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Linking economic diplomacy to boundary work: The case of former diplomats working for multinational corporations


Boundary work is the purposive effort to affect the boundaries that separate groups, occupations, and organizations. Although scholarship on boundary work has burgeoned, there are several gaps in the literature. One of them pertains to the lack of understanding of how changes at the societal level influence boundary work at the local level. To explore this linkage, the current study focuses on diplomats who have left the foreign service to become public affairs managers in large multinational corporations. Drawing on interviews with diplomats-turned-lobbyists, we examine how the rise of economic diplomacy affects these former diplomats in their daily work. As more emphasis is placed on achieving economic goals in inter-state relations, diplomats become more acquainted and responsive to the needs of corporations. Not only does this facilitates professional transitions from the diplomatic corps into the private sector, but the paper also shows that diplomats-turned-lobbyists leverage economic diplomacy in their interactions with the state. Thus, the study contributes to a better understanding of macro-micro linkages in boundary work. Keywords: boundary work; political opportunity structure; economic diplomacy; public affairs; lobbying