Stephen J Kobrin

Stephen J Kobrin
  • William H. Wurster Emeritus Professor of Multinational Management
  • Executive Director, Wharton Digital Press

Contact Information

  • office Address:

    3205 SH-DH
    3620 Locust Walk
    Philadelphia, PA 19104

Research Interests: global strategy, globalization, impact of the information revolution, international political economy



PhD, University of Michigan, 1975; MBA, University of Pennsylvania, 1961; BMgtE, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, 1960

Career and Recent Professional Awards; Teaching Awards

Fellow, Academy of International Business

Academic Positions Held

Wharton: 1987-present (Editor, Wharton School Publishing, 2008-present; Director, The Joseph H. Lauder Institute of Management & International Studies, 2006-2007; named William H. Wurster Professor of Multinational Management, 1992; Director, The Joseph H. Lauder Institute of Management and International Studies, 1994-2000; Director, William H. Wurster Center for International Management Studies, 1992-94; Chairperson, Management Department, 1989-92; Anheuser-Busch Term Professor of Management, 1987-92). Previous appointments: New York University; The Conference Board; Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Other Positions

Brand Manager, Procter & Gamble, 1965-71

Professional Leadership

Fellow, World Economic Forum, 1995-present; President, Academy of International Business, 2001-2002

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  • Stephen J Kobrin (2009), Private Political Authority and Public Responsibility: Transnational Politics, Transnational Firms and Human Rights, Business Ethics Quarterly.

    Abstract: Transnational corporations have become actors with significant political power and authority which should entail responsibility and liability, specifically direct liability for complicity in human rights violations. Holding TNCs liable for human rights violations is complicated by the discontinuity between the fragmented legal/political structure of the TNC and its integrated strategic reality and the international state system which privileges sovereignty and nonintervention over the protection of individual rights. However, the post-Westphalian transition – the emergence of multiple authorities, increasing ambiguity of borders and jurisdiction and blurring of the line between the public and private spheres – should facilitate imposing direct responsibility on transnational firms. Mechanisms for imposing direct responsibility on TNCs are considered including voluntary agreements and international law. However, I conclude that a hybrid public-private regime which relies on non-hierarchical compliance mechanisms is likely to be both more effective and consistent with the structure of the emerging transnational order.

  • Stephen J Kobrin (2008), It Ain’t Over Until the Fat Lady Sings: Three Narratives Relating to the Rise and Possible Fall of the Second Wave of Globalization,.

  • Stephen J Kobrin (2008), Globalization, Transnational Corporations and the Future of Global Governance, Handbook of Research on Global Corporate Citizenship.

  • Stephen J Kobrin (2005), The Determinants of Liberalization of FDI policy in Developing Countries: A Cross-Sectional Analysis, 1992-2001, Transnational Corporations, 14: 1.

    Abstract: The decade of the 1990s was characterized by widespread liberalization of laws and regulations affecting inflows of foreign direct investment in developing countries. Using a data base supplied by UNCTAD, this article employs a crosssectional regression methodology to analyze the determinants of liberalization of foreign direct investment policies in 116 developing countries from 1992 to 2001. Ninety-five per cent of the changes in such policies over the decade (1,029 of 1,086) were liberalizing rather than restrictive. Two possible explanations of liberalization are suggested: policy makers’ beliefs that attracting more foreign direct investment is in the best interests of their countries, and external pressure to adopt neoliberal economic policies either from the dominant power (the United States) or international organizations such as the World Bank or International Monetary Fund. Results provide strong support for the “rational” decision (or “opportunity costs of closure”) argument and only limited support for the external pressure thesis. Country size, level of human resource capabilities and trade openness are found to be the primary determinants of the propensity to liberalize.

  • Stephen J Kobrin (2005), Multinational Enterprise and Public Responsibility: The Case of Talisman Energy and Human Rights in Sudan, International Business Government Relations in the 21st Century, In Robert Grosse, ed. Cambridge University Press.

  • Stephen J Kobrin (2004), Oil and Politics: Talisman Energy in Sudan, NYU Journal of Law and Politics, 36: 2-3.

  • Stephen J Kobrin (2004), Safe Harbours are Hard to Find: The Trans-Atlantic Data Privacy Dispute, Territorial Jurisdiction and Global Governance, Review of International Studies, 30.

    Abstract: The trans-Atlantic dispute over application of the European Union’s Data Directive (1995) is discussed as a case study of an emerging geographic incongruity between the reach and domain of the territorially-defined Westphalian state and the deep and dense network of economic relations. The article reviews significant EU-US differences about the meaning of privacy and the means to protect it, the history of attempts to apply its provisions to information transferred to the US, and the less than satisfactory attempt at resolution – the Safe Harbor agreement. It then argues that attempting to apply the Directive to transactions on the Internet raises fundamental questions about the meaning of borders, territorial sovereignty and political space and explores the implications for territorial jurisdiction and global governance at some length.

  • Stephen J Kobrin (2002), Economic Governance in an Electronically Networked Global Economy, The Emergence of Private Authority: Forms of Private Authority and Their Implications for Global Governance.

  • Stephen J Kobrin (2001), With Technology Growing, Our Privacy is Shrinking, Philadelphia Inquirer.

  • Stephen J Kobrin (2001), Sovereignty@Bay: Globalization, Multinational Enterprise, and the International Political System, Oxford Handbook of International Business, Chapter 7.


Past Courses


    Globalization and International Political Economy is an upper level undergraduate course designed to provide the background necessary to understand globalization and the changes taking place in the international political-economy. The course objective is to help students develop a conceptual framework that will provide an understanding of the current international political-economic environment, provide a basis for thinking about the fundamental changes which are now taking place, and to build a solid foundation to which new material can be added throughout the students' careers. Format: Class discussions will be interactive and structured to encourage maximum student participation. Requirements: Take home mid-term exam, a final course paper of 10-15 pages and two shorter (1-2 page papers) dealing with the readings for the day. Students will not be allowed to enroll after the third class session.


    All successful firms go global. This course provides a broad introduction to international business. You will learn about who loses and who gains from trade, what are the effects of tariffs and non-tariff barriers, the World Trade Organization (WTO), regional trading blocs, and NAFTA. The course then turns to the international financial architecture, focusing on exchange rate risk. We then move to multinational firm strategies, including a discussion of the reasons for why firms choose to do business globally through trade or FDI, international tax strategy, joint ventures, technology transfer, different ways to be a multinational firm, and ethical dilemmas. The class is a mix of lectures and cases that allow students to synthesize the extensive materials on multinational management, international institutions, economic policies, and politics with a goal towards formulating multinational firm strategy.


    ASP topics can be individually selected by the student with the advice and consent of any instructor in the management Department. All ASP registrations require the written consent of the instructor and appropriate course and section number on the registration form. If the student has the instructor's written permission, he/she is not required to obtain written consent from the Department. Students, however, should send an email to to request the course and section numbers

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Latest Research

Stephen J Kobrin (2009), Private Political Authority and Public Responsibility: Transnational Politics, Transnational Firms and Human Rights, Business Ethics Quarterly.
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In the News

How Changes to U.S.-Cuba Policy Will Impact Businesses

U.S. businesses looking to invest in Cuba face an uncertain policy regime, and national security dangers also loom, say experts.

Knowledge @ Wharton - 2017/06/23
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