Chapter | The Cambridge History of Capitalism | 2014

Firms and Global Capitalism

by Geoffrey Jones

Abstract

This chapter forms part of the two-volume Cambridge History of Capitalism, a definitive new reference work that traces the history of capitalism from its origins to the present day. The chapter focuses on the role of business enterprises as powerful actors in the spread of global capitalism after 1848 and up the present day. It shows how multinational firms have created and co-created markets and ecosystems through their ability to transfer financial, organizational, and cultural assets, as well as skills and ideologies across borders. The chapter argues that capitalism proved much better than political leaders in building institutions that coordinated activities across borders, but also points to the historical evidence concerning disappointing and sometimes negative outcomes in knowledge and technology transfer. Business enterprises emerge both as important drivers of international economic growth and as significant agents in the divergent patterns of wealth and poverty that have characterized the last two centuries.

Keywords: political economy; American History; Economic History; business history; labor history; slavery; numeracy and quantification; science and technology studies; History of the Book; globalization; international investment; international business; international marketing; Globalization; History;

Citation:

Jones, Geoffrey. "Firms and Global Capitalism." Chap. 6 in The Cambridge History of Capitalism: Volume 2. The Spread of Capitalism: From 1848 to the Present, edited by Larry Neal and Jeffrey G. Williamson, 169–200. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2014.