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date: 15 October 2019

Abstract and Keywords

In this article, the issues that have captured the attention of researchers in multinational corporations (MNC) are discussed and the emerging research agenda is laid out. The first part focuses on understanding the history, and contemporary scale and significance of multinationals as economic actors. The second part considers influential theoretical approaches to the MNC offering different accounts of why they exist. Two opposing perspectives are distinguished, the economic and the political. In the past, there was a rigid divide between these but, increasingly, researchers are using elements of both perspectives to understand the dynamics of multinationals. The crucial additional feature here is the importation of insights from institutionalist literature on the relationship between firms and national contexts. The third part of this article therefore reviews how research deriving from an institutionalist perspective complements existing approaches by directing attention to the social embeddedness of multinationals and their subsidiaries.

Keywords: multinational corporations, research agenda, economic actors, firms, institutionalist literature

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