Small Firms, Large Concerns: The Development of Small Business in Comparative Perspective

By Konosuke Odaka; Minoru Sawai | Go to book overview

tomorrow, none of which are distinctly German. In this respect, the recent history and near future of small-scale business in Germany is quite unlikely to differ noticeably from that of other countries.

With hindsight, the whole controversy over whether small-scale business was a winner or a loser of industrialization was beside the point. Small-scale business was not a miniature version of big industry which failed to grow, nor was it industry without the rigidities of 'bigness'. It was neither 'superior' nor 'inferior' to large enterprise, but has been the appropriate organizational form for a great variety of economic activities in the past. If some activities crossed the borderline between 'big' and 'small', this is no reason to disqualify either of these categories.


NOTES
1.
The former German Democratic Republic is not included in this survey. Temporary state socialism in this part of Germany created strikingly different conditions for small-scale business which were no continuation of a German tradition and which are very unlikely to become part of future traditions in the making. It was a history in its own right which cannot be done justice to in a short synthesis on ' Germany'.
2.
Craft Chambers (Handwerkskammern) and Chambers of Commerce and Industry (Industrie- und Handelskammern) were not always separated. The crafts left the common chambers in the early 1900s, were incorporated again in 1934/ 1942, and left them again in the early 1950s. There was often a feeling among self-employed craftsmen that the Chambers of Commerce and Industry were dominated by 'big' companies. For an example of these discussions see Winkel ( 1990: 24-6, 150-2). The German term 'Handwerk' does not translate easily into English. It goes beyond 'craft' and is narrower than 'trade'. 'Handwerk' includes about 125 different occupations requiring a high level of non- academic skills and formal apprenticeship. Butchers, bakers, carpenters, engineers, tailors, hairdressers, plumbers, car mechanics, opticians, TV and computer servicepersons, etc. all fall in the category of 'Handwerk' and get their certificate of qualification (journeyman and master) from the local or regional Craft Chamber.
3.
A high-water mark of the literature on the 'estate' nature of 'Mittelstand' is Marbach ( 1942). Twenty years later the 'Institut für Mittelstandsforschung' (literally: Institute for Middle-estate Research) still published books on the 'essence' of the 'middle-estate enterprise' ( Gantzel 1962). The author presents 102 definitions of 'Mittelstand' from earlier publications and comes to the conclusion that in spite of all fundamental criticism 'Mittelstand' still was a qualitatively separate form of personal enterprise with a distinct'Gesinnung' (mental attitude) of the entrepreneur (ibid. 279-86). He explicitly repudiates the

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