Courses taught at Columbia

The Politics of Multinational Enterprises [U]

Course description
Virtually all of the world’s largest, most productive, and most politically powerful companies have operations in multiple countries. These multinational enterprises (MNEs) are responsible for the majority of global trade, one-third of global GDP, and one quarter of global employment; they also engage in corruption, commit labor rights violations, and generate a large share of global carbon emissions. In this course, we will study the MNE as a unique type of political actor. Drawing on research from scholars of international relations, economics, and business, we will attempt to answer questions such as: what determines the balance of power between MNEs and the developing countries that host them? How do governments regulate companies that operate in multiple—and sometimes, in dozens—of different national jurisdictions? How and why do MNEs lobby governments in order to achieve their preferred policies? And how can MNEs use their unique global structures to evade rules that they don’t want to follow? We will also frequently engage with ongoing, real-world interactions between MNEs and governments through the lens of social science theory.

Business and Politics in a Globalized World [U]

Course description
Companies (or, as we'll mostly refer to them, firms) play a number of important roles in both domestic and international politics; among other activities, they create jobs, engage in trade and investment, create social responsibility programs, lobby governments, and create much of the world's pollution. How should we think about firms as political actors? Why, when, and how do firms attempt to influence policymaking? And when do they succeed? In this course, we will study strategic collaboration, competition, and collusion between firms and governments in a range of settings and policy areas. To do so, we will draw on insights from international relations, economics, and business scholars, and we will frequently engage with current real-world examples of business-government relations. Topics will include (among others) lobbying, corporate social responsibility, taxation and tax avoidance, public-private governance, and corporate influence in foreign policy.

Firms in (International) Political Economy [G]

Course description
Inspired both by advances in data availability and a growing scholarly appreciation for the political influence of the private sector, firm-level theories and research designs have grown increasingly popular among political economy scholars in recent years. While studying firms allows for the generation of new insights across a broad array of substantive topics, it carries with it several unique conceptual and empirical challenges. For example, how should we conceive of firms as political actors, given their organizational structures? What are firms’ policy preferences? How do they influence politics, and how can we measure their impact? In this course we will review political economy research that centers the firm as the actor of interest; particular focus will be given to recently published work that is innovative in terms of methodology, measurement, and/or data collection. While we will focus primarily on international political economy applications—for example, firm-level studies of trade, investment, and commercial diplomacy—we will also cover less inherently international topics such as lobbying, environmental politics, and private governance/corporate social responsibility. In addition to providing preparation for the IR field exam, this course aims to give students the tools to conduct state-of-the-art political economy research at the firm level.