SOAS University of London

Centre for International Studies and Diplomacy

Multinational Enterprises in a Globalising World - Economic and Legal Perspectives

Module Code:
Taught in:
Full Year

This module is designed to provide an in-depth understanding of the nature and development of multinational enterprise organisation and to view this as an evolving and changing process. From a unique inter-disciplinary perspective combining international political economy and international law, the module focuses on conveying a sound grounding in policy and regulatory issues relating to the operations of multinational enterprises in the context of changing international patterns of production. The courses will address both the internal organisation of multinational enterprises and the economic, political, social, and environmental effects of their operations. As such the module aims to give students a detailed understanding of the inter-relationship between corporate organisation, corporate operation and impact.

Core learning outcomes include a critical understanding of the role and workings of large corporations in the light of competing legal and economic theories of their organisation and activities and the ability to apply this knowledge to ongoing policy debates about reforms of international business organisation and regulation, as well as the interaction of international with national and sub-national policy and regulatory frameworks.

The module includes:

  • The political economy of the growth of MNEs: From the East India Company to Microsoft and Monsanto
  • The historical construction of legal agendas: From joint stock companies to modern corporations
  • Economic theories of MNE emergence, organisation and activities
  • Regulatory relations between MNEs and states
  • Financialisation at work: The role of MNEs in the build-up to the global financial crisis
  • Regulation through company law: Liability Issues and Social Responsibility
  • Aspects of international regulation: The development of international standards through international investment agreements and the role of dispute settlement and international investment arbitration
  • Case studies: The policy-making process: The practical impact of MNE activities and the determinants of policy response.

This module is compulsory for MA Globalisation and Multinational Corporations students and is available to all CISD students. Lectures will take place at 6pm.

Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

  • An in-depth critical understanding of the nature and development of MNE organisation.
  • An advanced understanding of changes in the international patterns of production and the inherently political nature of international production processes and organisation.
  • A sound grounding in policy and regulatory problems created by the operations of MNEs and their impact on changing international patterns of production, and a critical understanding of these in the light of competing legal and economic theories of the organisation and activities of MNEs.
  • A detailed knowledge and critical awareness of principal social, political, macroeconomic and environmental effects of MNE operations.
  • The ability to assess and design solutions to policy and regulatory issues created by the operations of MNEs and their impact on changing international patterns of production.
  • A sound understanding of economic and legal techniques and methodologies applicable to research activities in the area of MNE organisation, impact and regulation.
  • The ability to apply detailed knowledge about MNEs’ principal social, political, macroeconomic and environmental impact to ongoing policy debates about reforms of international business regulation, and its interaction with national and sub-national policy and regulatory frameworks.
  • The ability to develop original argument and research (e.g. case studies) on selected aspects of MNE activities, strategies, impact and regulation.


The module will be taught over 20 weeks with one 1 hour lecture and one 1 hour tutorial per week.

Method of assessment

  • Assessment one (2500 words); 25%
  • Assessment two (2500 words); 25%
  • Unseen written examination; 50%

Suggested reading

Economic Books:
  • J.H. Dunning and S.M. Lunda, Multinational Enterprises and the Global Economy (Cheltenham: Edward Elgar 2008).
  • Y. Cassis, Big Business. The European Experience in the Twentieth Century (OUP 1999 (paperback)).
  • A.D. Chandler and B. Mazlish (eds), Leviathans. Multinational Corporations and the new global history (Cambridge University Press 2005).
  • S.D. Cohen, Multinational Corporations and Foreign Direct Investment: Avoiding Simplicity, Embracing Complexity (Oxford University Press 2007)
  • A.S. Eichner, The Megacorp & Oligopoly. Microfoundations and macro dynamics (M.E. Sharpe, N.Y. 1976)
  • J.K. Galbraith, The New Industrial State (Princeton University Press 1976/2007)
  • G. Jones, Multinationals and Global Capitalism: From the Nineteenth to the Twenty First Century (Oxford University Press, 2005)
  • The Oxford Handbook of International Business (Alan Rugman and Thomas Brewer eds, Oxford University Press, 2000)
  • W. Milberg (ed), The Megacorp & Macrodynamics. Essays in Memory of Alfred Eichner (M.E. Sharpe, N.Y. 1992)
  • C. Pitelis and R.Sugden, The Nature of the Transnational Firm (Routledge, 2nd ed 2000).
  • L. Sklair, Globalisation Capitalism and its Alternatives (Oxford University Press, 3rd ed, 2002).
  • St. Brakman and H. Garretsen, Foreign Direct Investment and the Multinational Enterprise (MIT Press 2008)
  • Krug, J.A. and J.D. Daniels, Multinational Enterprise Theory, 3 vols (Sage Publications 2007)
  • A.E. Fernández and B. Hogenboom (eds), Big Business and Economic Development. Conglomerates and Economic Groups in Developing Countries and Transition Economies under Globalisation (Routledge 2007).
Legal Books:
  • C. Wallace, The Legal Control of Multinational Enterprises (2nd ed, 2002 Martinus Nijhoff Publishers)
  • M.Sornarajah, The International Law on Foreign Investment (Cambridge University Press 2nd ed, 2004).
  • D.Bradlow and A.Escher (eds), Legal Aspects of Foreign Direct Investment (Kluwer Law International, 1999).
  • S.Picciotto and R.Mayne (eds), Regulating International Business: Beyond Liberalisation (MacMillan, 1999).
  • J.Braithwaite and P.Drahos, Global Business Regulation (Cambridge University Press, 2000)
  • Rudolph Dolzer and Christoph Schreuer Principles of International Investment Law (Oxford University Press, 2008).


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules