IR453      Half Unit
Global Business in International Relations

This information is for the 2023/24 session.

Teacher responsible

Prof Robert Falkner CBG 8.02


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 explain the rise of global business and foreign direct investment, paying attention in particular to International Relations and International Political Economy approaches, but also covering the main economic explanations of MNCs. The course examines the interaction between global business and states in international relations, especially state-firm bargaining over investment decisions and the regulation of global business by states and international organizations. The course also considers the role that global business plays in selected global policy areas: climate change and the environment, economic development, and human rights.


10 hours of lectures and 15 hours of seminars in the AT.

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 investment rules

6. International taxation and global business

7. The tech giants and how to govern them

8. Global business and climate change

9. MNCs, FDI and economic development

10. MNCs and the global governance of human rights

Formative coursework

Students will be expected to produce 1 essay in the AT.

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.

Cohen, Stephen D. (2007). Multinational corporations and foreign direct investment: avoiding simplicity, embracing complexity. Oxford: 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.

Dunning, John H, & Lundan, Sarianna M. (2008). Multinational enterprises and the global economy: Edward Elgar Publishing.

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

Jensen, Nathan M. (2008). Nation-states and the multinational corporation: A political economy of foreign direct investment. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

Knudsen, J.S. and J. Moon (2017). Visible Hands. Government Regulation and International Business Responsibility. 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.

Sundaram, Anant K, & Hansen, Robert G (Eds.). (2023). Handbook of Business and Climate Change: Edward Elgar Publishing.


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

Student performance results

(2019/20 - 2021/22 combined)

Classification % of students
Distinction 24.3
Merit 73.5
Pass 2.1
Fail 0

Key facts

Department: International Relations

Total students 2022/23: 72

Average class size 2022/23: 14

Controlled access 2022/23: Yes

Lecture capture used 2022/23: Yes (MT)

Value: Half Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

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.

Personal development skills

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