the arrival of transnational communities of elites in and around MNCs that work against hierarchies, functions and nations?


2. Conflicts in headquarters-subsidiary relationships

Since the MNC as an organization has become an object of study in its own right, it has been characterized as an inherently conflictual arena. This observation is re-emphasized more recently by authors in the micropolitical and institutionalist research stream who see the MNC as an inherently "contested terrain/space" where conflict is ubiquitous and unavoidable (e.g. Edwards & Bélanger, 2009). The notion of ‘conflict’ is therefore omnipresent in current research on the MNC and in IB in general. At the same time it often remains strangely vague as a construct and in much of the literature lacks a thorough theoretical foundation (Blazejewski & Becker-Ritterspach, 2011).

In the second topical area we call for submissions which look at processes of conflict in and around the MNC. Papers might address issues such as:

  • Understanding and conceptualizing conflict in MNCs
  • The relationship between diverse institutional contexts and conflict processes in MNCs
  • The role of corporate elites in MNC conflict
  • Boundary spanning and conflict in MNCs
  • Conflicts around competing logics in MNCs
  • Conflict and power in MNCs
  • Conflict and identities in MNCs


3. Institutional change in MNCs: Bringing social agency back in

Mainstream international business studies predominantly analyze MNCs as unitary organizations and search for the optimal fit of organizational MNC structures. It has been stressed that this rather narrow view makes it difficult to capture the complexity and dynamics of current transnational institutional change (Dörrenbächer & Geppert, 2006).

In our third topical area we call for submissions that bring social agency back into the study of contemporary MNCs both as a driver and outcome of institutional and intra-organizational change processes. Paper submissions might address questions such as:

  • How useful are the existing conceptual ideas and methodological tools in institutional theory for studying MNCs and social agency?
  • Are there possibilities for conceptual and methodological cross-fertilisation between organization studies and other academic?
  • What is the role of MNCs in home and host countries and what are the societal institutional influences of social agency that can be found?
  • What are the antecedents, mechanisms and outcomes of social agency in MNCs?
  • What are the interests of key actors (e.g. managers and employees) and what are the institutional resources on which they draw on?



Blazejewski, Susanne & Florian Becker-Ritterspach (2011): 'Conflict in headquarters-subsidiary relations'. In: Christoph Dörrenbächer & Mike Geppert (eds.): Politics and Power in the Multinational Corporation. The Role of Institutions, Interests and Identities. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 139–190.
Dörrenbächer, Christoph & Mike Geppert (2006): 'Micro-politics and conflicts in multinational corporations: Current debates, re-framing, and contributions of this special issue.' Journal of International Management, 12 (3), pp. 251–265.
Edwards, Paul & Jacques Bélanger (2009): 'The multinational firm as contested terrain.' In: Simon Collinson & Glenn Morgan (eds.): Images of the Multinational Firm. Chichester: Wiley, pp. 193–216.
Morgan, Glenn (2011): 'Reflections on the macro-politics of micro-politics.' In: Christoph Dörrenbächer & Mike Geppert (eds.): Power and Politics in the Multinational Corporation. The Role of Institutions, Interests and Identities. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 415–436.


Christoph Dörrenbächer is Professor of Organizational Design and Behaviour in International Business at the Berlin School of Economics and Law, Germany. His current research focus is on power & politics, subsidiary role development, headquarters-subsidiary relationships and careers in multinational corporations. He has published widely in renowned international academic journals including the 'Journal of World Business', 'Management International Review', 'International Business Review' and 'British Journal of Management'. He is Co-editor in Chief of 'Critical Perspectives on International Business'. He has acted as sub-theme convenor at EGOS Colloquia in 2003 (Ljubljana, Slovenia) and 2008 (Amsterdam, The Netherlands).
Florian Becker-Ritterspach is Professor of International Business at the German University in Cairo (GUC). Prior to joining the GUC, he worked as Assistant Professor at the University of Groningen in the Netherlands. Next to cross-border knowledge transfer and subsidiary learning, his research has focused on power and politics in multinationals and on both multinationals in emerging markets and the internationalization of emerging market firms. He published his work amongst others in the 'Journal of International Management', 'Management International Review' and the 'British Journal of Management'.
Susanne Blazejewski is Professor for Management and Organization at Alanus University, Germany. Her current research focuses on issues of identities, politics and conflict in multinational organizations, management systems and organizational design for sustainable development, and the advancement of qualitative methods in international business research. Her works has been published in books and book chapters as well as in refereed journals such as the 'Journal of World Business or Competition and Change'.