Research Summary: We explore multinational strategy formation in the context of rising economic nationalism. Specifically, we examine how firms develop strategies to capitalize on the historical and aspirational attributes of national identity. Analyzing the histories of two German multinationals in late colonial India, we find that these firms engaged in “geopolitical jockeying” to delegitimize rival multinationals and position themselves as complementary to the economic and political goals of the host nation. Toward that end they employed “aspirational political practices,” addressing the inherently future‐oriented character of nationalism, and invested in the development of political capabilities to gather information and shape perceptions of national contexts. The paper contributes to a more robust conceptualization of nations and nationalism and their role in the formation of international competition and strategy.
Managerial Summary: Rising economic nationalism can create political and economic opportunities as well as threats for multinational firms. Through a historical analysis of the emerging strategy of two German companies—Siemens and Bayer—in late colonial India, we show how firms can engage in “geopolitical jockeying” to delegitimize rival multinationals and position themselves as complementary to the economic and political goals of host nations. To do so the companies engaged in “aspirational political practices,” addressing the inherently future or goal‐oriented aspects of nations, and created political capabilities designed to both gather intelligence on and shape the nationalist movements. The paper uses history as a mirror for reflecting on the causes and consequences of economic nationalism for international strategy in our own time.
Bibliographical notePublished online: 12 March 2019
- International strategy
- Multinational strategy
- Nonmarket strategy
- Political capabilities