Populist Politics and International Business Policy:

Problems, Practices, and Prescriptions for MNEs and Their Regulators


A Special Issue of Papers Proposed for Publication in

Journal of International Business Policy


Paper Submission Deadline: March 15, 2022


Special Issue Co-Editors:

Christopher A. Hartwell, Barclay E. James, Thomas Lindner, Jakob Müllner & Paul M. Vaaler[1]


Coordinating JIBP Senior Editor:

Paul M. Vaaler


SI Description

The Journal of International Business Policy (JIBP) has been analyzing populist politics and their impact on international business (IB) policy from its founding. Rodrik’s (2018) lead article in the inaugural issue of JIBP explained post-Cold War origins of nationalist, anti-elitist, anti-globalist ideologies and ideologues in different regions of the world. It analyzed current problems they pose for international trade and investment. It prescribed general public policy reforms for national and international regulators as well as general IB practices for multinational enterprises (MNE) dealing with those problems. It also set a foundation for future IB research analyzing the specifics: specific populist politics and politicians in host countries; specific problems they pose for international trade and investment; specific public policies and IB practices diminishing or magnifying those problems for others. This JIBP special issue aims to build on that foundation.


Long before JIBP’s founding, IB researchers analyzed problems raised by mismatched host-country politics and MNE investing practices (Robinson, 1963; Vernon, 1971, Kobrin, 1987). That said, there is something new and different about the current strains of populist politics turning up in different countries and regions. Indeed, one challenge facing researchers in IB and related fields is in defining populism and its politics. Political scientists find it “thin” on ideology (Stanley, 2008). In response, Rode and Revuelta (2015) define different types of populism: structural populism means policies enhancing the development of a distinct national culture; economic populism means policies enhancing national wealth and changing its distribution; political-institutional populism means policies enhancing the personal story and charisma of a national leader; and discursive populism means policies enhancing the national “good’ in the battle of “good versus evil” involving domestic elites versus regular people, and both domestic groups against foreigners. In this context, populism may seem similar to more conventional left-wing politics emphasizing the economic priorities of workers seeking a “fair” redistribution of national wealth. But populism may also arise in forms similar to right-wing political conventions emphasizing the cultural priorities of small business entrepreneurs and families devoted to national values. As a unifying characteristic, they all engender a suspicion of foreigners, including MNEs (Hartwell & Devinney, 2021).


No matter which definition of populism is utilized, the phenomenon populism has persisted as a political force for many reasons, not least of all its malleability but also its easy characterization of good versus evil and/or a virtuous polity pushing back against corrupt politicians. But the landscape of populism, once the exclusive property of Latin America and other developing regions, has shifted substantially over the past 15 years. In the 2020s, populist policies threatening MNE operations still occasionally inform politicians in emerging markets: President of the Philippines, Rodrigo Duterte, and his infrastructure development policies favoring contractors with domestic partners may be an apt example. But the geographic scope of such populist policies has broadened considerably. It includes emerging-market economic giants like Brazil under President Jair Bolsonaro and his coalition of supporting parties named “Brazil above everything, God above everyone.” It includes industrialized liberal democracies like the UK under Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his Tory Brexiteers. It includes illiberalizing transition states like Hungary under Prime Minister Viktor Orbán and his anti-immigrant Fidesz party winning an unprecedented third consecutive electoral mandate in 2018.


No matter populism’s general definition or its specific policies and politicians, the ultimate goals are acquisition and retention of executive political power (Devinney & Hartwell, 2020; Rode & Revuelta, 2015). To those ends, populist politics and politicians subvert institutions limiting that power. They weaken legislative and judicial checks on that power (Devinney & Hartwell 2020). The executive gains greater discretion to change laws and regulations (García-Canal & Guillén, 2008). But those laws and regulations are also written to assure MNEs that investment agreements struck with the executive in the past will persist in the future (Rode & Revuelta 2015). They assure MNEs that they can support their investments with international transfers of people and technologies. Thus, populist goals to acquire and retain executive political power often undermine the institutional policy stability (Henisz, 2000) on which MNEs depend for investment project survival and success.


Mainstream IB theories provide insights into how populism may influence cross-border business. Under institutional economics, for example, political parties are “design instruments” for the formal institutional environment in a country (North, 1990; Williamson, 2000). Investigating these changes, IB research has made inroads into understanding how populism influences firm internationalization. Ghauri, Strange, and Cooke (2021), for example, tell us that populism may change the trajectory of MNE internationalization. Devinney and Hartwell (2020) suggest that governments influenced by populist political parties are more inclined to pressure MNEs against seeking global scope. Rode and Revuelta (2015) illustrate empirically that countries with populist governments reduce economic freedom in at least three ways: they diminish legal security all investors seek; they limit the freedom to trade abroad denying investors business opportunities abroad; and they tighten economic regulations constraining investors seeking business opportunities at home. Such instability may also influence the structuring cross-border transactions (Dorobantu, Lindner, & Müllner, 2020). It may even force investors to pair up with a state-owned enterprise, thus blurring economic and political aspects of business opportunities (James & Vaaler, 2018). Populist politics and policies often pose problems for investors, particularly MNEs promoting greater regional and global economic integration (Kunczer, Lindner & Puck, 2019).


