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Multinational Corporations in Transnational Networks : Theoretical and Regulatory Challenges in Historical Perspective


ABSTRACT

Multinational corporations (MNCs) have become the most powerful drivers of integration and structural changes in today’s global economy. MNCs have not completely subordinated States and markets in shaping the global economy, but they have transformed the world and given rise to a new set of economic, political, social, cultural and legal problems. Yet, quite ironically, MNCs are now facing a recombination that tends to subordinate them to transnational networks of corporate economic power. The thorny issue of regulating the global economy is, in this context, even more complex as regulatory systems of global governance must be built to fit those transnational networks superseding States and firms. This article presents an overview of the most important theories in international political economy on MNCs in order to situate the new theoretical challenges pertaining to the understanding of contemporary structural changes in the world economy and their incidences on global governance. The first section presents three configurations of globalization and concludes on the theoretical challenges of explaining and understanding the emergence and development of transnational economic networks. A second section discusses some current issues of regulation. The overall statement of this article is that globalization has, during the last decades, transformed international political economy in ways that now require new theoretical paradigms and new modes of global regulation that are adapted to a truly global economy made of networks rather than nations or firms.
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