Corporate Leviathans: Business Networks and American Statecraft since 1900

Throughout the twentieth century, the United States used its economic and military power to protect American corporations abroad, even when it ran counter to decisionmakers’ diplomatic to and domestic political interests. Why would decisionmakers jeopardize their interests to protect relatively minor foreign investments? In Corporate Leviathans, I find that corporate power lies at the heart of many of these cases, and develop a framework for understanding the conditions under which a corporation can influence statecraft. Using archival and historical sources, I assess six cases of U.S. statecraft in South America, the Middle East, and Asia from 1900 to the present. I argue a corporation’s social network position is a crucial element of its power and influence in international relations. Corporations exercised the greatest influence on statecraft when they were both centrally positioned in a foreign market and had close personal ties to policymakers. Theirmarket position influenced the international context in which national security issues were formulated and their social ties shaped information environment in which policy decisions were made. Network dynamics help us make sense of why small firms sometimes have an outsized influence on international politics, and more puzzling, why large multinationals sometimes do not.

Corporate Leviathans provides important lessons about great power politics, the sources of corporate power, and the origins of the American-led order. For scholars of international security, the book overturns the conventional wisdom that corporations are epiphenomenal to great power politics, recovering the corporation as a critical player in great power politics rather than a mere tool of great power rivalries. Through a network-perspective, the book also reveals how the focus on business as a collective body has left the corporation understudied in political economy, opening a new direction into the study of individual corporations in international politics .Finally, Corporate Leviathans offers a revisionist history of the American foreign policy, placing corporate power at the  center of landmark moments in U.S. diplomatic history.