While states and civil society are well drawn in terms of their institutions and ideologies, multinational corporations (MNCs) are all too often more simply sketched as mechanisms of profit maximisation. The power they wield is then seen in these terms for the way that it impacts on the policy process and civil society. The result is often a rather disembodied analysis of corporate power which focuses on the role of markets versus the state, and the way (assumed) corporate interests are served that clash with citizens’ aspirations. We have long been told that the rise of MNCs means that they now potentially ‘rule the world’ given the size and scope of their operations. What does this mean in a policy and governance sense? We should re-cast global corporations as political actors with complex identities and strategies to be examined, rather than assumed. Their identities and strategies have explanatory power for how markets are structured, the outcomes produced for society, and the nature and mechanisms of the policy process. Papers for this panel address the question of how, why and whether MNCs should be perceived as legitimate governors in a globalised world, and how they organise themselves to perform this role in different policy fields and institutional contexts. Papers may do so as a theoretical contribution to questions of national, regional and global governance, as well as in respect of cases that illustrate the impact of corporations and corporate interests on issues areas such as global development, gender, inequality, environmental sustainability, security, human rights etc.