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

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

PART IV
CROSS-NATIONAL TRANSFER: NATIONAL LIMITS

After the Second World W ar, several types of transfer mechanisms rapidly became operative in Western Europe, and particularly in France and in West Germany. A network of individuals in positions of institutional power and working in close synergy across national borders was responsible for setting up and operating those mechanisms. This took place, for France and for West Germany, in the context of national geopolitical dependence. It was made possible by the significant infrastructural power of state institutions in both countries over the national economy and industry. The large-scale structural transfer process, however, launched and monitored by the small cross-national modernizing network, was not a laboratory experiment. It took place within preexisting institutional environments and necessarily disturbed the social balance in each country. This process was bound to challenge vested interests and to run into more or less significant resistance and organized opposition in each national context. As it turned out, resistance stemmed mostly from within civil societies and more precisely from those very communities directly concerned by changes to come: the business and labor communities. Business leaders had trouble accepting the radical questioning of their traditional ways of organizing and doing business which the modernization project implied. Those parts of Western European labor communities under communist influence reacted violently against the projected transfer and mostly on political grounds. Non-communist labor groups, finally, feared that voluntary cooperation and participation on their part might in return be used to manipulate and exploit them.

While resistance and opposition stemming from those communities could undeniably create obstacles to the cross-national transfer process, the capacity of these various groups to mobilize and organize on the ground differed for each country and through time. This capacity naturally depended on whether or not these groups had an institutional reality but also on the fit that existed between the resources they were able to muster and their concrete goals and strategies. The capacity to rally and mobilize was also contingent upon the homogeneity of those groups and upon a relative identity of views and interests between their members. Those three elements defining the capacity of opposition groups to mobilize and organize resistance on the ground are brought together in summary form in Table 18.

The organization of resistance can be difficult in situations where opposition

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