The European Enterprise as a Key Player in the European Economic Model. A Historical Perspective

AuthorDaniela Felisini
PositionUniversity of Rome Tor Vergata, Italy
T EA U R, V. 1 N. 0/2014
The European Enterprise as a Key Player in the
European Economic Model. A Historical Perspective
Daniela Felisini*
Abstract. The enterprise is a key player in the European economic model. An analysis in historical
perspective can contribute to better define its identity, helping the implementation of effectual industrial
policies during the current phase of economic crisis and political divergences within the Union.
This article presents the results of a collective research, still in progress, aiming to identify the
native characters - a kind of genetic code - of the European enterprise since the end of 19th century.
Despite the differences between the various models of capitalism, we attempt to verify the existence
of at least four genetic characters common to the sample of firms studied in major European
countries. In our research hypothesis, the “genetic code” of European enterprise is influenced by
at least one or more of these four elements: a) Contractual cooperation, cartels and concerted
practices; b) Personal or family business, determining the diffusion and relevance of small and
medium firms; c) Active role of substitutive factors: the State and the bank; d) Strong influence of
the workers and their organization.
Key-words: European Enterprises; Industrial Policy; State-Market Relations
1. Introduction
Squeezed between the economic crisis and the persistent disagreements among the
Member States, Europe’s citizens did not celebrate the 20th anniversary of 1992
related to the important achievement of a Single Market. e dierent reactions
to the economic and nancial crisis that erupted in 2008 have led to a growing
divergence between member Countries, which has stressed - and in some cases
exacerbated - the structural weaknesses of some of them. Diculties in nding
common solutions appeared clearly. e recent crisis has revealed the recurring,
* University of Rome Tor Vergata, Italy
European Enterprise as a Key Player
cyclic temptation to push integration back, especially in troubled phases.
It’s time, now, for a reection - realistic and, at the same time, propositive – about
the strong points, the winning cards of the integration process. Among these
trumps, there is undoubtedly the European economic model: the foundation
and, at the same time, the result of over fty years of growth and convergence
between the regions of Europe, despite imbalances and disparities. It has a real
force, so as to receive renewed appreciation by scholars and institutions inspired
by dierent economic cultures. e World Bank has published a report with the
signicant title Restoring the luster of the European economic model, which illustrates
the considerable accomplishments of the model (Gill and Raiser, 2012). What is
more, even Harvard Business School has recently reopened the debate on European
industrial capitalism, considered as an appropriate source of inspiration for new
anti-crises corporate strategies based on “a new economic and entrepreneurial
(Sassoon, 2011; Kochan, 2012). It is an important ‘rediscovery’,
especially if compared with the economic ideas widespread in the rst half of the
2000s, when the relative decline of Europe was attributed to the obstinacy with
which Europe defends the bizarre project of bringing together the adjective ‘social’
with the concept of ‘market economy’” (Franzini and Supino, 2005, p. 1).
e model has, in fact, its primary reference in the ‘social market economy’, a
notion that has been included in the text of the European Constitution as an
essential element of integration (Bronzini, 2003; Borgna, 2004). Nevertheless,
it is a multifaceted and controversial model, for which it is not easy to nd a
shared denition, especially when we attempt to specify its contents, in order
to assess their consistency and sustainability and to propose a reformulation
suitable for present times.
e Research Group European Social Model has dened the model “as a
complex system of values - projects - policies - practices - organized structures,
shared by the European countries in the past and even today, notwithstanding
the multiplicity of national paradigms”
. It is still a very broad denition that
leaves many questions open. e reference to ‘national paradigms’ - that is the
specic way in which this ‘complex system’ is declined in the dierent European
countries – raises one of the main questions, especially in recent years, in which
1 e ESM Group, coordinated by Detlev Albers (Chairman of Bremer Forum für Regional
Europäische Politik, University of Bremen), Stephen Haseler (director of e Global Policy Institute
of the Metropolitan University of London), Gian Maria Fara (president of Eurispes , Rome), was
established in Rome in May 2007, on the basis of an international agreement for scientic and cultural
cooperation. e report of the Research Group is available on the website

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