Stephen Hymer

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Stephen Hymer
Born (1934-11-15)15 November 1934
Montreal, Quebec
Died 2 February 1974(1974-02-02) (aged 39)
Shandaken, New York
Nationality Canada
Field International economics
School/tradition Marxian economics
Influences Karl Marx
Contributions Theory of foreign direct investments

Stephen Herbert Hymer (15 November 1939 – 2 February 1974), Canadian economist, was born in Montreal, and died after a car accident in Shandaken, New York. His research focused on the activities of multinational firms, which was the subject of his PhD dissertation The International Operations of National Firms: A Study of Direct Foreign Investment, presented in 1960, but published posthumously in 1976.

In the analysis of the nature and causes of foreign investment, Hymer made a distinction between direct and portfolio investment. After ascertaining that differences in interest rates cause portfolio investments, but not direct investments, and that the industrial distribution of the latter is not significantly different from one country to another, as could be expected if their cause was solely differences in profitability, Hymer concluded that direct investments are capital movements associated to international operations of firms. Their goal is to keep control of production. This control allows either to suppress competition, or appropriate rents derived from advantages like skilled labour, cheap raw materials, access to capital markets or technology.

Later, Hymer used Marxian language and concepts more explicitly.[1] In a series of articles published in the 1970s, he considered the relationship between nation-states and multinational firms, detailing their role in the creation of an international division of labor. Hymer argued that this hierarchal division of labor was a macrocosm of the internal division of labor reproduced within the multinational corporation. Hymer did not believe that these firms had become more powerful than nation-states; instead, multinationals were firmly rooted in the major financial centers of the world, and they tended to reinforce existing geographic and spatial boundaries and dependencies. Papers and articles on this and various other topics articles were compiled by Hymer's graduate students from the New School for Social Research in The Multinational Corporation: A Radical Approach. Papers by Stephen Herbert Hymer, published by Cambridge University Press in 1979.

Hymer's theories have strongly influenced other economists, like Cantwell and Dunning, and were elaborated by Hymer's dissertation advisor, Charles P. Kindleberger in American Business Abroad, series of lectures published in 1969. The latter played an important role in the posthumous publication of Hymer's dissertation.


  1. ^ He has been described by Susan Strange as being one of the Marxists (another being Robert Rowthorn) that is read in business schools: Susan Strange, Casino Capitalism, p. 93.


  • Hymer, S. H. (1960): “The International Operations of National Firms: A Study of Direct Foreign Investment”. PhD Dissertation. Published posthumously. The MIT Press, 1976. Cambridge, Mass.
  • Cohen R.B. et al. (eds, 1979), “The Multinational Corporation: A Radical Approach. Papers by Stephen Herbert Hymer", Cambridge University Press. Cambridge, Mass.
  • Pitelis, Christos N. (2002). "Stephen Hymer: Life and the Political Economy of Multinational Corporate Capital". Contributions to Political Economy 21 (1): 9–26. doi:10.1093/cpe/21.1.9.