The notion that multinational companies (MNCs) are comprised of multiple subsidiaries in different countries is one that underpins voluminous research in international management. This body of research was recently the subject of an authoritative and comprehensive review in this journal (Meyer et al. in J Int Bus Stud 51(4):538–576, 2020). However, we share the concerns about the prevalence of the term ‘subsidiary’ within academic writing expressed by some others (Mees-Buss et al. in J Int Bus Stud 50(9):1513–1543, 2019) and take this further by questioning the assumptions of authority and control on which it is based. We argue that the role of national subsidiaries in how MNCs are organized has been eroded by developments ‘from above’ and ‘from below’ the national level such that it cannot be assumed that national subsidiaries are important influences on how MNCs govern and coordinate their production and service provision and how work is organized. We set out the implications for theory and methods in international management (IM).
- international business research agenda
- multinational corporations
- subsidiary role