From Business-Government Relations to Corporate Political Activities and Non-Market Strategies: How to Frame Business Responses to Political Transitions?

Business history has had a long-standing interest in researching business-government relations (BGR), going back to Ralph Hidy’s (1970: 491–2) assessment that “the most dynamic area” in the field at the time was the history of BGR (see also Johnson, 1975). Decades later, its relevance to business history scholarship remains undimmed, as shown by the regular inclusion of chapters on the subject in key handbooks (Bucheli and Kim, 2014; Millward, 2008), as well as the Business History special issue on BGR and national economic models (see MacKenzie, Perchard, Miller & Forbes, 2021). This is also true of related fields such as management studies and international business (IB), which have a similarly long tradition stretching back to Raymond Vernon’s Sovereignty at Bay (1971), amongst several other key pieces addressing the relationship of mostly multinational companies (MNCs) and host governments (Sun et al., 2021). Since these early contributions, however, this stream of research has been recast first as corporate political activity (CPA) (Boddewyn et al., 1994; Eden et al., 2004; Hillman et al., 2004), and then further as non-market strategies (NMS) (Frynas et al., 2017; Mellahi et al., 2016). These new streams of literature offer important conceptualisations and questions for business historians and have created opportunities for more interdisciplinary research. Business historians are contributing in this area, and their contributions have, in turn, been integrated by NMS scholars in their debates (Bucheli et al., 2019; Bucheli and Decker, 2021; Decker, 2011; Liedong et al., 2017; Lubinski and Wadhwani, 2020; Mellahi et al., 2016; Minefee and Bucheli, 2021; Perchard and MacKenzie, 2020; Sun et al., 2021). This paper will provide an overview over the different streams of research and outline current key questions and the potential for further contributions from historical research to an interdisciplinary debate.