Management International Review

, Volume 52, Issue 6, pp 847–877 | Cite as

Political Institutional Change, Obsolescing Legitimacy, and Multinational Corporations

The Case of the Central American Banana Industry
  • Marcelo BucheliEmail author
  • Min-Young Kim
Research Article


  • This paper studies the practice of integration of influential host country actors to a multinational corporation as a strategy to decrease problems of legitimacy to the foreign firm before the host country’s society.

  • By developing the concept of obsolescing legitimacy, we argue that this strategy provides legitimacy to the foreign firm only in the absence of institutional changes at the macro-political level in the host country. Once these changes take place, an alliance by the multinational to an elite or a political system no longer ruling the host country will become a liability and will generate problems of legitimacy for the multinational.

  • We illustrate our argument with the case of the US multinational United Fruit Company in Central America.


Obsolescing legitimacy Political integration Institutional change Vertical integration Political risk Foreign direct investment Central America 



The authors wish to thank the insightful comments to previous version of this paper from Ruth Aguilera, Matthew Kraatz, Joseph Mahoney, Craig Murphy, the participants at the Business History Conference, Athens, Georgia, 2010, and two anonymous referees.


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Copyright information

© Gabler Verlag 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Business Administration, College of BusinessUniversity of Illinois at Urbana-ChampaignChampaignUSA
  2. 2.School of BusinessUniversity of KansasLawrenceUSA

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