Ebbs and Flows of French Capitalism

13.05.2014 - 17:15
Location : 
A 5,6 Raum A 231
Type of Event : 
AB A-Kolloquium
Claire Lemercier, Ph.D.
Lecturer affiliation: 
CSO/CNRS, Sciences Po, Paris

Prs. Pierre François and Claire Lemercier, Center for the Sociology of Organizations (Sciences Po, Paris), presented by Claire Lemercier

Ebbs and flows of French capitalism, 1880s-2000s

This paper is part of the first longitudinal investigation of the French network of interlocking directorates and, more generally, of the largest French firms and their directors from the late 19th century to the early 21st century. Substantively, we describe four distinct phases in the evolution of this network, but we mostly emphasize the extreme stability of its main structural features. It is therefore very important, in order to understand the patterns of multiple directorships in the 2000s, to have in mind what they own to extremely enduring mechanisms that, to some degree, appear to be specific for France. The structure of the French interlocking directorates network appears to be based on the interplay of two mechanisms. The first leads to the building of business groups. The second is based on status and has been, to our knowledge, much less discussed in the interlocking directorates literature. We argue that French capitalism would better be described as status capitalism than as State capitalism. The role of State-own firms and of former civil servants as directors is important, but it is only part of a wider mechanism centered on status, that leads firms with specific attributes to consistently appear at the core of the network and directors with specific attributes to consistently be chosen as bridges. Methodologically, this paper argues that the study of interlocking directorates would benefit from becoming less isolated from mainstream economic sociology, economic history and network analysis. This paper benefits from a careful construction of data from historical sources; from the use of historical monographs as well as of discussions of status and competition in economic sociology; and from an approach of the network that puts forward the attributes of both firms and directors.