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

By Marie-Laure A. Djelic | Go to book overview

those large state holdings remained aggregates of many different and formerly independent units, brought together following a logic which was more political than economic. No attempt was ever made, however, during that period to rationalize those aggregates and to reorganize them internally ( Romano, 1977).

By way of conclusion, let us repeat once more that in 1939, French, German, and Italian systems of industrial production were more similar to each other than to the corporate model then characteristic of the USA. For all three countries, albeit to a different extent in each case, the period of the war would represent a rupture and the years immediately following the war would prove to be critical. Prewar economic, social, and political arrangements were then questioned, albeit more or less radically, in each of these three countries. When change was considered, choices as to its direction were made quite rapidly. A number of institutional, political, and geopolitical developments turned out to have a significant impact on those processes in each of the three countries.


Notes
1.
Between 1926 and 1944, around 20,000 new SARL were registered in France but only 3,000 SA and 3,000 partnerships, société en nom collectif or SNC ( Caron, 1981: 215).
2.
French holdings were thus peculiar business groups. Standing, with respect to formality, somewhere in between American cartels and American trusts, they had, in spite of the name, nothing in common with the American holding company.
3.
Ehrmann ( 1957: 370) and Paxton ( 1973). Getting more precise figures is naturally impossible since those agreements were neither legal nor official.
4.
Clough ( 1946), Lévy-Leboyer ( 1974), Roehl ( 1976), O'Brien and Keyder ( 1978), Cameron and Freedeman ( 1983), Nye ( 1987).
5.
By the 1860s, the French railway network reached down to the remotest parts of the territory ( Autin, 1984). Chandler ( 1977) has argued that the expansion and integration of markets depended to a significant extent on the development of a dense railway network.
6.
According to Girard ( 1952), 'traditional financial interests got rid of the Péreire brothers. This fall had long been sought after. . . . It was essentially a revenge of the forces of order and of well entrenched interests.' See also Landes ( 1949) and Bouvier ( 1992).
7.
French literature abounds in paintings of downfall and social disgrace following bankruptcies--see in particular Honoré de Balzac's César Birotteau. The conception of bankruptcy as a stain on family honor differed markedly from the American perception. Duhamel ( 1930) underscored this contrast: 'You [French businessmen] still think about César Birotteau. Yes, but the sense of honor changes very rapidly. When Smith [American businessman] goes bankrupt, he is not dishonored. He will just start all over again. . . .'
8.
In the period before the First World War, close to 80 per cent of total investments had been self-financed and self-financing remained predominant in the interwar period ( Landes, 1949, 1964; Caron, 1981; Rowley, 1982).

-61-

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