Servicio de Información Comunitario sobre Investigación y Desarrollo - CORDIS

Final Activity Report Summary - JAMES_FAMILIES (Families and the Corporation in European Capitalism)

The eventual aim of my project was to produce a major comparative study, in the form of a book, of "The Evolution of Corporate Governance in European Capitalism". It will combine both an extensive range of case studies, and quantitative data relating to the performance (growth, profitability, employment creation) of firms in a comparison of different patterns of regional and national experience.

During the course of the project, I was engaged in archival research in Germany, France and Italy, looking at private and public sector archives, as well as in writing up parts of the project. My preliminary results have been discussed in conferences, and in lectures, and many of the conference papers are available on the internet. An initial departure for the project was my book on Family Capitalism published in 2006 by Harvard University Press, and now with translations in Chinese, German, and Italian. The book treated primarily three case studies, of a French (Wendel), German (Haniel), and Italian (Falck) firm. This initial survey of the issue will be followed by the second stage of the project, a book on the modern joint stock corporation. I am beginning with the preparation of this manuscript. I have also just written a book on the effects of financial crises ("The Creation and Destruction of Value") (Harvard University Press, 2009).

The final result will be a synthesis volume that reviews in a broad comparative setting the question of the role of families, and of personal networks, in generating entrepreneurship. This final study will also examine the role of legal structures and competition strategy in moulding business and family strategies. Family firms play a major role in business life in a large number of countries, but one that has remarkably largely escaped any serious comparative or historical analysis. This is surprising as there has recently been an upsurge of interest in four issues that are central to the question of family businesses and their role in the modern economy. This issue is especially important in the discussion of what are often held to be peculiarities of continental European capitalism, or "Rhineland capitalism", and the current debate about its advantages, disadvantages, its stability and its long term prospects.

The debate about corporate form, and the ability to be flexible, is central to considerations of what is attractive, innovative, and dynamic about the European model, as well as of where potential problems and inflexibilities lie. How do legal and (in the twentieth century and beyond) tax structures affect decisions about enterprise form, and how in turn do these have an impact on micro-economic behaviour and on macro-economic growth? The family firm has also become the prevalent way of doing business in the rapidly growing emerging economies of South America and especially of South and East Asia. The theme is one very important part of a large discussion of how European social and legal structures adapt to the world of globalisation.

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