Americanization of the European Economy
Americanization of the European Economy
CHAPTER 7 INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS AS A BARRIER TO AMERICANIZATION (p.193)
European reception of the American model of free-market industrial capitalism has always been an uneven process with variations over time and from country to country. The ups and downs of Americanization are due to many reasons, but an underlying structural cause was suggested already in a small book published in 1906 by the German economist Werner Sombart. Bearing the programmatic title "Why is the no socialism in the United States?", it raises a profound question and points out the central issue of industrial relations in economic life.221 Up to now this book has not dealt much with work in the European economy-the relations between employees and employers-as a subject of Americanization. Work is of course a potentially very broad topic; here we will concentrate on worker participation in company management because it touches the core of industrial relations, namely the control of economic power in the enterprise. As we shall see, there have been and still are deep-seated differences between European and American perceptions and implementations of worker participation. And these differences constitute a persistent barrier to the Americanization of European economic life.
Worker participation is an umbrella expression covering several related a issues and definitions.222 In Europe the concept has been a central part of sociopolitical debate since the early nineteenth century, and all political movements from Left to Right have formulated opinions and, when possible, implemented appropriate policies. For all but the Far Right (e.g. fascist parties) worker participation belonged to the struggle for industrial democracy and the empowerment of the workers' movement. This anchoring in collective political goals meant that worker participation went beyond workers' campaign for material betterment such as higher wages or shorter working hours. In the UK and especially in the US the concept's ideological content was much weaker, even absent, which enabled it to be interpreted as a means to increase the economic position of individual workers. From this context we can separate the theory and practice of worker participation into three pairs of issues that find the United States, and to a certain extent Great Britain, and Europe on opposite sides.
1) focus on the individual and personal betterment (US) versus focus on the collectivity and social equity (Europe).
2) concentration on material goals or money (US) versus concentration on r immaterial goals or power (Europe).
3) use by management to improve the firm's performance (US) versus use by society to instil specific social and political values and practices in the management of companies (Europe).
In most countries the attitude of the trade unions to worker participation was determined by tradition and experience. British and American unions were constructed from the inside of enterprise; their basic unit was a group within a certain plant, the shop stewards in the case of the UK. In contrast, on the Continent trade unions often formed first outside the actual workplace as a local organization or club and had to force their entry into the plant. Consequently, in the two Anglo- Saxon countries the basic trade union strength was located in the individual enterprise, whereas in Continental Europe it rested with the central organisation. Similar differences developed with respect to the role of politics and ideology in union activities. Trade unions in the US and UK emphasized pragmatic economic concerns over theoretical issues. In the US this materialist orientation has been so strong that the trade union movement has refrained from making binding ties with any political party. In the UK the trade union movement undertook to build up the Labour Party in 1900 and kept it an instrument