IB and Economic Geography


International Business and Economic Geography; The Multinational in Geographical Space, Special issue of Journal of Economic Geography; Deadline 30 Jun 2009

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Journal of Economic Geography
Call for Papers

“International Business and Economic Geography;
The Multinational in Geographical Space”

Guest editors:

Ram Mudambi, Temple University, USA
Sjoerd Beugelsdijk, University of Groningen, The Netherlands
Philip McCann, University of Waikato, New Zealand

A firm’s location choice and its spatial antecedents and consequences are key issues in economic geography. International business (IB) scholars have also been long interested in the issue of location. It is a pillar of the well-known Ownership-Location-Internalization (OLI) paradigm, recently re-emphasized by the current highest cited paper in the Journal of International Business Studies (Dunning, 1998). However, while the regional science and economic geography literatures (notably the Uppsala school) have studied thesub-national geographical behavior of multinational enterprises (MNEs), they do not focus on the firm’s organizational characteristics. These literatures tend to highlight the crucial importance of space and proximity (Gertler, 2003). The role of the firm in space is rarely the main object of study (Beugelsdijk, 2007). For example, many economic geographers would argue that spatial proximity is important to generate knowledge spillovers, and are often willing to make the empirical assumption that co-location implies interaction. Conversely, IB scholars have a thorough knowledge of the firm, but a relatively underdeveloped view of geographic space (McCann and Mudambi, 2005). The IB literature rarely recognizes the fundamental distinction between geographic location and geographic ‘space’. For example, IB studies of multinationality routinely use measures like ‘number of countries’, in effect treating the US and Andorra as the same.

Despite the large literature on clusters, an MNE’s strategy and structure within the context of its spatial embeddedness has not received much attention. This is a crucial omission since studies that link regional characteristics to firm strategy based on macro data suffer from various forms of aggregation bias. For instance, regional scores of R&D expenditure do not tell us the whole story about firm level innovation. Thus, “the economics of territories reflect the ways in which they are ‘inserted’ into the organizational spaces of firms – either directly, as the geographic locus of particular functions, or indirectly, through customer-supplier relationships with other (local) firms (emphasis added)” (Dicken and Malmberg: 359). Hence, integrating a discussion of organizational issues with the characteristics of the sub-national region is important to better understand the interplay between the MNE and its spatial environment. The impact of the changing strategy of MNEs on global economic geography is now considered to be one of the ‘big questions’ in IB (Buckley and Ghauri, 2004; Mudambi, 2008).

This special issue of the Journal of Economic Geography constitutes an attempt to strike a balance between the emphasis on space in economic geography, and the focus on firm organization in IB. Our goal is to create a forum wherein we can increase the mutual awareness of IB and economic geography scholars. This should lead to a fruitful exchange of ideas, increasing the audience for both literatures. A significant call for just such an exchange of ideas has recently been made by John Dunning (Dunning, 2009). Indeed, this piece suggests several important research avenues of mutual interest to economic geography and international business scholars. Moreover, in terms of impact and visibility the Journal of Economic Geography provides is the ideal setting for such a forum, with an ISI citation impact factor which is typically of the order of three and a ranking in the top five of all economics journals and the top three of all geography journals. We hope that this Special Issue of the Journal of Economic Geography will contribute to an integration of the literatures in economic geography and international business and catalyze research on the relation between multinational enterprises and geographical space. More specifically, by including geographic space in the analysis of MNE behavior we aim to advance our understanding of the role of the MNE in a globalizing world. We welcome both theoretical and empirical contributions, and papers adopting either a single or Multi Level Analysis. Illustrative topics are mentioned below:

  • The ‘death of distance’ and ‘spiky’ global innovation
  • The disaggregation of the value chain and the location of value creation
  • The role of the MNE in (regional) cluster formation
  • Local partners and geographic space; spatially proximate vs. spatially distant local partners in large economies
  • Extra-organizational knowledge spillovers in industrial districts/clusters
  • Economic geography and the ‘global factory’
  • Spatial antecedents and consequences of offshoring
  • The dynamics of the spatial distribution of economic activity

Timeline & submission guidelines

All paper submissions should conform to the Journal of Economic Geography’s standard guidelines for authors, details of which can be found at the JEG website:


The deadline for paper submission is June 30, 2009 and the issue is scheduled to appear in Spring 2010. Papers should be saved in Microsoft Word format and submitted to: ram.mudambi@temple.edu.