POLITICAL SCIENCE 372A
Multinational Corporations (MNCs) and Globalization
Your research essay is worth 35% of your final grade and due Tuesday, March 31
SUGGESTED ESSAY TOPICS
• These are suggested topics only and, for the most part, frameworks devised to help you develop your own case(s). You are free to propose your own topics as well.
1. The activities of MNCs have been subject to few international regulatory controls. Examine some of the regulatory mechanisms that do exist, and suggest why they have, or have not been, effective. Some examples: the Andean Common Market (or Andean Pact); the United Nations (e.g. the New International Economic Order and Centre on Transnational Corporations); the International Labour Organization (ILO); (d). the GATT (WTO); the Multilateral Agreement on Investment (MAI).
2. Select one (or more) of the following countries, and evaluate the objectives, successes, and failures of its (their) attempt to maximize the economic benefits of FDI through national regulatory controls: Canada, France, Britain, the United States, Mexico, India, Malaysia, or the Philippines.
3. The costs and benefits of MNC activity are not shared equally in host societies, and women in particular are easy targets for exploitation. Select a country, region, and/or industry and assess the role of MNCs in creating, widening, or rectifying gender-based inequalities.
4. Many of the theories and models for MNC behaviour derive from the experience of American firms. How well do these models apply to MNCs from one or two of the following countries? Japan, South Korea, Singapore, Canada, Mexico, and Russia.
5. Even before the end of the Cold War, MNCs from the West had established a presence in communist states like the Soviet Union, its former East Bloc satellites, and China. Select one of these examples and suggest what role, if any, MNCs have played in its evolving political and economic fortunes.
6. What is Corporate Social Responsibility, and what are its prospects and limits for addressing problems between host societies and MNCs? Be sure to focus on particular countries, regions, industries, and firms.
7. Explain the rise of low-wage Export Processing Zones throughout the developing world and, focusing on regions, countries, and/industries of your choice suggest how these zones contribute to, or hinder, development.
8. The growth of interfirm alliances in a wide range of industries in recent years marks a major new development in state-MNC relations. Focusing on industries and alliances of your choice, analyze and assess the perceived benefits of such arrangements, and their possible implications for the future of international relations.
9. There is a widespread perception that MNCs are “footloose” (e.g. that they will rush to relocate in response to changing economic conditions). Select an international industry of your choice, and suggest whether or not this generalization is defensible.
10. Conventional wisdom once held that many industries were impervious to globalization, particularly those in the service sector. How compelling is that “wisdom” today?
11. What problems are posed by the global spread of industrial technology by MNCs? What can or should be done to control this aspect of their activity?
12. Explore the role of MNCs in developing the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer, and suggest what incentives might lead MNCs to help implement the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change. What does the evidence suggest about the willingness of MNCs to accept an obligation to engage more extensively in the public debate about environmental-policy options?
13. The presence of MNCs in developing countries is often linked to concerns about human rights abuses, civil conflicts, and governmental instability/overthrow. Examine the role of MNCs in creating or exacerbating conflicts in one of the following cases: (a). United Fruit in Guatemala; (b). ITT & Kennecott in Chile; (c). the Anglo-Iranian Oil Co. in Iran; (d). Bechtel in Bolivia; (e). Executive Outcomes in Sierra Leone; (f). Shell in Nigeria; (g). Unocal in Myanmar (Burma); or (h). Talisman in the Sudan.
14. MNCs are sometimes one of the only, and most institutionally significant, presences in zones of conflict. This presence suggests business opportunities. Does it also entail social obligations like human security? Explore with references to cases of your choice.
15. It has been suggested that MNCs are more complex than existing theories commonly suggest, and need to be conceptualized as “social actors” affected by norms, and capable of developing a sensitivity and commitment to socially responsible expectations. Does your own research affirm or invalidate such a view? You might want to focus your research on evolving debates about corporate social responsibility (e.g. the Global Compact).
16. Explore the evolving literature and debate around the potential role of MNCs in global governance. What are the benefits and/or dangers of MNCs taking on functions traditionally reserved for states? You might consider, for example, private military contractors or companies like internet service providers, banks, and medical enterprises that indirectly help states to (allegedly) enhance security against terrorism, disease, and other perceived threats.