CROSS-NATIONAL TRANSFER: CONDITIONS, CHANNELS, AND ACTORS
The Second World War represented a turning point for France, Germany, and Italy, with more or less radical consequences in each case. The sense of national crisis at the end of the war and the questioning of prewar structural and institutional arrangements were of a quite different intensity in each of the three countries. The questioning took place within national contexts, strongly influenced by a redefined geopolitical environment. The war had bled European countries white. It had also confirmed the dominant position, on the world scene, of both the USA and the USSR, two countries where geopolitical and military might appeared to rest on a powerful industrial base. After 1947, the Soviet sphere of influence was contained behind the iron curtain and the USA became, for needy Western European countries, the sole provider and military shield. Relationships of asymmetrical dependence, more or less pronounced in each case, thus came to link the USA on the one hand, and France, the western territories of Germany, or Italy on the other.
The power of the USA and the direct dependence of Western European countries combined with a sense of national crisis to create the right conditions for the American system of industrial production to become a model for reconstruction. In France and West Germany, a small group of actors holding key positions of institutional power turned likelihood into process. These modernizing élites, minorities within their own national environment, worked closely with a group of American 'missionaries' out to convert the Western world to the 'miracle of mass production'. Dense webs of personal and institutional relationships were then spun between the USA, and France or West Germany. Channels of exchange and interaction were set up and institutionalized, particularly during the Marshall plan years, but also throughout the period of American military administration in the western parts of Germany. They would become, in fact, powerful tools for the large-scale transfer to France and West Germany of the American system of industrial production. In Italy, the modernizing network broke down. Despite geopolitical conditions favorable to a cross-national transfer, the national élite who had come to hold key positions of institutional power in Italy strongly resisted cooperation with the American end of the network. This Italian élite, in fact, did not intend to radically question the existing national industrial model.