Transnational corporations in international political economy
This thesis examines the conceptualisation of transnational corporations by realism and neoliberalism within the discipline of international political economy. It initially considers, via case studies, the example of three 'transnationals' closing plants in northeast England in 1998/9, asking how those actions correlated with existing theoretical conceptualisations. From this analysis, a hypothesis is developed whereby all firms are seen as national constructs and, as such, subordinate to the state. Theoretical and academic legitimacy is then provided by considering the continued importance of the national in forming identity, how political schools of thought have sought to accommodate the national, and whether theories of the firm can explain national identity in abstract corporate bodies. An holistic theoretical explanation of the firm as a nationa' construct is reached, identifying national identity as the strongest social sphere influencing development of the individual self, with realist behavioural theories showing it as imported into firms as abstract social structures. This finds a political home in the Gramscian concept of the national popular. The North East of England is then used as the defined geographic region in which to test the hypothesis empirically via a synthesis of extensive and intensive research methods. Questionnaires to all firms with host operations constitutes the former, and the latter is provided by documentary evidence, the Internet and interviews informing case studies focusing on twelve of these firms with home bases in the United States, the European Union, Scandinavia and Asia. The testing fails to falsify the hypothesis, and the manner in which the case studies display their national identity is discussed. The thesis concludes by offering a new way in which a transnational corporation can be identified as conceptually distinct from other firms. It thereafter confirms that, failing to identify such a firm by the empirical testing undertaken, reinforces realist ideas of the firm in world order, whereas neoliberal ideas remain more in the realm of hope and/or expectation.