Empirically, IB research on populism and firm-level outcomes is still in its infancy. There are sources at hand to speed that growth. Political science researchers have developed detailed cross-country data on populist party platform issues, vote shares, legislative representation and government participation rates. Those data sources include the “Manifesto Project,” the “Varieties of Democracy Database,” and the “Timbro Authoritarian Populism Index.” Combined with firm-level databases more familiar in IB scholarship (see, e.g., James & Vaaler, 2018), these political science-based data sources can readily equip IB researchers for interdisciplinary empirical work on the nexus between populist policies, MNE strategies and global governance.


Our SI seeks papers on populism and IB policy contributing novel theory and empirics. We want to build on the foundation laid in the inaugural issue of JIBP. In the process, we want to position JIBP as the premier forum for IB research and researchers interested in populism and its implications for MNE operations across different country contexts. The SI invites submissions from researchers in IB, other management fields, and fields outside of management such as economics, political science, sociology, law, geography, development studies, public policy, and international relations. However, all submissions should offer clear policy contributions relevant for IB scholarship and practice. We encourage submissions bridging disciplines and we welcome papers primarily aimed at theory development as well as papers primarily aimed at empirical investigation of theoretically-grounded research questions. Empirical investigations may be primarily quantitative, qualitative, or a mix of both approaches. Most importantly, all contributions should spell out connections between populism and IB policy consequences relevant to public regulators, MNE executives, or both.


Research topics may include but are not limited to the following:

·       What institutions empower or constrain populist policies and politics relevant to MNE operations?

·       How are the varieties of host-country populism across the partisan political spectrum relevant for MNE decisions about whether and how to invest there? 

·       How do populist policies in developing and developed countries differ in ways that matter for MNEs?

·       How does populism spill across national or even regional borders that affect IB policies relevant to MNEs?

·       Which international institutions relevant to MNEs are more resilient to populist political influences?

·       How do varieties of populism affect different forms of foreign investment carried out by MNEs, e.g. project finance-based investment, public-private partnership-based investment, state-owned enterprise-based investment?

·       What firm-level elements influence MNE exposure to host-country populist politics, e.g. partial state-ownership, operation in a national security industry, operation in a technology-intensive industry, operation in highly-regulated industry, operation in an industry dominated by economically- or socially-defined elites?

·       How does populism influence MNEs internationalization via licensing and franchising?

·       When might populist shifts in host-country politics benefit MNEs, and actually decrease their “liability of foreignness”?

·       How might populist policies in an MNE’s home country change important intra-organizational strategies and structures, e.g. subsidiary-headquarters relationships, ex-pat movements between subsidiaries, MNE accounting practices?

·       What types of non-market strategies do MNEs use to counter host-country populist shifts, e.g. host-country political connections, philanthropic donations?


These topics are not exhaustive but merely illustrative of possible submission topics.


SI Workshop

The SI editors will invite authors to participate in a paper development workshop after the first round of paper review and editorial decision in mid-2022. The paper development workshop will occur in Fall 2022 in coordination with the annual meeting of the European International Business Association. The exact date and location will be announced later in 2021. Authors in the process of revising their papers will have the opportunity to meet SI editors and other invitees, present their work in progress, and meet IB scholars sharing their research interests. Invitation to the workshop does not assure acceptance of papers for publication in the SI.



SI Timeline from Submission to Publication

All submissions will be evaluated by the special issue editors. They will follow this timeline for submission, peer review, revision, acceptance, and JIBP publication:


·       March 15, 2022: Deadline for submission of full manuscripts via Manuscript Central portal for JIBP (

·       June 30, 2022: Notification of decisions on submitted manuscripts.

·       Fall (September) 2022: Paper development workshop for papers under revision.

·       October 15, 2022: Revised manuscripts due.

·       March 15, 2023: Last version of manuscript due.

·       July 31, 2023: Final decision about inclusion into SI

·       December 2023:  Publication of JIBP special issue.


Submissions must comply with the JIBP editorial guidelines, code of ethics, and style guide. Please contact the special issue editors with any questions.



SI Editor Bios

Christopher A. Hartwell is a professor and heads the International Management Institute at the Zurich University of Applied Sciences (ZHAW) School of Management and Law.  He is also a professor of international management at Kozminski University in Poland and a visiting professor at the Russian Presidential Academy of National Economy and Public Administration.  Chris studies institutional development and firm strategy, especially the interplay between financial institutions and other political and economic institutions. He has published his research in several journals including Journal of World Business, Global Strategy Journal, Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Explorations in Economic History, Journal of Comparative Economics, Regional Studies, Cambridge Journal of Economics, and Journal of Institutional Economics.  You can learn more about Chris and his background here:


