The Directors of Major French Industrial Groups in the 20th Century: From High Civil Servants to Executives
Directors of major French companies are assumed to be professionals who devote most of their time to the management of their companies. But this professionalization was not historically a matter of course. Managing a big company did not always involve such an exclusive commitment. For a long time there was no incompatibility in civil servants being directors, and the practice is even more flexible today for people who hold elected office. At least until the 1940s, the most important business figures were civil servants who had community roles and responsibilities in companies at the same time, without having a vested interest in any one of them. Moreover, there is no obligatory course of study for the job of company director, often the achievement of one's career. One reaches it after being employed or an executive in a company, but also after going through the revolving door in a government administration.
Key words: economic elite, entrepreneur, notable, manager, professionalization.
Family Businesses in France, 1970-2010: Recruitment, Governance, Management and Results
For a long time family capitalism was regarded with tempt but since the 1990s many studies carried out in many countries have redeemed its reputation: family firms are more numerous and moreover their results are better than those of managerial enterprises. This paper stresses how family managers are different from salaried managers by studying the influence of family and company solidarity on their behavior in two areas: how power is exercises and how it is managed. The aim is not to replace a clichéed picture of generally incompetent family managers by one of unconditional praise based on success stories. Its aim is to understand the logics of family capitalism in all its complexities. It focuses on big firms for two reasons: the sources available are more abundant than for PME's and their importance was underestimated for a long time.
Key words: family capitalism, manager, heir, dynasty, professionalization.
Directors of Small Businesses in 20th Century France or the Advantages of Vagueness
Small business owners were once severely neglected by modern historians. It would be incorrect to say as much today: over the last thirty years, this historiographic deficit is being up. This article chronicles the works that have contributed to a renewal of recording the history of France’s small businesses in the 20th century, influenced by the other social sciences. The research has taken several directions: relations to politics and the State, the issue of social mobility, the role of networks and social acceptances in the functioning of small businesses. The main difficult, however, is the essential heterogeneity of this milieu. Searching for unity and recognition, the world of small business is defined by its vagueness, due to permeable boundaries and moving structures. But this vagueness could be an asset.
Key words: independence, petite bourgeoisie, social mobility, networks, enterprise.
From Colonial to Imperial Employers: Paradigm Change Issues
This paper focuses on employers in the "colonial moment". Until recently, historiography used the term "colonial employers" in opposition to “metropolitan” employers to define the corporate heads involved in overseas markets. This general term masks the diversity of business situations and practices. Who were these employers? A rapid survey shows a complex world where the qualifier, “colonial”, leads to more misunderstanding than to understanding. With the emerging imperial history movement and the debates it sparks, we suggest using the imperial scale to work out a typology that would better grasp this diversity and employer strate¬gies within the framework of the first globalization resulting from colonial empires.
Key words: colonies, empires, globalization, colonial lobby, employers.
Management and Collective Action in France, 19th-21st Centuries: Organization, Registers and Commitment
Collective action has been studied more as protest and open-ended action in history as well as in sociology. In conventional thinking, economic elites, except for small business owners, do not act as a group, either because they are too divided or because they are able to achieve what in their interest by other means. This article, based on the work of historians and sociologists and on-going research, shows that categories of mobilization, of collective action methods and commitment can be used to study how those who are “economically dominant” also act collectively.
Key words: economic elite, business organization, collective action, action registers, commitment.
The Founding of the “Centre des Jeunes Patrons” (1938-1944): Between Reaction and Renewal
Florent Le Bot
The “Young Employers’ Center” was established in 1938 in a spirit of reaction that looked toward reactionary forces in order to fight against ongoing or feared changes in politics, economics and social areas. It showed employers’ desire to go beyond day-to-day management and to relegate class struggle into obsolescence. This organization was part of the dynamics of renewal taking place during the inter-war period which combined new ideas and a commitment to action, and turned the youth into a vector for the modernization of business and society. The article focuses on the specific sociology of this employers’ association during its first period (1938- 1944), the particular experiences carried out by its first members within their businesses, as well as the specific ideas they learned from it.
