Whither national subsidiaries? The need to refocus international management research on structures and processes that matter

Tony Edwards, Luda Svystunova, Phil Almond, Philipp Kern, Kyoungmi Kim, Olga Tregaskis

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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).

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)203–210
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of International Business Studies
Early online date1 Jun 2021
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2022


  • international business research agenda
  • multinational corporations
  • subsidiary role

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