Barclay E. James is an associate professor of international business at the Greehey School of Business at St. Mary’s University in San Antonio, Texas.  Barclay studies host-country investment policies, political actors and their impact on MNE risk management.  His research has been published in several journals including Organization Science, Management International Review, Journal of International Management, International Business Review, Journal of Business Research, and Asia Pacific Journal of Management.  You can learn more about Barclay and his background here:


Thomas Lindner is a professor of international management at University of Innsbruck. He is also a visiting professor at the Vienna University of Economics and Management (WU) as well as a guest lecturer at the Copenhagen Business School and the Nantes Business School. Thomas studies international finance and strategy with a special interest in the valuation of cross-border bond issues, and project finance. His research has been published in several journals including Academy of Management Journal, International Business Review, Journal of International Business Policy, Journal of International Business Studies, Journal of International Management, and the Journal of World Business.  You can learn more about Thomas and his background here:


Jakob Müllner is an associate professor of international business and finance at WU. His work focuses on international business and financial risk management strategies in internationalization.  He has published his research in several journals including the Academy of Management Journal, Journal of Corporate Finance, and Journal of World Business.  You can learn more about Jakob and his background here:


Paul M. Vaaler is a professor and the John and Bruce Mooty Chair in Law & Business, a joint appointment of the University of Minnesota’s Law School and Carlson School of Management.  He is a senior editor at JIBP.  Paul studies risk and investment behavior by foreign firms and individuals active in developing countries undergoing policy reforms.  He has published his research in several journals including the Academy of Management Journal, Economics Letters, Journal of Business Venturing, Journal of International Business Studies, Journal of International Management, Journal of International Money and Finance, Journal of Management Studies, Journal of World Business, Organization Science, Review of Development Economics, Strategic Management Journal, and Strategy Science.  You can learn more about Paul and his background here:



SI References

Devinney, T. M., & Hartwell, C. A. 2020. Varieties of populism. Global Strategy Journal, 10(1), 32-66.


Dorobantu, S., Lindner, T., & Müllner, J. 2020. Political risk and alliance diversity: A two-stage model of partner selection in multipartner alliances. Academy of Management Journal, 63(6), 1775-1806.


GarcíaCanal, E., & Guillén, M. F. 2008. Risk and the strategy of foreign location choice in regulated industries. Strategic Management Journal, 29(10), 1097-1115.


Ghauri, P., Strange, R., & Cooke, F. L. 2021. Research on international business: The new realities. International Business Review, 30(2), 101794.


Hartwell, C. A., & Devinney, T. 2021. Populism, political risk, and pandemics: The challenges of political leadership for business in a post-COVID world. Journal of World Business, 56(4), 101225.


Henisz, W. 2000. The institutional environment for multinational investment. Journal of Law, Economics and Organization, 16: 334-364.


James, B. E., & Vaaler, P. M. 2018. Minority rules: Credible state ownership and investment risk around the world. Organization Science, 29(4), 653-677.


Kobrin, S. 1987. Testing the bargaining hypothesis in the manufacturing sector in developing countries. International Organization, 41: 609-638.


Kunczer, V., Lindner, T., & Puck, J. 2019. Benefitting from immigration: The value of immigrants’ country knowledge for firm internationalization. Journal of International Business Policy, 2(4), 356-375.


North, D. 1990. A transaction cost theory of politics. Journal of Theoretical Politics, 2(4), 355-367.


Robinson, R. 1963. International business policy. New York, NY: Holt:  Rinehart & Winston.


Rode, M., & Revuelta, J. (2015). The wild bunch! An empirical note on populism and economic institutions. Economics of Governance, 16(1), 73-96.


Rodrik, D. 2018. Populism and the economics of globalization. Journal of International Business Policy, 1(1), 12-33.


Stanley, B. 2008. The thin ideology of populism. Journal of Political Ideologies, 13(1), 95-110.


Vernon, R. 1971. Sovereignty at bay: The multinational spread of U.S. enterprise. New York, NY: Basic Books.


Williamson, O. 2000.  The new institutional economics:  Taking stock, looking ahead. Journal of Economic Literature, 38(3), 595-613.


SI Editor Contact Information


Christopher A. Hartwell

Professor, Director of International Mgmt. Institute

ZHAW School of Management and Law

Theaterstrasse 17, 8400 Winterthur


E-Mail: [log in to unmask]


Barclay E. James

Associate Professor of International Business

St. Mary's University

One Camino Santa Maria, San Antonio, TX 78228


E-Mail: [log in to unmask]


Thomas Lindner

Professor of International Management

University of Innsbruck

Karl-Rahner-Platz 3, 6020 Innsbruck


E-Mail: [log in to unmask]


Jakob Müllner

Associate Professor of International Management

Vienna University of Economics & Management

Welthandelsplatz 1, 1020 Vienna


E-Mail: [log in to unmask]  


Paul M. Vaaler

Professor, Mooty Chair in Law and Business

Carlson School of Management

University of Minnesota

321 19th Ave S, Minneapolis, MN 55455


E-Mail: [log in to unmask]


[1] SI editor contact information is provided at the conclusion of this call.

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