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

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

3
Crisis Inside, Dependence Outside Preconditions of a Cross-National Transfer

There is nothing more dangerous than victory . . . . Crises are opportunities. Jean Monnet1

In France, Germany, and Italy, the end of the Second World War brought about the collapse of the national order. Germany had lost a war for which it was mostly held responsible. In the case of France and Italy, the situation was somewhat more complex. Those two countries had neither clearly won nor clearly lost the war but military defeat and occupation of the national territory had been common traumatic events. 2 Allied victory prompted self-questioning in all three European countries, more or less radical in each case. Although the end of the war led to the displacement of those regimes responsible for defeat and for a traumatic period, the sense of national crisis and emergency was not the same in each case. While a new political beginning seemed unavoidable everywhere, a redefinition of social and economic arrangements appeared more or less necessary and urgent in each country.

The war had left all three countries destitute. It had also confirmed a reshaping of the geopolitical balance of power to the clear benefit of both the USA and the USSR. In the early postwar years, all three countries were highly dependent on both superpowers merely to ensure survival. The division of the world in two spheres, crystallizing after 1947, significantly redefined the rules of the geopolitical game. France, Italy, and the western territories of Germany were to become unambiguously and solidly anchored to the American sphere of influence. The launching of the Marshall plan in 1947 and 1948 only institutionalized further the asymmetrical relationship of dependence between the USA on the one hand, and France, West Germany, and Italy on the other. By the late 1940s, the conditions seemed to have been created for the USA to have become a model for all three countries in their process of national reconstruction. A large-scale, cross-national transfer of American structural arrangements had become possible, even though such a transfer would turn out to be more or less likely in each of the three countries.


FRANCE: IN SEARCH OF A 'GREAT POWER' MODEL

Formally, France had won the Second World War and it would be sitting on the United Nations Security Council with other Allied powers. In reality,

-71-

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