IR453      Half Unit
Global Business in International Relations

This information is for the 2018/19 session.

Teacher responsible

Dr Robert Falkner TOW2.11.01F


This course is available on the MSc in International Political Economy, MSc in International Political Economy (LSE and Sciences Po), MSc in International Political Economy (Research), MSc in International Relations, MSc in International Relations (LSE and Sciences Po) and MSc in International Relations (Research). This course is available with permission as an outside option to students on other programmes where regulations permit.

Course content

This course examines the role of global business as an actor in international relations. It reviews the political and economic theories that seek to explain the rise of global business, paying attention in particular to International Relations and International Political Economy theories (realism, liberalism, Marxism), but also covering the main economic explanations of MNCs. Thereafter, the course examines the interaction between global business and states in international relations. This involves the study of corporate power and how to conceptualise it in IPE, the study of state-firm bargaining over investment decisions, and the regulation of global business by states and international governance institutions. The final part of the course considers the role that global business plays in selected global policy areas: economic development, environmental protection and human rights. 


10 hours of lectures and 15 hours of seminars in the MT. 1 hour of lectures in the ST.

10 lectures and 10 seminars on the following topics: 

1. Introduction: global business in international relations

2. Globalisation and the rise of MNCs

3. Economic theories of the global firm

4. The political economy of MNC-state relations

5. International rules for MNCs I: trade and investment

6. International rules for MNCs II: taxation and offshore finance

7. The UN and global business regulation

8. MNCs, FDI and developing countries

9. MNCs and environmental protection

10. MNCs, corporate social responsibility and human rights

Formative coursework

Students will be expected to produce 2 essays in the LT.

Indicative reading

Büthe, T. (2010). "Global Private Politics: A Research Agenda." Business and Politics 12(3).

Dashwood, H. S. (2012). The Rise of Global Corporate Social Responsibility: Mining and the Spread of Global Norms. Cambridge, Cambridge University Press.

Falkner, R. (2008). Business Power and Conflict in International Environmental Politics. Basingstoke, Palgrave Macmillan.

Frynas, J. G. and S. Pegg, Eds. (2003). Transnational Corporations and Human Rights. London, Palgrave.

Hughes, O. E. and D. O'Neill (2008). Business, Government and Globalization. Basingstoke, Parlgrave Macmillan.

Levy, D. L. and P. J. Newell, Eds. (2005). The Business of Global Environmental Governance. Cambridge, MA, MIT Press.

Manger, M. (2009). Investing in Protection. Cambridge, Cambridge University Presss.

May, C., Ed. (2006). Global Corporate Power. Boulder, Lynne Rienner.

Mikler, J., Ed. (2013). The Handbook of Global Companies. Wiley-Blackwell.

Woll, C. (2008). Firm Interests: How Governments Shape Business Lobbying on Global Trade. Ithaca, Cornell University Press.


Exam (100%, duration: 2 hours) in the summer exam period.

A 2-hour final examination. Students will be asked to answer 2 out of 8 questions.

Key facts

Department: International Relations

Total students 2017/18: 62

Average class size 2017/18: 15

Controlled access 2017/18: Yes

Lecture capture used 2017/18: Yes (LT)

Value: Half Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Personal development skills

  • Self-management
  • Team working
  • Problem solving
  • Application of information skills
  • Communication
  • Specialist skills