States and firms : the political economy of French and German multinational enterprises in international competition.
This thesis entails the examination of the internationalisation
during the 1980s of the twelve leading French and German-owned
multinational enterprises [MNEs] in chemicals and electronics.
They represent a significant part of the phenomenon of Europeanowned
MNEs taking their places alongside U.S. and Japaneseowned
MNEs as the main commercial actors in international
competition. MNEs in the chemical and electronics sectors have
been selected for analysis because they are technology-intensive
in many of their businesses, which are at the cutting-edge of
This process of recent internationalisation is used to address
a problematique that goes to the roots of institutional political
economy : how and why has the internationalisation of these
MNEs interacted with their "embeddedness" in the domestic
structures of the French and German political economies,
particularly in terms of their power relationships with external
actors such as the home governments and financial institutions ?
What are the French-German comparisons involved ?
The primary political economy themes are as follows : the
MNEs' roles as political actors, especially viewed in terms of their
bargaining power relations with the home [central] governments;
home government industrial policy vis-â-vis the MNEs; MNE
financial relations with banks in France and Germany; MNE
political activity at the level of the European Community -- the
main geographical focus of internationalisation -- which is
especially evident in technology policy.
The empirical argument presented is that
internationalisation imparts a dynamic that induces convergence
effects between the French and German political economies, most
importantly in the manner in which the MNEs are embedded in
them. Such convergence is however limited and qualified by the
enduring differences in the constitution of state-finance-industry
linkages in France and Germany.
It is argued that the primary theoretical contribution of this
study is the inclusion of a business organisation approach, at the
level of the firm, to put the spotlight on fundamental questions of political economy. Research in political economy has tended to
overlook the role of the firm. The changes wrought by the
internationalisation of business urgently require better firm-level
conceptualisation and empirical research.