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

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

5
Voluntary Imitation Adopting the Corporate Model in France

How could the French business class finally come round to the American model, visiting the United States without always speaking the language? How could French business leaders take pride in and benefit from technological innovations the French state had had to urge on them and still appear, in the end, as the champions of free entrepreneurship against the administration?

François Bloch-Lainé ( 1976: 124)

After the Second World War, a small French modernizing élite proved to be instrumental in launching and fostering the large-scale transfer of American structural models to France and more generally to Western Europe. Working from key positions of institutional power on the French national scene, this small modernizing group elaborated and operated, on its own initiative, a set of mechanisms that were to bring about radical transformations within the French economy and industry. This small group, however, was not only an agent of the cross-national transfer. It was also an intervening variable, responsible for the adaptation and interpretation of the foreign model. The French modernizing group partly redefined the American system of industrial production before diffusing it onto the national scene through the planning and productivity institutions it had created.

This same French group was also a driving force behind the emergence of a Western European economic space. Defining new rules of competition and market regulation, the Western European space was to have an impact, in turn, on national systems of industrial production. Implementing and operating transfer mechanisms of a mimetic or of a normative type, the French modernizing group benefited all along from the strong support of the American side of the cross-national network. Taking advantage of their position of power on the geopolitical scene, the Americans intervened sometimes in a coercive manner. Their objective was then generally to back up their French partners by helping to counter or defuse resistance and opposition to the cross-national transfer process, widespread at the time within French or West European civil societies.


OPERATING THE FRENCH PLANNING INSTITUTIONS

During its early years, the French planning board or Commissariat Général du Plan was the main interface between the French and American worlds, the key

-135-

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