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Transnational Communities Programme

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Conference sponsored by the UK Economic and Social Research Council’s
Transnational Communities Programme


Multinational Enterprises: Embedded organisations, transnational federations or global learning communities?

University of Warwick, Coventry, UK: September 6-8, 2001

The nature of the multinational enterprise (MNE) as a distinctive form of economic coordination has been controversial for some time. Much of the strategic management and international business literature has assumed that it is a separate kind of economic actor simply by virtue of operating across borders, without much attention being paid as to why that might be the case. In contrast, much organisational analysis has viewed MNEs as predominately national firms with foreign operations, and consequently denied their separate status as distinctive forms of organisation. Similarly, while some see them as cohesive, integrated hierarchies pursuing profits across the globe, others conceive them as decentralised federations of locally embedded sub-units tenuously united through financial controls.

These varied views of the MNE reflect different intellectual goals and approaches, as well as changing perceptions of their role and power in coordinating activities around the world. However, the once prevalent contrast between celebrating and demonising the MNE is giving way to more nuanced understandings as the number of empirical studies of how different kinds of MNE have developed and operate in varying circumstances has grown. It is becoming increasingly recognised that: a) simply operating across national borders need not generate novel forms of economic coordination, b) there is no single logic underlying international expansion and, c) there is a considerable variety of organisational forms amongst MNEs, not least because of institutional and technological differences.

It is therefore timely to hold a conference bringing together students of the MNE from different intellectual fields and approaches to consider this empirical research and its implications for our understanding of MNEs, and of international economic coordination more generally. We propose to organise the conference around the following four major themes.

        The role of home country institutions and systems of economic organisation in structuring how firms internationalise and coordinate their operations in many countries.

        How different kinds of MNEs learn from their foreign subsidiaries and develop distinctive technological competences as a result of such learning. 

        How different kinds of MNE manage activities across countries, regions and continents, their degrees and modes of integration

        How international capital markets, global business regulation and other cross-national modes of governance affect MNE priorities and strategies

The organizers invite papers from contributors in any of these areas. The goal is to further extend existing research in which multinational corporations are treated as transnational social spaces where the dynamics of interaction within, across and outside firm boundaries are of central concern.

The Conference is sponsored by the UK Economic and Social Research Council’s Programme on Transnational Communities. For details of the Programme and its associated activities, working papers and research projects, see

Prospective authors are asked to send abstracts to both organisers by March 1, 2001. Contributors will be notified of the organisers’ decision by March 15, 2001. Full papers are to be delivered to the organisers by 1 July 2001.

Date and Venue

6-8th September 2001, Warwick Business School, University of Warwick, Coventry, UK


Glenn Morgan, Warwick Business School, University of Warwick, Coventry CV4 7AL, UK Tel: +44 2476 522580, Fax: +44 2476 524656, Email:

Richard Whitley Manchester Business School, Booth Street West, Manchester M15 6PB, UK, Tel: +44 161 275 6391, Email:



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