Sub-theme 23: (Geo-)Political Implications of International Business

Marie-Laure Salles
SciencesPo, France
Nathalie Belhoste
Grenoble Ecole de Management, France
Jonathan Murphy
Cardiff Business School, United Kingdom

Call for Papers

Traditionally in the field of International Business, attention has been placed on risks for multinational corporations and business actors stemming from political disruptions (Henisz et al., 2010). Economic nationalism (as in Argentina with the seizure of Repsol’s assets in 2012), domestic instability (like in Russia and Ukraine in 2014; Abdelal, 2015), changing political leadership but also civil society movements (like the Arab springs) or terrorism (Czinkota et al., 2010) all create sources of political risk. These multiple sources of political disruption might unexpectedly and profoundly alter the institutional environment of a particular host country within which international business operates. Multinational corporations are set and function in highly complex environments and the strategy literature now has to recognize that those firms must deal with both market and nonmarket constraints and challenges.
On the other hand, there is increasing interest in and attention to the role and place of international business as a significant actor in national as well as transnational politics (Strange, 1996). The increased power and wealth of multinational corporations renders them powerful actors in local politics in many different contexts and dimensions – in weak state settings naturally but also in advanced capitalist countries, through corporate political activity (Dahan et al., 2013), lobbying and campaign financing for example. Because multinational corporations may span, through their value chain, a great number of nation-states, product and money flows can create significant uncertainty and instability for any single one of those states. International business may cause or exacerbate local conflicts by knowingly or unwittingly providing financial resources to organizations pursuing illicit, violent or repressive activities. International trade in natural resources has both fuelled regional conflicts (like coltan in DRC; Ayres, 2012) and strained international relations.

At the same time, though, some research suggests that through foreign direct investment international business can also play a positive role in developing countries – helping create socioeconomic conditions that can foster local improvements, for example with respect to human rights (Spar, 1998) or the environment. There is not yet much research, however, on the role – whether positive or negative – that international business might be playing in the context of national democratic transitions (Scherer & Palazzo, 2011). Finally, in a different kind of research tradition, the focus has been placed on the increased presence of international business actors in spheres and processes of transnational governance (Doh et al., 2015; Djelic & Sahlin-Andersson, 2008). Consequently, multinational corporations should be considered as global players not only in an economic but also in a political sense.
This sub-theme’s aim is to bring together scholars interested in the co-construction of a multi-disciplinary perspective (organization studies, political science, geographic/political economy, international relations…) on the reciprocal interplay between international business and politics, both locally and transnationally. We propose to investigate topics including but not limited to:
How international relations shape international business?

  • How do political/identity conflicts impact the operations and strategies of multinational corporations?
  • What are the impacts of emergent non-state actors on international business (activist networks, social movements, terrorism, cyber-terrorism…)?
  • Is the concept of political risk still relevant giving the complexity of international relations?

How international business shapes international relations?

  • What are the relationships between political and diplomatic disputes and international business activity? What is the role of multinational corporations in regional conflicts?
  • Does international business get involved in the development of democratic movements and if so, in what ways? How and why have multinational corporations aided or hampered democratic transitions?
  • What are the responsibilities of multinational firms in failed states?
  • How is business and corporate diplomacy implemented?

International business and emergent transnational governance

  • Through what mechanisms do multinational corporations influence the emergence and deployment of transnational governance processes? What are the advantages and risks to them of norms and standards-based systems of transnational governance?
  • How does international business interact with states, international civil society and activist networks in the context of transnational governance dynamics (role of corporate political activity)?
  • What is the nature, impact and implications of the engagement of international business in global security governance?



  • Abdelal, R. (2015): “The multinational firm and geopolitics: Europe, Russian energy, and power.” Business and Politics, 17, 553–576.
  • Ayres, C.J. (2012): “The international trade in conflict mineral: coltan.” Critical Perspectives on International Business, 8 (2), 178–193.
  • Czinkota, M.R., Knight, G., Liesch P.W., & Steen, J. (2010): “Terrorism and international business: A research agenda.” Journal of International Business Studies, 41, 826–843.
  • Dahan, N., Hadani, M., & Schuler, D. (2013): “The governance challenges of corporate political activity.” Business and Society, 27, 365–387.
  • Djelic, M.-L., & Sahlin-Andersson, K. (2008): Transnational Governance: Institutional dynamics of regulation. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Doh, J., McGuire, S., & Ozaki, T. (2015): “Global governance and international nonmarket strategies: Introduction to the special issue.” Journal of World Business, 50, 256–261.
  • Henisz, W.J., Mansfield, E.D., & von Glinow, M.A. (2010): “Conflict, security, and political risk: International business in challenging times.” Journal of International Business Studies, 41, 759–764.
  • Scherer, A.G., & Palazzo, G. (2011): “The new political role of business in a globalized world: A review of a new perspective on CSR and its implication for the firm, governance and democracy.” Journal of Management Studies, 48 (4), 899–931.
  • Spar, D. (1998): “The spotlight on the bottom line: how multinationals export human rights.” Foreign Affairs, 77 (2), 7–10.
  • Strange, S. (1996): The Retreat of the State: The Diffusion of Power in the World Economy. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Marie-Laure Salles is Professor at the Centre de Sociologie des Organisations (CSO) at SciencesPo, Paris (France), and Co-Dean of its School of Management and Innovation.
Nathalie Belhoste is an Assistant Professor at Grenoble Ecole de Management, France. Her research focuses on the impact of international politics on international business.
Jonathan Murphy is Senior Lecturer at Cardiff Business School, UK. His research focuses on democracy and global governance.