Transnational Corporations and Global Governance

Posted: 7 Sep 2018

See all articles by Tim Bartley

Tim Bartley

Washington University in St. Louis - Department of Sociology

Date Written: July 2018


Scholars and critics often lament that corporations rule the world, but predominant accounts of global governance imply almost the opposite: With theories populated by national governments and intergovernmental and nongovernmental organizations, it might appear that nearly everyone except corporations writes the rules that govern across borders. This article compiles research on the varied ways in which multinational and transnational corporations have shaped global governance, drawing attention to the contours and limits of corporate power. Corporations can be seen variously as sponsors, inhibitors, and direct providers of global governance. They have, for example, been sponsors of neoliberal trade rules, inhibitors of some labor and environmental regimes, and providers of private standards for finance, safety, sustainability, and human rights. Scholars may be tempted to focus on just one of these roles or to presume unified corporate dominance, but it is important to grapple with all three and to investigate the conditions under which corporate actions are more or less unified and decisive.

Suggested Citation

Bartley, Tim, Transnational Corporations and Global Governance (July 2018). Annual Review of Sociology, Vol. 44, pp. 145-165, 2018, Available at SSRN: or

Tim Bartley (Contact Author)

Washington University in St. Louis - Department of Sociology ( email )

1 Brookings Drive
St. Louis, MO 63130
United States

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