Research and Joint WorkThe overall goal is
that the integrated activities of the Institute for Business and Economic History Research and the Uppsala Center for Business History will be developed into an important node in a domestic and international network of scholars and research institutes that, on the basis of the various social science disciplines, analyses the business environment in a ever changing world, as well as the transformation of the economy and the individual’s role in these developments.
Presented as a list, this goal requires that the EHFF and the UCHB, in close cooperation, will:
- Promote business history research in Sweden and create a world-class, joint research environment.
- Expand the boundaries of research beyond Sweden and develop tangible cooperation with foreign scholars and research institutes in the field of business history.
- Actively participate in the development of European scholarly training in Economic and Business History in cooperation with, among others, the Copenhagen School of Business and the Universities of Geneva, Barcelona, Glasgow and Bocconi in Milan.
- Create a long-term balance between i) internally funded research, ii) research grants obtained in open competition from research foundations and other grant awarding bodies and iii) externally commissioned research.
- Create a balance in the common environment among various researchers in terms of seniority, areas of interest and approaches.
- Give priority to projects and scholars that can be expected to contribute to the long-term development of business history research.
Some Tangible Research Programs
i) The European Business Identity. This research program is a spin off from an ongoing project analyzing trends in profitability among large corporations in Great Britain, Germany, France, Italy, Spain, Belgium, Finland and Sweden. This follow up research begins by asking if a European business identity even exists, and, if it does, what factors have been decisive for its development and establishment. In addition, other questions are addressed, such as the importance of the North American business tradition for European enterprise, what effect the European welfare state tradition has had on large corporations, and what has been the impact of various traditional forms of finance on the European business identity.
The Swedish part of this research program deals with these basic problems, but is also supplemented with questions concerning the Swedish corporate structure and why Sweden has relatively many large firms, but relatively few small and medium sized ones. Within the frame work of this project, a number of key economic indicators, such as organizational traditions and entrepreneurship, will be analyzed. The program will cover the period from1910 to 2000 and will have the following tangible content:
- The existence and functioning of cartels in Swedish industry,
- Debts and profits in Swedish enterprise – a comparison of financing structure
- and profitability among various-sized firms,
- The role of mergers in the development of the large corporate sector during
- the 20th century,
- The emergence of norms for Swedish enterprise – traditions and ideals.
ii) Business Finance, Financial Systems and Industrial Structure. This program is intended to analyze how the financial sector, over time and in the long-run, becomes integrated with the corporate sector. Sweden, Germany and Japan were long considered to be prototypes of a bank oriented financial system with in which groups of enterprises were bound up with various banks through house-bank relationships, personal networks and ownership. Through inter-country comparisons, the ways in which relations between the banks and industry have changed in the three countries, and the effects this has had on efficiency and structure in various business sectors, will be examined.
iii) Growth, Tradition and Renewal. The Economic History of Stockholm, 1945-2005. Six monographs, that together will present an overview of Stockholm’s industrial and economic transformation since World War II, are planned. Two of these sub-projects – 1) Stockholm as a Financial Center and 2) Stockholm’s Media and News Market – are in progress, and three more are scheduled to begin during 2008: 3) The Political Economy of Stockholm,4) The Private Construction Sector in Stockholm: Between Government and Market,and 5) The Life Sciences Sector in the Development of Stockholm, 1945- 2005. The sixth project, preliminarily titled Commerce and Consumption as a Prime Mover in the Renewal of Stockholm, is in the early stages of planning.
iv) The Theory and Practice of Corporate Control. This program has evolved in cooperation with the History of Technology and Science Division at the Royal Institute of Technology (KTH) and it research project “Industrial Society Transformed – Industrial Growth and Changes in the Processes of Corporate Expansion and Local Government Planning. That project, among other topics, examines the relationships among large industrial firms, society and the government during the peak industrial epoch, 1935-1985. Is Robert Reich correct when he argues in his book Super Capitalism, that big business was never more powerful, neither before nor since, than during the Keynesian Era (the Peak Industrial Epoch), when national and local government cleared the path and created markets for the large domestic firms?
Utilizing interviews, we intend to study how CEOs and Managing Directors in Swedish stock-market listed corporations allocate their time. Our results will be compared with those reached by Professor Sune Carlsson in his equivalent studies from the late 1940s and early 1950s. A sub-project will examine how stock exchange regulations and the current principles of corporate control emerged in Sweden sine the early 1970s, as well as both how they were affected by foreign influences and how they were applied over time. Particular attention will be paid to those changes in the analysis of firms that has resulted in a switch of emphasis from the balance sheet to cash flow, and to the consequences of this new approach.
v) Family Capitalism. This project studies the entrepreneurial process within family controlled multinational firms. Family owned firms have played a major role in the development of the modern welfare state, and they have lived on past the age of early industrialism. Thus, deterministic models that predict the gradual demise of these firms and the total dominance of anonymously owned large corporations have proven to be wrong. The Wallenbergs, Rausings, Kamprads and Lundbergs are just some examples of Swedish ownership families that have succeeded in creating and consolidating competitive multinational firms. Still today, a number of recently developed branches are dominated by such firms. Moreover, family controlled firms, such as IKEA, Tetra-Pak and Hennes & Mauritz, have long been, and remain, among the most profitable of Swedish corporations. The continuing importance of the entrepreneurial family firm for the Swedish economy is clearly at odds with the process of economic growth and development posited by Schumpeter and his successors. By focusing on family firms, it is possible to deepen our understanding of the relationships among corporate structure, entrepreneurship, economic policy and social forces in the development of the modern welfare state.