T12P02 - Global Corporate Power in an Age of Globalisation

Topic : Policy, Business and Interest Groups

Panel Chair : John Mikler - john.mikler@sydney.edu.au

Panel Second Chair : Karsten Ronit - KR@ifs.ku.dk

Objectives and Scientific Relevance of the panel

While states and civil society are well drawn in terms of their institutions and ideologies, multinational corporations (MNCs) are all too often more simply sketched as mechanisms of profit maximisation.  The power they wield is then seen in these terms.  The result is often a rather disembodied analysis of corporate power which focuses on the role of markets versus the state, the power of capital over labour and democratically elected state representatives, and the way assumed corporate interests are served that clash with citizens’ aspirations.  We have long been told that the rise of MNCs means they potentially ‘rule the world’ given the size and global scope of their operations, yet there remains a relative dearth of contemporary analysis on what their ‘ruling’ means in a policy and governance sense. The central aim of this panel will be to address the comparative lack of study of corporations and their power in the public policy process by explicitly casting them as political, rather than simply market actors, and to present case studies that illustrate what this means in practice.

 

While it is observed that governance is now a matter for non-state transnational actors instead of/in addition to states, often the focus for analysis then returns to what this means for states.  Given the aim of this panel, the intention is to explicitly re-focus debates regarding corporate power on MNCs themselves.  The state is seen as legitimately ‘in charge’ if democratically elected/representative of its citizens’ aspirations and governs in light of these.  In what sense are MNCs?  To answer this question the panel will focus on the extent to which they set the public policy agenda because they possess the capacity do so, but also because they are seen as possessing the legitimacy to do so.  As such, MNCs will be studied for the way they influence governments and exert leverage through lobbying, as well as because of their size and economic dominance.  But in addition, this panel will welcome papers that consider the extent to which they create their interests in others – ie. a belief that what serves them also serves the public interest nationally, regionally and globally. 

 

If a central question for public policy scholars is ‘who governs?’, then the power of global corporations is a question of how they influence others in the policy process (eg. governments, regulatory bodies and international organisations) as well as whether they are seen as possessing the legitimacy to set the agenda and self-regulate in their own right.  In casting corporations as political actors with complex identities and strategies to be examined, rather than assumed (eg. as a result of applying traditional theories of international political economy), the panel will consider how their interests and operations have explanatory power for how markets are structured, the outcomes produced for society, and the nature of the public policy process that produces these outcomes.

Call for papers

While states and civil society are well drawn in terms of their institutions and ideologies, multinational corporations (MNCs) are all too often more simply sketched as mechanisms of profit maximisation.  The power they wield is then seen in these terms for the way that it impacts on the public policy process and the outcomes produced for society.  The result is often a rather disembodied analysis of corporate power which focuses on the role of markets versus the state, the power of capital over labour and democratically elected state representatives,and the way (assumed) corporate interests are served that clash with citizens’ aspirations. We have long been told that the rise of MNCs means that they now potentially ‘rule the world’ given the size and scope of their operations. What does this mean in a policy and governance sense? Paper proposals are invited that re-cast MNCs as political actors with complex identities and strategies to be examined, rather than assumed. Their identities and strategies have explanatory power for how markets are structured, the outcomes produced for society, and the nature of the public policy process in respect of these.  Recognising this, papers should address their capacity to exert influence on the public policy process, as well as why and whether MNCs should be perceived as legitimate self-regulators in a globalised world.  They may do so as a theoretical contribution to questions of national, regional and global governance, as well as in respect of cases that illustrate the impact of corporations on issues areas such as global development, gender, inequality, environmental sustainability, security and human rights.

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