Management Seminars: Mehdi Boussebaa
Professor Mehdi Boussebaa (University of Glasgow)
G.15, 15-19 Tyndall's Park Road, BRISTOL BS8 1PQ
Title: Global professional service firms in a geopolitical context
This paper situates the international expansion and organisation of global professional service firms (GPSFs) within the wider context of empire. GPSFs such as the ‘Big Four’ accountancy firms, the leading providers of consulting, technology and outsourcing services, and the ‘elite’ law firms are now major international corporate players. They are among some of the most internationalised multinational enterprises, offering services to a wide range of clients around the world through ever expanding global office networks. They also exert far-reaching influence on the world economy, shaping the activities and discourses of companies, governments and societies world-wide. The popular media goes as far as describing them as ‘masters of the universe’. Yet management research on these organisations has largely ignored how they have been influenced by, and contributed to, the wider imperial context from which they have emerged and developed. Equally, studies discussing the link between multinational corporations and imperial power rarely, if ever, mention or analyse GPSFs as distinct organisations. This paper aims to rectify this oversight. Drawing on corporate literature and diverse bodies of academic research on the professions and professional service firms, I consider the ways in which the global context of empire might have influenced, guided, or articulated with the practice of GPSFs over the years. In so doing, I aim to develop a way of understanding GPSFs that takes account of their location – and role – in the world’s geopolitical hierarchy and thereby also brings into view and problematizes forms of power too often erased in the accounts of GPSFs.