Abstract: Processual Americanization: Postwar Changes in the French and Norwegian Business Systems

Rolv Petter Amdam and Marie-Laure Djelic


During the last century both the Norwegian and the French national business systems have changed significantly, particularly during the second half of the century. When we confront data on productive entities for France and Norway we find two tendencies, partly contradictory. There are common trends in the transformation - larger size of productive entities, rationalization of internal organization, evolution of ownership structures from personal forms toward a mixture of state ownership and public ownership (joint stock corporations), slow but progressive transformation of the competitive landscape toward oligopolistic competition and a disappearance of cartels. However, a number of differences also appear. This two-dimensional finding puts to the test both the pure modernization arguments and the traditional versions of national business systems or varieties of capitalism theories. Pointing to economic and technological drivers, modernization arguments and their more recent globalization variants have emphasized convergence. The logic of change, in those arguments, is neutral and universal. The defining claim of modernization or globalization arguments is that national systems of economic organization are bound to evolve quite significantly, moving toward a common—most efficient—set of institutional and organizational arrangements. In contrast, national business systems or varieties of capitalism theories highlight the systemic nature and tight coupling of national forms of capitalism and hence their stability and resilience over time. The consequence, from such a perspective, is a perpetuation of national differences and national models, if not further divergence, even under strong pressures for change. Our empirical results, on the other hand, point to both partial convergence of national business systems and resilient and embedded differences. Explaining such results calls for theoretical innovation. We propose the argument of "processual Americanization" to help account for these results.