This book is concerned with the role of multinationals in the creation of global capitalism over the past two centuries. Multinationals are firms that operate in more than one country. The central premise of this book is that they should be seen as one of the primary drivers of the flows of investment, trade, and knowledge across national borders, which are at the heart of the globalization process. It follows that it is essential to understand the historical evolution of multinationals in order to understand the nature and dynamics of globalization.
The book is organized in five parts. Part I provides a theoretical and historical context for understanding the role of multinationals in global capitalism. Part II shows how multinationals saw and exploited opportunities to create value by operating across borders in natural resources, manufacturing, and services. Part III shows how these firms learned to build organizations that functioned in multiple environments. Part IV examines the policy environment faced by multinationals which has shaped their growth and strategies. Part V reviews the historical evidence on the economic, social and political impact of multinationals.
Globalization remains a highly contested subject. Countries and regions have become linked by complex flows of trade and investment. As a result, globalization has become part of the reality of the daily life of people in a way unimaginable even two decades ago. Both a blue-collar worker in Michigan and an IT software engineer in California now work in an environment where their jobs might be 'outsourced' overnight to another continent. The growth of globalization has resulted in unprecedented contacts between cultures, but it has not yet diminished clashes between them. The terrorist attack on September 11, 2001 demonstrated that globalization was far from a guarantor of peace and harmony.
The phenomenon of globalization has attracted a vast literature. There are many definitions. The geographer Harvey (1989) sees it as the 'compression' of time and space. The sociologist Guillén (2001) defined it as 'a process leading to greater independence and mutual awareness (reflexivity) among economic, political, and social units in