Exporting the American Model: The Post-War Transformation of European Business

By Marie-Laure A. Djelic | Go to book overview
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2
Stability of European Industries Preserving Structural Arrangements before 1939

And so is Europe, gaping in astonishment, if not horror, in between two experiences which are going on, one in Russia, the other in America.

Georges Duhamel ( 1930: 240)

West European systems of industrial production were characterized before the beginning of the Second World War by overall stability and they shared a number of key structural features. French, German, and Italian systems of industrial production, in particular, all ranged somewhere between family and organized types of capitalism. And the general evolution in that part of the world, during the first years of the twentieth century, was unmistakably towards increasingly organized markets and structured forms of interfirm cooperation.

With respect to the structural revolution taking place on the other side of the Atlantic, West Europeans had, on the whole, mixed feelings. In France, the transformation of American industry brought mostly dismay and fear of contagion. The German industrial community, on the other hand, had become much more familiar than its French counterpart with American industrial reality throughout the first part of the twentieth century. Indeed, economic relationships between Germany and the USA had increased in density following the Dawes plan, which after 1924 brought vast quantities of American capital to Germany. Nevertheless, despite this greater familiarity with the new American industrial model, there was no systematic attempt before the Second World War to transfer to Germany, on a large scale, the corporate system of industrial production. German industrial leaders--not any different in that from their European neighbors--resisted mergers, incorporation, and internal reorganization. They feared that an evolution in this direction would weaken or even destroy the control each private owner wanted to retain over his particular concern.


FAMILY CAPITALISM IN FRANCE: STABILITY OF THE SOCIAL ORDER

The picture which emerges from an historical study of French industry before the Second World War is one of moderate growth combined with great

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