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

Subtheme call

 The politicised multinational company: The role of actors and institutions


 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, Brazil

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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, etc.).


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 4th 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:



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 www.laemos2012.org by 31October 2011. Full papers (max 6000 words) for inclusion in the Conference Proceedings are due by 28 February 2012.

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