Key words: employer, youth, Catholicism, corporatism, work.
Metal and Mining Industries Union: Organization, Strategies and Practices of Metallurgical Employers (1901-1940)
The aim of this paper is to analyze the genesis, the internal organization and the adaptation of the UIMM (the metallurgical and mining industries union) to the economic, social and political transformations as well as to the upheavals engendered by World War I and the economic crisis. Succeeding in federating common interests, it became essential in the various institutions of the Republic; it participates in the regulation of the labor market, the construction of legislation and the institutional framework as well as in the evolution of professional relations. Its knowledge of the labor movement and its use of various means of action ranging from negotiation to repression enable the UIMM to fight effectively against the salaried labor unions of the metal industry. It became one of the most powerful French business organizations, a position it maintained throughout the 20th century.
Key words: organization, employers, metal industry, professional relations, lobbying.
Conspiracy Mythologies and Figures of Anti-Business Discourse
It is tempting to interpret as a new phenomenon discourse on Big Business, whose current resonance is in many ways firmly rooted in long-standing historical representations. This discourse is important first of all through its sources, but also because it has left a significant historiographical imprint. It also constitutes in and of itself a form of political literature combining both lampoonist and technical aspects. This study begins in the middle of the 19th century by examining the foundations of discourse on Big Business (the denunciation of the Rothschild family and the “féodalités”). Next, the paper studies the Golden Age during the first part of the 20th century, and examines specifically the denunciation of both the “maîtres de la France” and the “deux cents familles”. The last part of the paper, which focuses on trusts and synarchy, analyzes the mutations and the decline of this discourse.
Key words: conspiracy, big business, political myth, lampoon, Rothschild.
Business Interests and Politics: How to Defend Employers’ Interests within a Republican Framework?
Contrary to prevailing views of employers secretly pulling the strings of politics, the present analysis aims at grasping how a majority of employers got organised to defend their own interests within the framework of the Republic in a long-term strategy. Although the latter was born on the left, organised employers quickly adjusted, thanks to close ties with free-market politicians. After a century of hard, uncertain struggle against the proponents of a social Republic, a new era, characterised by the lasting triumph of economic laisser-faire, began in the mid-1970s, with new relationships between employers and policymakers. Are we now facing the return of wealth- and age-based voting rights?
Key words: ruling classes, liberalism, neo-liberalism, employers, Valéry Giscard d’Estaing
Economic Ideology of French Employers in the 20th Century
Historiography often minimizes employers’ intellectual contribution even though the major ideologies (socialism, laisser-faire, etc.) were necessarily connected to how economic power was wielded within companies. In such questions, employers couldn’t be neutral. Production, management, acceptable social and economic regulations pose controversies and fuel contrasting worldviews. The 20th century thus saw employers’ economic ideologies transformed both theoretically and organizationally. Laisser-faire clearly dominated in the battle of ideas while rival doctrines such as corporatism now seem out of date. Meanwhile, employers professionalized their ideological messages by developing think tanks and recruiting economic experts.
Key words: employers, economic liberalism, corporatism, economic policy, technocracy.
Business Reform: From Worker Control to the Failure of a Plan to Modernize
Behind the expression “business reform” are questions that were asked throughout the 20th century; questions about the leadership and management of business, profit sharing for employees and about the power granted to trade unions in companies. Discussions about the organization of power in companies took place particularly after the World War II. Each time, French business leaders were reserved or openly hostile to the initiatives taken by the “modernizers” of the French “Trente Glorieuses” (the post-war boom). The 1945 reforms concerning the employee committees brought to the fore again the issue of how companies worked. This debate was resumed in the 1950s and then again at the beginning of the 1960s over François Block-Lainé’s book. The report of the commission presided by Pierre Sudreau in 1974-1975 must be seen as one stage in the process.
Keywords: business reform, worker participation, business, trade union, Conseil économique et social.