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

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

6
From Coercion to Imitation Transplanting the Corporate Model to West Germany

We all recognize that one of the most important aspects of the occupation is in its educating the Germans in economic and political democracy. This can best be done, as I am sure you recognize, by example and not mere precept, and the decartelization program furnishes a most valuable and important area for such action.

Dean Acheson1

In the period just following the war, occupation authorities held all decision making powers in the western territories of Germany and the American element was particularly dominant. Consequently, at this early stage, the initiative for economic and industrial reforms could only come from the foreign administration and in effect from the American administration. After months of confusion, disagreements, and overt conflicts around what the economic policy for German territories should be, a clear project had finally been settled upon by the end of 1947. From that point on, the American administration did advocate the rebuilding of a healthy West German economy. It appeared essential, to that end, to foster a radical redefinition of West German economic structures and of the West German system of industrial production. The objective was to bring about an evolution of the economic and industrial landscape towards the model then dominant in the USA. Members of the American administration thus initiated a large-scale, cross-national structural transfer, mostly using coercive means at the beginning.

Americans, however, were perfectly aware of the shortcomings of coercive transfer mechanisms. Reforms that were merely being imposed had little chance of being long lasting. For transformations to outlast the period of acute geopolitical dependence, they would have to be actively appropriated by at least a small group of West German nationals. The American administration was therefore soon looking for local partners it could co-opt and place in strategic positions of institutional power within the new West German entity. It settled on the small and somewhat marginal group around Ludwig Erhard essentially because of the unmistakable similarities existing between the economic program of this group and the American project for West Germany. Once this group had been co-opted and its institutional position on the national

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