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4th Latin American and EuropeanMeeting on Organization Studies, Axixic, 
Mexico, March 27-30, 2012  (see attachment)

Subtheme call*

* The politicised multinational company: The role of actors and 


  Mike Geppert Karen Williams

University of Surrey, UK University of Swansea, UK

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*Cathrine Filstad *Otávio Rezende

*BI School of Business, Norway CEPEAD/UFMG and Centro Universitário UNA, 

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* *

The current financial and economic crisis has negatively underlined the 
vital role of multinational companies (MNCs) in our daily lives. The 
breakdown of flagship MNCs, such as Enron, Worldcom, Lehman Brothers or 
General Motors, does not merely reveal the problems of corporate 
malfeasance and market dysfunction but also raises important questions 
both to the public and academic community about the use and misuse of 
the power of MNCs in the wider society as well as the exercise of power 
by key actors within internationally operating firms.

In the past, issues of power and politics in and around the MNC have 
either been neglected or discussed in a rather one-dimensional way, 
especially in the academic field of International Business (IB), which 
is dedicated to analysing the internationalisation of businesses and the 
role of MNCs in this process. Whenever mainstream IB research 'dared' to 
venture into the study of organisational power and politics in MNCs, the 
focus of analysis tended to be narrowly based on functionalist and 
managerialist ideas. This, however, has begun to change in the last few 
years. The focus on studying organisational power in the IB literature 
has been broadened and enriched by a more 'reflective theoretical 
conversation' (Jack et al., 2009). A number of Special Issues in leading 
academic journals (e.g. Journal of International Management, 2006; 
Academy of Management Review, 2009) as well as in books (e.g. Kristensen 
and Zeitlin, 2005; Dörrenbächer and Geppert, 2011) have begun to open 
the former 'black box' by critically addressing the role of social 
actors and institutions in order to better understand the power of MNCs 
and power relations within MNCs. They have brought together theories 
from various schools of thought, such as international management, 
neo-institutionalism, comparative institutionalism, economic sociology, 
political sciences and critical management. In addition, organisation 
scholars focusing on organizational learning, sensemaking and knowledge 
management, power and politics has not been sufficiently emphasized and 
has often been ignored (Antonacopoulou, 2006; Contu and Willmott, 2003). 
Consequently, there is the neglect of how, on both a meso- and a 
micro-political level, differences in interests, conflicting perceptions 
and powerful key actors, the power and politics in organizational life, 
create barriers and resistance to change and innovation through 
knowledge work (Lawrence et al., 2000). We are therefore left with a 
literature which one-sidedly focuses on learning and knowledge as 
coherent, harmonic and "good for all". Hence the literature remains 
incomplete and under-theorized.

Given the long neglect of these topics there is therefore a wide range 
of open questions which need to be further studied and addressed. In 
this sub-theme, we would like to explore two interrelated dimensions of 
the MNC as a politicised organisation:

Firstly, we are interested in the _macro-political level of analysing 
the power and politics of the MNC. _Questions to be addressed here 
include the power of MNCs in relation to the host countries in which 
their subsidiaries are based, relations which are often described as 
'asymmetrical' (Geppert and Clark, 2006) or 'hegemonic' (Levy, 2009), 
especially where Western MNCs enter non-Western (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 by an 
interplay of various transnational actors and elites (MNCs, NGOs, WTO, 
institutional investors, etc.), home and host country institutions and 
key actors (national governments, regulations, cultures, etc.), as well 
as by dominant ideologies (neo-liberal, welfare capitalist, socialist, 

Secondly, on a meso- and micro-political level_ of analysing the power 
and politics of the MNC_, we are interested in understanding the power 
relations and political strategies of powerful key players (both 
management, employees and their organisations) within the MNC. 
Accordingly, we welcome studies of the MNC as a 'contested terrain' 
(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 contexts in which the MNC operates 
and within the transnational context in order to engage in 
macro-political, meso-political and micro-political games to gain and 
maintain their power within the MNC.

At the 4^th LAEMOS Colloquium we therefore wish to explore the role of 
key actors (players), conflicting perceptions and sensemaking, powerful 
boundaries, resistance to change, the power of knowledge flows and 
knowledge creation in innovative work, the influence of dominant 
ideologies as well as of national and transnational institutions which 
operate to constitute the power relations and political behaviour in 
internationally operating firms. We are interested in original ideas and 
approaches generated in both Latin America and Europe, Accordingly, we 
invite contributions in different languages (English, Spanish and 
Portuguese) to create a critical dialogue bridging the different 
experiences and knowledge of scholars from Latin America, Europe and 
other parts of the globe about the politicised MNC and the political 
role of MNCs in different local contexts. Topics of interest, but not 
limited to these, are:

    * What is the meaning of power and politics within the context of
      internationalisation and the MNC?
    * What are the rationales and ideologies of powerful key actors who
      influence the power of and in MNCs?
    * Are there differences in the ways in which the power games of and
      within MNCs are played, related to different home country and
      industry backgrounds?
    * What is the nature of headquarters-subsidiary power relations?
    * Are cross-border transfers of knowledge imposed or negotiated
    * Who are the winners and losers in MNC mergers and acquisitions and
      with what consequences for process and outcome of organisational
    * Who are the key actors who shape organisational power relations
      and how can this be studied as political sensemaking process?
    * What are the interests and resources key actors within the MNC
      (e.g. managers and employees) can draw on when engaging in
      intra-organisational and cross-border micro-political activity?
    * What are the micro-political consequences of certain global
      management approaches, such as benchmarking and coercive
      comparisons, on employment and industrial relations in local plants?
    * What are the merits and limits of conceptual ideas about power and
      politics in the context of multinationals, such as economic,
      evolutionary, culturalist, institutionalist, structuration and
      critical management theories?
    * Do current literature and theoretical constructs and research
      methods within international business, business administration,
      organizational learning, sensemaking, knowledge management, change
      and innovation, predominantly developed in Western societies,
      suffice to study how power and politics are invested in
      organizational life at all levels, including the politicised MNC?
    * Are above listed Western conceptual constructs generalisable
      across non-western societies such as Latin American countries? If
      not, what changes are needed?

We are in contact with /Critical Perspectives on International Business/ 
which would be interested in the publication of high quality papers of 
our sub-theme.


Abstracts should be about 1000 words in length (including references), 
set in A4 page layout, single spaced and in 12 point font. They should 
be uploaded and registered at the conference site 
<> by 31October 2011. Full papers (max 6000 
words) for inclusion in the Conference Proceedings are due by 28 
February 2012.

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