"The “Nationality” of the Company: Historical Approaches to a Possible Paradox

17.11.17 to 18.11.17
27. AKKU-Jahrestagung in Kooperation mit dem Arbeitskreis für kritische Unternehmens- und Industriegeschichte

Goethe University, Frankfurt am Main, 17.-18. November 2017
Campus Westend, Casino, Room: Cas 1.801 (Renate von Metzler-Saal)

Organizer: Boris Gehlen (University of Bonn), Christian Marx (University of Trier), Werner Plumpe (University of Frankfurt/M.), and Alfred Reckendrees (Copenhagen Business School)

funded by Fritz Thyssen Stiftung

in cooperation with Arbeitskreis für Kritische Unternehmens- und Industriegeschichte

The relationship between nation states and the companies based in their respective territories is often ambiguous. Companies provide employment and they pay taxes, they contribute to national income and frequently to “national identity” (DisneyDiorDaimler). Companies and businessmen engage in bilateral and international diplomacy, e.g. as door-openers for new relationships of the West to the Soviet Union in the 1950s or to China in the late 1970s. At other times, companies supported national policies of war and crimes against humanity.

The histories of ChryslerKrupp, or Rolls-Royce – to name just a few examples – provide abundant evidence of embeddedness and dependence on state capacity. Time and again, even companies describing themselves as multi- or transnational seem to appreciate the security net of a nation state with its government and constituency of taxpayers, who act as lenders of last resort. In times of financial crisis there is no dearth of companies that claim to be citizens of a nation state for the sake of access to the respective state’s resources. At the same time the modern state has developed towards a ‘competition state’ acting like a company in a market of countries vying for investments. Nation states brand themselves; they try to attract customers and to service international markets.

The question of companies and their nationality opens the discussion about how companies relate to society and the nation state, and vice versa. What nationality (if it has one) does a company have and how can it be conceived? The conference discusses this question and its implications historically from several perspectives, including perceptions and construction of nationality, the strategic dimension of nationality, nationality in international companies and international mergers, companies in (post)colonial settings and economic nationalism.

Due to limited room capacity an informal registration is required: b.gehlen@uni-bonn.de (Deadline: October 31st 2017).


 Zum Tagungsbericht: HSozUKult

Friday, November 17th 2017

9.00–9.30 a.m.

Get together with coffee and tea

9.30–10.00 a.m.

Welcome address

Werner Plumpe, Frankfurt a.M., and Boris Gehlen, Bonn

Introduction: The „Nationality“ of the Company: Historical Approaches to a Possible Paradox

Alfred Reckendrees, Copenhagen

10.00–12.00 a.m.

Panel I, Chair: Alfred Reckendrees, Copenhagen


Beyond ‘economic nationalism’: reflections on the nationalism/economy nexus and implications for studying the ‘nationality’ of companies

Stefan Berger, Bochum, and Peter Fetzer, Budapest

The Corporate Nationality: A Question of Culture and Community?

Eric Godelier, Paris

Creating a national identity? The issue of nationality in the energy-intensive industries in Norway, 1890–1940

Pål Thonstad Sandvik and Espen Storli, Trondheim

12.00–1.00 p.m.

Lunch break

1.00–3.00 p.m.

Panel II, Chair: Werner Plumpe, Frankfurt a.M.


Exporting national narratives: Historically rooted corporate narratives and Danish manufacturing in China

Kristoffer Jensen and Anders Ravn Sørensen, Copenhagen

Nationalisation and firm identity evolution in socialism: The case of Deutsche Werkstätten Hellerau in the GDR and beyond, 1945–1996

Katrin Schreiter (with Davide Ravasi), London

Capitalist Nationalism and Zionist Nation-Building in British-Ruled Palestine

David De Vries, Tel Aviv

3.00–3.30 p.m.

Coffee & tea break

3.30–4.45 p.m.

Panel III, Chair: Stephanie Decker, Birmingham


The paradox of the nationality of capital in a colonial context: economic nationalism and foreign investment in Angola (1920–1974)

Pedro Neves and Álvaro Ferreira da Silva, Lisbon

Nationality and domicile in international business: evidence from "British" overseas firms

Simon Mollan, Kevin Tennent, and Billy Frank, York

4.45–5.00 p.m.

Coffee & tea break

5.00–6.15 p.m.

Panel IV, Chair: N.N.


The Firestone Case. American Management vs. Swiss Labor Peace?

Sabine Pitteloud, Geneva

The impact of nationality on corporate governance: The case of the Dutch-German AKU/VGF/Akzo, 1920s to 1970s

Christian Marx, Trier, and Ben Wubs, Rotterdam

6.15–6.30 p.m.

Award Presentation: AKKU Award 2017

Laudatory Speech: Martin Lutz, Berlin

7.30 p.m.

Conference Dinner


Saturday, November 18th 2017

9.00–10.20 a.m.

Panel V, Chair: Christian Marx, Trier


The Importance of Being European: Airbus and the West German Aircraft Industry, 1960s to 1980s

Ralf Ahrens, Potsdam

The Role of “Nationalism” and “Internationalism” in the Recruitment of Managers in German Companies, 1950s to 1980s

Stina Barrenscheen, Marburg

10.20–10.40 a.m.

Coffee & tea break

10.40–12.00 a.m.

Panel VI, Chair: Boris Gehlen, Bonn


Nationality as a determinant of success for Belgian multinational entrepreneurs in a global economy: The case of Edouard Empain (1880–1914)

Tobit Vandamme, Ghent

Nations as brands and brand communities as nation

Mads Mordhorst, Copenhagen

12.00–1.00 p.m.

Lunch break

1.00–2.20 p.m.

Panel VII, Chair: Espen Storli, Trondheim


Shades of Foreignness: German and British Commercial Rivalry in Colonial India (1890s to 1940s)

Christina Lubinski, Copenhagen

Loosing, repairing and maintaining organizational legitimacy: The move towards polycentric organization in British multinationals in Ghana and Nigeria 1945–1970

Stephanie Decker, Birmingham

2.20–2.40 p.m.

Coffee & tea break

2.40–4.00 p.m.

Panel VIII, Chair: Christina Lubinski, Copenhagen


Buy-national campaigns. Harnessing national sentiment on behalf of profits and the common good

Oliver Kühschelm, Vienna

The Nationality of an Industry: “Swiss Made” law and global competition in the watch business since 1970

Pierre-Yves Donzé, Osaka

4.00–4.30 p.m.

Concluding remarks and concluding discussion

Boris Gehlen, Bonn

4.30 p.m.

End of Conference