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multinational corporation,business enterprise with manufacturing, sales, or service subsidiaries in one or more foreign countries, also known as a transnational or international corporation. These corporations originated early in the 20th cent. and proliferated after World War II. Typically, a multinational corporation develops new products in its native country and manufactures them abroad, often in Third World nations, thus gaining trade advantages and economies of labor and materials. Almost all the largest multinational firms are American, Japanese, or West European. Such corporations have had worldwide influence—over other business entities and even over governments, many of which have imposed controls on them. During the last two decades of the 20th cent. many smaller corporations also became multinational, some of them in developing nations. Proponents of such enterprises maintain that they create employment, create wealth, and improve technology in countries that are in dire need of such development. Critics, however, point to their inordinate political influence, their exploitation of developing nations, and the loss of jobs that results in the corporations' home countries.
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multinational corporationa company which operates from a home base in one country with subsidiaries in others. The term transnational company has increasingly been preferred to describe large international corporations since they may not have an easily identifiable home base. World economy and trade is increasingly dominated by such companies which many authors see as outside the control of national governments. This raises issues of the control which such governments have over their own economies. Whilst the role of multinational companies has been decisive for the fate of THIRD WORLD economies and is central to the concept of IMPERIALISM and NEOIMPERIALISM, the largest companies have the majority of their investments in industrial countries. Investment in the Third World may not be the most important area for multinational companies, but they derive high profits from such investments and the effect on small Third World countries can be very significant. See also DEPENDENT INDUSTRIALIZATION, DEPENDENCY THEORY, UNEQUAL EXCHANGE.
Collins Dictionary of Sociology, 3rd ed. © HarperCollins Publishers 2000