Multinational Corporations and Foreign Direct Investment

Multinational Corporations and Foreign Direct Investment : Avoiding Simplicity, Embracing Complexity

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The integrating thesis of this study is the inevitability of heterogeneity in FDI and MNCs and, accordingly, the imperative of disaggregation. Nuance is too pervasive to permit many valid generalizations. This leads to a hardly earth-shattering, but surprisingly infrequently-offered conclusion that FDI, i.e. that any individual foreign-owned subsidiaries can, on balance, have a positive, negative, neutral (and/or irrelevant), or indeterminate effect. Foreign-owned subsidiaries are seldom if ever identical and need to be considered on a case by case basis according to circumstances. Hence, the phrase "it depends" is the mantra of this study. Disaggregation is an essential diagnostic tool to identify and measure the different levels of quality of MNCs subsidiaries. Most policy advocates and researchers, whatever their ideological persuasion, have failed to acknowledge the seemingly obvious: different kinds of businesses engage in different kinds of corporate activity and diverse results. The result of different input is different output.
A nearly limitless number of characteristics are associated with three main variables: the nature and the effects of tens of thousands of individual foreign subsidiaries plus conditions in countries where they are located. MNCs are better described as the middlemen of change since they themselves are largely the effect of even larger phenomena, namely technological changes that restructure the international economic order. An opening exists for an even-handed, "no attitude" analysis that incorporates a methodology and viewpoint different from the thousands of books, articles, book chapters, and speeches written about MNCs and FDI. A large majority have failed to explicitly recognize how important perceptions, value judgments, ideology, and, sometimes, self-interest are in shaping discussions by both advocates and critics. People tend to view the FDI/MNC phenomena through differently configured lenses that have been individually molded by the unique mix of values and experiences that shapes our thinking. Evaluations of FDI and MNCs are prime examples of relatively oversimplified perceptions defining "truth".
This book argues that a different route to understanding is needed and overdue: acknowledge the diversity and heterogeneity of phenomena that are lumped under very broad rubrics. MNCs are different by nature and therefore different in their respective mix of costs and benefits.
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Product details

  • Paperback | 384 pages
  • 140 x 228 x 22mm | 639.99g
  • New York, United States
  • English
  • New
  • line drawings
  • 0195179366
  • 9780195179361
  • 1,768,153

Review quote

Stressing the complexity, diversity and heterogeneity of FDI-related issues, this book carries a simple, but most appropriate message: Qualify and disaggregate, don't generalize! Those in the pro and con camps get another chance to check their priors. Those between the frontlines will find sufficient reason to remain where they are. And newcomers in the field will benefit from the balanced account of what we (don't) know about FDI to decide where in the vast middle
ground to position themselves. * Peter Nunnenkamp, The Kiel Institute for the World Economy * Stephen D. Cohen's Multinational Corporations and Foreign Direct Investment accomplishes exactly what it aims to do-avoid simplicity, and embrace complexity. Carefully nuanced chapters take both beginners and advanced practitioners through the spectrum of controversial issues about the most powerful international companies in the world. * Theodore H. Moran, Marcus Wallenberg Professor of International Business and Finance, Georgetown University * Stephen Cohen has produced a very comprehensive, balanced and fair view of the Multinational Corporation and FDI. He presents an intelligent, non-judgmental and honest summary of both sides of some very complex arguments and assumes that readers are intelligent enough to draw their own conclusions. He approaches questions about the MNC and FDI from the vantage points of both theory and practice and is always careful to ground his arguments directly in the appropriate
political-economic context. This is a valuable addition to the literature on the multinational firm. * Stephen J. Kobrin, The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania * Professor Cohen has written a masterly and exceptionally well balanced review of recent scholarly thinking on the role of multinational corporations in our contemporary global economy. I particularly liked his eschewing of any easy generalizations about their merits and demerits; and his recognition that these are likely to vary according to the motives for and types of MNC activity, and to the policies pursued by both national governments and supranational agencies.
Altogether this is an eminently readable, yet intellectually satisfying volume. I warmly commend it both to students and teachers of international political economy and international business, and to all those interested in the economic and social challenges of globalization, and one of its chief
architects viz. the MNC. * John H.Dunning, University of Reading (UK) and Rutgers University *
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About Stephen D. Cohen

Stephen D. Cohen is a Professor in the School of International Service at American University specializing in international economic relations.
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