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Revisiting the French model: coordination and restructuring in French industry in the 1980s

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  • Hancké, Bob

Abstract

According to the contemporary political economy literature on France, the country appears caught in the worst of all possible worlds: it fails to create the conditions for economic growth and employment by deregulating labour markets as the UK has done, and it lacks the institutional infrastructure that makes the German economy an export success. This paper, which analyses the adjustment of the French economy in the 1980s and into the 1990s, argues that this image of France is wrong. This literature misunderstands the relative position of French industry and misinterprets how firms managed to successfully make the transition from conventional mass production to flexible quality production. The particular French mode of coordination, revolving around the state-centered elite political-economic structure, was at the basis of this adjustment path. The paper analyses how this mode of coordination interacted with the crisis of the French production regime in the early 1980s, and with the changes in the ownership structures of large firms in response to that crisis. The resulting corporate governance structure increased the autonomy of top management from the state as well as capital markets, and led to a situation whereby far-reaching organisational changes in the large companies could be pursued.

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  • Hancké, Bob, 1999. "Revisiting the French model: coordination and restructuring in French industry in the 1980s," Discussion Papers, Research Unit: Economic Change and Employment FS I 99-301, Social Science Research Center Berlin (WZB).
  • Handle: RePEc:zbw:wzbece:fsi99301
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    1. Hancké, Bob & Casper, Steven, 1996. "ISO 9000 in French and German car industry: how international quality standards support varieties of capitalism," Discussion Papers, Research Unit: Economic Change and Employment FS I 96-313, Social Science Research Center Berlin (WZB).
    2. Glyn, Andrew, 1997. "Does Aggregate Profitability Really Matter?," Cambridge Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 21(5), pages 593-619, September.
    3. Chris Howell, 1992. "The Dilemmas of Post-Fordism: Socialists, Flexibility, and Labor Market Deregulation in France," Politics & Society, , vol. 20(1), pages 71-99, March.
    4. Hohenberg, Paul M., 1977. "Political Strategies for Industrial Order: State, Market, and Industry in France. By John Zysman. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1977. Pp. ix, 230. $12.75," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 37(04), pages 1104-1105, December.
    5. David Soskice, 1997. "German technology policy, innovation, and national institutional frameworks," Industry and Innovation, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 4(1), pages 75-96.
    6. Ulrich, Karl, 1995. "The role of product architecture in the manufacturing firm," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 24(3), pages 419-440, May.
    7. Wendy Carlin & David Soskice, 1997. "Shocks to the System: the German Political Economy Under Stress," National Institute Economic Review, National Institute of Economic and Social Research, vol. 159(1), pages 57-76, January.
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