Leviathans: Multinational Corporations and the New Global History.

Author:Groenewegen, John
Position::Book review

Leviathans: Multinational Corporations and the New Global History, edited by Alfred D. Chandler, Jr., and Bruce Mazlish. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005. Cloth, ISBN 0521840619, $65.00; paper, ISBN 0521549930, $22.99. 249 pages.

Multinational corporations (MNCs) are central in many economic and political debates, not always in a positive sense. McDonalds has had difficult times in France, Nike has invested a lot in improving its bad reputation due to exploiting labor in Vietnam, and Ford Motor Corporation announced plans to fire tens of thousands of people all over the world. Often consumers easily make mistakes in judging MNCs: consider a consumer in the United States who purchases Ben & Jerry's ice cream. To most consumers Ben & Jerry's represents the opposite of an MNC, which focuses on profit maximization at the cost of the well-being of complete communities. Ben & Jerry's is known because of the support for environmental and social causes and fair labor practices. What most consumers do not know is that Ben &Jerry's was taken over in 2000 by Unilever, one of the largest MNCs in consumer products. The general feeling about MNCs is one of uneasiness: which firms belong to the MNC, who are the controlling shareholders, and what are their intentions? The community feels to have too little knowledge and means of control, whereas the impact of the decisions of the MNCs on society are very large. Their impact is related to their nature. Apart from the fact that an MNC controls assets in more than one country at the time, an MNC has production facilities in several countries on at least two continents and employees stationed worldwide and financial investments scattered around the globe. A leviathan (defined alternatively as a great sea monster, a large ocean-going ship, a vast bureaucracy, or something "large and formidable") has an impact on almost every sphere of life: environmental policies, international security, from issues of personal identity to issues of community.

The book edited by Alfred D. Chandler and Bruce Mazlish intends to provide an analysis of MNCs as they actually are, not to provide a normative judgment. In doing so many aspects of the MNCs are addressed.

In the first chapter Brian Roach demonstrates the magnitude of MNCs' economic activities. MNCs seek not only low costs but also a favorable regulatory environment. Their actions do not necessary coincide with societal interest: that is why greater corporate...

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