IR453      Half Unit
Global Business in International Relations

This information is for the 2021/22 session.

Teacher responsible

Dr Robert Falkner FAW 11.01B


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

All students are required to obtain permission from the Teacher Responsible by completing the online application form linked to course selection on LSE for You. Admission is not guaranteed.

This course has a limited number of places (it is controlled access) and demand is typically high.

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. 


This course is delivered through a combination of seminars and lectures totalling a minimum of 20  hours across Lent Term. This year, some or all of this teaching will be delivered through a combination of online lectures and in-person classes/classes delivered online. Students on this course will have a reading week in Week 6, in line with departmental policy.


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 1 essay in the LT.

Formative essay of 2,000 words. 

Indicative reading

  • Bonnitcha, J., Poulsen, L. N. S., & Waibel, M. (2017). The political economy of the investment treaty regime: Oxford University Press.
  • 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.
  • Hughes, O. E. and D. O'Neill (2008). Business, Government and Globalization. Basingstoke, Parlgrave Macmillan.
  • Knudsen, J.S. and J. Moon (2017). Visible Hands. Government Regulation and International Business Responsibility. Cambridge, Cambridge University Press.
  • Manger, M. (2009). Investing in Protection. Cambridge, Cambridge University Press.
  • Mikler, J., Ed. (2013). The Handbook of Global Companies. Wiley-Blackwell.
  • Mikler, J. (2018). The political power of global corporations. Cambridge: Polity.
  • Rugman, A. M. (2014). Multinationals and development: Yale University Press.
  • Woll, C. (2008). Firm Interests: How Governments Shape Business Lobbying on Global Trade. Ithaca, Cornell University Press.


Take-home assessment (100%) in the ST.

Course selection videos

Some departments have produced short videos to introduce their courses. Please refer to the course selection videos index page for further information.

Student performance results

(2017/18 - 2019/20 combined)

Classification % of students
Distinction 22.7
Merit 72.2
Pass 5.1
Fail 0

Important information in response to COVID-19

Please note that during 2021/22 academic year some variation to teaching and learning activities may be required to respond to changes in public health advice and/or to account for the differing needs of students in attendance on campus and those who might be studying online. For example, this may involve changes to the mode of teaching delivery and/or the format or weighting of assessments. Changes will only be made if required and students will be notified about any changes to teaching or assessment plans at the earliest opportunity.

Key facts

Department: International Relations

Total students 2020/21: 60

Average class size 2020/21: 10

Controlled access 2020/21: Yes

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