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

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

8
The Resistance of European Business
Organized Opposition to Structural Transformations

German industrialists have waged a violent, elaborate and expensive campaign against deconcentration and decartelization and the Schuman plan. They have won the support in other countries of those vested interests, private collectivities, who are so habituated to restrictive practices and monopolistic purposes, that they have set in motion a wave of reaction against the kind of progressive and competitive economy which the Schuman plan envisages.

New York Herald Tribune ( March 5, 1951)

Throughout the late 1940s and the early 1950s, a network of cross-national dimension had been woven and successfully institutionalized, drawing together the USA and a number of Western European countries. Originally, this institutional framework lay within the public sphere. It was constituted, on both sides of the Atlantic, by governmental agencies and administrative units. In the USA, these agencies were in charge of foreign assistance. They were controlled by business leaders who had been pioneers with respect to collaboration between government and business. Those American business leaders were convinced that the state should intervene in economic affairs. They also felt vested with a mission, that of transforming European economies following the model of American corporate capitalism in order to build the foundations of a wealthier and more democratic Western European space. In each Western European country participating in the Marshall scheme, the Americans had been more or less successful in identifying and co-opting local partners sympathetic to their ambitious objectives. Initially, those partners were for the most part civil servants, experts, or government officials. Local business and labor communities would become involved in the large-scale transformation of Western European economies and industries but progressively and mostly under American pressure, rarely on their own initiative.

In fact, well into the 1950s, members of those communities tended to resist and oppose the large-scale transformation project. The violence of the reaction amongst Western European business leaders was particularly striking and surprising. Throughout the late 1940s and well into the 1950s, most members of the European business communities were clearly not ready to accept a radical questioning of their traditional ways of organizing and doing business. They resented the transfer on a large-scale of a foreign model they believed

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