In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Transnational Corporations

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Reference Resources
  • Journals
  • TNCs as Sources of Knowledge and Innovation

Geography Transnational Corporations
Jennifer Johns
  • LAST REVIEWED: 30 January 2014
  • LAST MODIFIED: 30 January 2014
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199874002-0090


Transnational corporations are the focus of much popular and academic interest due to their role in globalization and the significant increase both in the size of firms and their scope since the early 1970s. TNCs are key players in the acceleration of processes of globalization, and their activities are both celebrated and deplored. Early work by geographers examined the growth of firms in relation to flows of international trade. This was often based on quantitative data that charted the international expansion of large firms from developed countries. More-recent work acknowledged a shift in the nature of overseas investment by large firms, resulting in the term “transnational corporation” (TNC) emerging. These understandings acknowledged significant changes in the ways in which TNCs were internationalizing and the nature of their presence in new markets. Current research by geographers into TNCs covers a range of topics, including the embeddedness of TNCs in local markets; the interaction among firms, institutions, and other actors; and the rise of firms from outside the “developed” world.

General Overviews

The topic of transnational corporations is diverse and crosses several disciplinary boundaries, including geography, international business and management, economics, and sociology. Given the breadth of the topic, sources tend to focus on a particular perspective and to be written for a specific disciplinary audience. More-general sources focus on explaining the broader global economy and the context in which TNCs are operating. The most widely cited cross-disciplinary text is Dicken 2011, now in its sixth edition. Two other key sources come from the field of international business. Rugman 2005 offers a broad thesis on patterns of TNC geographies and behavior, and Dunning and Lundan 2008 offers a detailed overview of the core theoretical and empirical work conducted on TNCs.

  • Dicken, Peter. Global Shift: Mapping the Changing Contours of the World Economy. 6th ed. London: SAGE, 2011.

    An indispensible resource for understanding the geography of the world economy. This text provides theoretical and empirical illustration of key issues related to globalization and TNCs. Chapter 5 (pp. 109–168) focuses on TNCs as the primary actors in the global economy, and chapters 8 to 13 (pp. 243–426) concentrate on the extractive, agro-food, clothing, automobile, advanced business services, and logistics and distribution industries.

  • Dunning, John H., and Sarianna M. Lundan. Multinational Enterprises and the Global Economy. 2d ed. Northampton, MA: Edward Elgar, 2008.

    This core text systematically reviews a wide range of theoretical and empirical studies on TNCs. This lengthy book is structured into three parts, covering the theory and history of TNCs, their internal organization, and the different impacts of TNCs.

  • Rugman, Alan M. The Regional Multinationals: MNEs and “Global” Strategic Management. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2005.

    DOI: 10.1017/CBO9780511614071

    This book uses quantitative data to support the argument that rather than being “global,” most multinational firms are strongly regional. The book is divided into three parts: first, a detailed outline of Rugman’s regional framework; second, examination of multinational firms in retail, banking, pharmaceutical and chemical, and automotive sectors; and, third, a discussion of the analytical, policy, and research implications of understanding the global economy as highly regionalized.

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