Professor Peter Buckley

How did you start working in the area of IB?

I started very early, my first degree was in economics and I was always more interested in the applied subjects, than the theoretical ones. I was particularly interested in multinational firms and development, so I wanted to combine that. In the 70ies, when I was doing my PhD, there was almost no data for many countries, that is why we also had to adjust our research sometimes and conduct studies in Ireland instead of Kenya for example. Then in the late 70s IB really took off and I got one of the first lectureships in IB at the University of Bradford. The subject started to grow and I moved to Leeds. The idea that multinational firms are an important player in the development of a country, e.g. China, stuck with me ever since.



What motivated you to specialize in this field of research?


The two things that really convinced me were the fact that in IB you could apply economic theory to reality and the second factor that multinational companies are, were and will be major players in developing the world economy. The beauty in IB is that it is a multi-disciplinary subject, so it brings in sociology, anthropology, politics, history,…_____________________________________________________________________________________________


What do you consider your key contribution to the field of IB?


I would say the whole theory of the multinational enterprise, which is still applicable nowadays, internalization theory, providing structure to a field, which was and in parts still is relatively unstructured, giving it a core theory. Second, is probably the application of the foreign direct investment theory to China. I think there are a lot of other areas where I am interested, like joint venture and the global factory. Applying the theory to changing circumstances. Especially the current situation makes IB more and more interesting.



What fascinates you today in IB? 


Especially the current situation makes IB more and more interesting. Right now, we have the Corona virus, a truly global problem, which at the moment people try to find both national and international solutions. The international situation is proving difficult to solve, because we don’t have the right institutions to deal with the problem. Secondly, we have the rise of protectionism and nationalism, which is fragmenting the world economy. And the impact of these issues can’t be evaluated easily, there is no simple answer to that.



Based on your understanding, how did International Business evolve throughout the past decade?


The past decade is going to be looked at as very interesting, because it might seem as if we reached a peak of globalization. With the election of Trump and the decision for Brexit, countries wanted more autonomy and less political globalization. It’s been a very fascinating decade.



How do you see the future of IB? Please provide three future research priorities.


I think the thing about IB is that you deal with a very changing environment so in research you go through a lot of reappraisals. When I started working, MNEs were the ‘evil people’, exploiting and powerful. That initial view shifted, and they became the innovators and the dynamic producers for new consumer goods. Then it changed again and people started to question the power of companies over peoples’ lives and with the political shift towards nationalism. The key thing is: ‘How do you respond to this?’ In IB you have to find the right theory and then apply it properly. Right now, with so many global things happening there are numerous interesting topics to study, some need to be revisited, but also many, many new questions.



Why should students study international business?


Just look at the world around us. Can you find a problem that is not related to IB? And it is becoming even more relevant. You can take any industry, any value chain, any peace of legislation, there is so much for students to contribute. Especially now we are at a turning point and what helps in a time of uncertainty? Go for a theory that helps explaining what’s going on.


This interview was conducted by Sophie Ladurner on behalf of the Chair of International Business on 27th April 2020