Call for papers: Association of American Geographers Conference 2013, April, Los Angeles



Evolutionary perspectives on the multinational corporation (MNC)-institution nexus


Session convenors:

Crispian Fuller, Sociology and Policy Group, Aston University

Nicholas A. Phelps, Bartlett School of Planning, UCL

Andrew Wood, Geography, University of Kentucky


In recent years there has developed a growing interest in the evolutionary relationship between corporate subsidiaries and the social and physical spaces in which they operate.  Regarding the former, subsidiaries have become critical elements of corporations in response to growing market segmentation, consumer sophistication and the increasing importance of place-specific knowledge and technology in the production process (Bettis and Hitt, 1995).  Of notable importance is the growing significance of certain specialised corporate subsidiaries, characterised by tangible and intangible knowledge-based capabilities and assets, but where there remains a heterogeneous range of subsidiary types (Meyer et al, 2010).  This has been accompanied by the development of increasingly complex relations between corporations and their production networks, which has been extensively documented within the global production networks perspective (Coe et al, 2008). 


These corporate dynamics all suggest a complex relationship between corporations, institutions, space and place.  The global production network perspective in particular has sought to conceptualise such relations, most notably in strategic coupling between production networks and regional institutions.  While not explicitly concerned with corporations, evolutionary economic geography has provided important insights into the co-evolutionary relationship between firms and regions. Pike et al (2009) have stressed the need for a political economy perspective on the ‘black box’ of national and sub-national institutions as these come to shape enterprise dynamics. Martin (2010) has sought to advance this agenda by conceptualising regional economic development via an understanding of processes of institutional change involving layering, conversion and recombination.  MacKinnon (2011) has taken this forward by linking institutional layering, conversion and recombination to speak of strategic coupling, de-coupling and re-coupling.


Two important issues arise from such developments. Firstly, while such accounts recognise the important role of power and politics such issues continue to be under-conceptualised, especially in regard to corporations as active agents. In particular, the power relations deployed by corporations and their causal role in the circumvention, contestation and (re)creation of formal and informal institutions remains a critical issue in regional development. Such issues are of considerable importance given the reconfiguration of corporations and their production networks in response to the financial crisis and the continuing growth of BRIC markets where corporations are active in the creation of institutions. However, these processes vary significantly between different regions.


Secondly, while GPN and EEG perspectives present substantial insights into evolutionary and relational tendencies the internal dynamics, or ‘black box’, of MNEs has tended to be under-examined.  In contrast, there are a range of approaches beyond economic geography that present new potential theoretical insights, including institutional approaches within organisational analysis and the capabilities based view of the firm. These approaches have the potential to advance economic geography’s conceptions of the internal workings of corporations, thus contributing to a more comprehensive understanding of how these relate to socio-spatial relations. 


We seek papers offering conceptual and empirical insights into the changing socio-spatial relations between corporations and institutions across a range of spaces, scales and places. We seek a productive dialogue between concepts and findings from a range of perspectives across economic geography and international business studies – one which also places greater emphasis, where appropriate, on ‘bringing the corporation back in’.  Key themes include (but are not limited to):


- Theoretical and empirical investigations of the role of MNE corporate and subsidiary dynamics within Global Production Networks (GPNs);


- Relationship between the internal dynamics of corporations and their subsidiaries and processes of strategic coupling, de-coupling and re-coupling;


- Applications of evolutionary economic geographical perspectives to understandings of the changing role and responsibilities of MNE subsidiaries and regional development implications thereof;


- Applying political economy insights to issues of the co-evolution between corporations, subsidiaries and their host national and subnational institutions and territories;


- International differences in relations between national/sub-national institutions and corporate subsidiaries.



Please send abstracts of no more than 250 words to [log in to unmask] by 1st October 2012.


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