Are transnational corporations a benign or malign force in the contemporary world?
Today we live in a world no longer contained by the nation-state; business, tourism, information, diseases, pollution, ideas are all constantly flooding across national borders. Transnational corporations (TNC's) operate in many countries at once, contributing in no small way to the process of economic, political, social and cultural globalisation that is taking place.
The international flow of people, information and products is nothing new. The ancient silk route, which ran between China and imperial Rome, was first established in around 100BC. The route stretching over 6000km carried silk, and later porcelain, from east to west, in exchange came gold, silver and natural rarities unobtainable in China. Powerful transnational organisations such as the Vatican, whose influence extended across much of Europe, have been around for thousands of years. However the extent to which international trade now occurs is on an unprecedented scale, both in size and effect.
Together the industrial revolution and the French revolution paved the way for the emergence of capitalism out of its feudal past. Global capitalism has enveloped the world like no previous worldview, it is an ideology with many practical achievements. Very few places are free from its influence, as Sklair writes, "This system has been evolving for centuries slowly penetrating to all those with disposable income." (Sklair pg. 48). Dominant 'Western' ideas and ways of life are being carried in the tide of capitalism exported to second and third world countries primarily by hugely powerful transnational corporations (TNC's). The populations of the receiver countries have become fully aware that there is a stark difference between their living standards and those of the first world.
To decide whether these TNC's are a benign or a malign force is by no means a clear cut...