This paper develops the idea of neocolonialism as organizational identity work in multinational corporations (MNCs). We argue that neocolonialism – the ethos and practice of colonialism and western superiority in contemporary society – is a means through which identity is worked on at MNC headquarters (HQ). In contrast to extant neocolonial studies of western MNCs, which focus on the subsidiaries (the colonized) and how their identities are shaped by the HQ (the colonizer), we analyse how the HQ is shaped by the subsidiaries. We elucidate two versions of neocolonialism at play: a traditional neocolonial ethos, which prevails at HQ, and a more contemporary version, which is silenced. Our findings show that nurturing a shared and enduring organizational identity across all units of an MNC is a quixotic task. Nevertheless, HQ managers in western MNCs keep attempting to do this, suggesting that neocolonial ethos and practice continue to be relevant in these organizations.
- 512 Business and Management
- single case study