Organizing Business: Trade Associations in America and Japan

Organizing Business: Trade Associations in America and Japan

Organizing Business: Trade Associations in America and Japan

Organizing Business: Trade Associations in America and Japan

Excerpt

In the 1920s and 1930s the trade association "movement" attracted the attention both of those who saw it as a precursor to an entirely new and desirable way of organizing economic activity and of those who were more skeptical of its positi value. Political scientists and economists investigated the effects of associations on economic and political life. The federal government also took a keen interest in trade associations during this period. Beginning in 1913 the Department of Commerce periodically performed surveys of the associations then in existence. The content of the surveys varied, but they did at least identify what associations were operating, their locations, and a few details regarding their activities. Governmental attention to trade associations culminated in the study performed by the Temporary National Economic Committee of the U.S. Congress in 1939.

After World War II, however, interest by government and academics diminished, and trade associations have not been the object of much scholarly research. The Commerce Department surveys ended in 1948; economists became less concerned about the institutional structure of economic activity and more concerned with the workings of abstract markets; political scientists' concern with interest groups waned as the study of voting behavior took center stage. A text from the mid-1960s that offered a summary of existing research on associations contains no articles on and few references to trade associations. The situation in Japan is somewhat different, for in that country the writing and reading of business and trade association histories is relatively popular, and there is also a relative abundance of government documents giving information on associations and their activities (most of which are not available in translation and have not yet been analyzed by non-Japanese scholars). But even in Japan, there is a paucity of analytic work on trade associations.

Today, interest in the institutional structure of enomic activity seems to be increasing, perhaps as an intellectual correlate of the state of the world economy. In periods of economic growth, it is not . . .

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