Stephen Hymer, the Multinational Firm and ‘Multinational Corporate Capital
Pitelis, Christos N.
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We critically assess the contribution of Stephen Hymer to the theory of the multinational enterprise (MNE) and the political economy of multinational corporate capital. We suggest that as concerns the theory of the MNE, Hymer’s contribution has in effect predated most extant theory. His contribution to the political economy of multinational capital is less known, yet of extraordinary insight and foresight. Hymer pre-dated most important debates on what today is called ‘globalisation’, he came up with analysis of the highest quality and with predictions which in the main stood the test of time. The main limitations in Hymer’s work concern the lack of a theory of (endogenous) growth of the firm and a tendency to emphasise the monopoly attributes of large MNEs, albeit without failing to see their efficiency advantages. In part because of this tendency some of his later work involved predictions that did not necessarily and/or fully follow from his analytical framework, but were arguably shaped by ‘ideology’. Despite limitations, Hymer’s overall contribution and impact fully deserves the nearly ‘cult’ status he has now acquired in the history of economic thought and international business scholarship.
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