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“Varieties of Capitalism” Roundtable

  • Mira Wilkins (a1), Kathleen Thelen (a2), Richard Whitley (a3), Rory M. Miller (a4), Cathie Jo Martin (a5), V. R. Berghahn (a6), Martin Jes Iversen (a7), Gary Herrigel (a8) and Jonathan Zeitlin (a9)...

The debate about the idea of “varieties of capitalism,” which was formalized by Peter Hall and David Soskice in their 2001 book on the subject, has attracted the work of business historians, as well as of political scientists, and economists.

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1 Hall, Peter and Soskice, David, eds., Varieties of Capitalism: The Institutional Foundations of Comparative Advantage (Oxford, 2001).

2 Most of the literature made such comparisons implicitly. A number of infl uential works, such as Kennedy, William P., Industrial Structure Capital Markets and the Origins of British Economic Decline (Cambridge, U.K., 1987), made them more formally.

3 This goes back to at least Cameron, Rondo, Banking in the Early Stages of Industrialization (Oxford, 1967). A more recent study is by Cassis, Youseff, ed., Finance and Financiers in European History, 1880–1960 (Cambridge, U.K., 2002).

4 Chandler, Alfred D. Jr. with the assistance of Takashi Hikino, Scale and Scope: The Dynamics of Industrial Capitalism (Cambridge, Mass., 1990).

5 McCraw, Thomas K., ed., Creating Modern Capitalism: How Entrepreneurs, Companies, and Countries Triumphed in Three Industrial Revolutions (Cambridge, Mass., 1997).

6 Hall and Soskice, Varieties of Capitalism.

7 The phrase came from the title of Childs, Marquis W., Sweden: The Middle Way (New Haven, 1938). This popular book was reprinted in the 1960s.

8 Stewart, Charles F. and Simmons, George B., A Bibliography of International Business (New York, 1964), 1124, with the quoted passage on p. 4. Of course, they were wrong. The Soviet system did allow for certain private enterprise, long before its collapse. But that was another matter.

9 Indeed, one did not have to be an advocate of the free markets (or to look at the matter retrospectively) to fi nd the Stewart-Simmons comment somewhat “quaint.” In the 1960s, as an example, when foreign banks were considering investing in the United States and trying to fi gure out the complexities of American state and national policies on bank regulations, they found a total absence of “laissez-faire”—at least in the banking sector.

10 Bremmer, Ian, The End of the Free Market: Who Wins the War between States and Corporations (New York, 2010). See also reviews of the book in the Economist, 5 June 2010, and the New York Times, 6 June 2010.

11 It is the convention for students of multinational enterprise to use the terms “home” as the country where the multinational is headquartered and “host” as the country that hosts the activities of the foreign-owned multinational (the locale where the latter does business abroad).

12 Wilkins, Mira, “The History of the Multinational Enterprise,” in The Oxford Handbook of International Business, ed. Rugman, Alan M. (Oxford, 2nd ed., 2009), 338, esp. 16–17; and Jones, Geoffrey, Multinationals and Global Capitalism from the Nineteenth to the Twenty-first Century (Oxford, 2005), 1617.

13 See, for example, Sombart, Werner, “Capitalism,” in Encyclopedia of Social Sciences, vol.3 (New York, 1930), 195208; Schumpeter, Joseph A., Capitalism, Socialism and Democracy (New York, 1942); Posner, Richard A., The Crisis of Capitalist Democracy (Cambridge, Mass., 2010); and Appleby, Joyce, The Relentless Revolution: A History of Capitalism (New York, 2010).

14 Note the formidable literature on “religion and capitalism” and “democracy and capitalism.” Among the ongoing contributions in the last few years are McCleary, Rachel M. and Barro, Robert J., “Religion and Economy,” Journal of Economic Perspectives 20, no. 2 (2006): 4972; and Acemoglu, Daron, Robinson, James, and Yared, Pierre, “Income and Democracy,” American Economic Review 98, no. 3 (2008): 808–42.

15 A “family firm” may (and frequently does) have outside-the-family (or families) shareholders. Often “state-owned” businesses are not 100 percent owned by the state. Publicly traded fi rms can be family dominated or have partial state ownership.

16 There are problems in defi ning what constitutes the multinational enterprise, which I have explored elsewhere. See Wilkins, Mira, “Defi ning a Firm: History and Theory,” in Multinationals: Theory and History, ed. Hertner, Peter and Jones, Geoffrey (Aldershot, 1986), 8095.

17 My defi nition is broad enough to encompass a fi rm that operates in a single foreign country, which was often the case as I traced the beginnings of the history of individual multinational enterprises.

18 These linkages vary by circumstances, industries, and history. I do not see joint ventures as a “magic bullet” to provide for transfer and absorption; in fact, at times they are counterproductive to the process. Yet they can be part of the transfer process. Sometimes, a multinational enterprise's presence within a particular host country can be so small as to have minimal external linkages.

19 I have explored some of these ideas in more detail in my books and in different contexts in articles. On the latter, see, for instance, Wilkins, Mira, “The Role of Private Business in the International Diffusion of Technology,Journal of Economic History 34 (Mar. 1974): 166–88; Wilkins, Mira, “The Contributions of Foreign Business to Japanese Economic Development,” in Foreign Business in Japan before World War II, ed. Yuzawa, Takeshi and Udagawa, Masaru (Tokyo, 1990), 3557, and “Response” to comment in the latter, 59–60; and Wilkins, Mira, “Multinational Enterprises and Economic Change,” in Australian Economic History Review 38, no. 2 (1998): 103–34.

20 The fi rst generation Saudi engineers, technicians, and managers were all trained within the context of the multinational enterprise that operated in that country.

21 This may happen through acquisitions, but often happens through the course of time as subsidiaries develop their own activities and expertise.

22 Abo has discussed this model in a number of different contexts. See, for example, Abo, Tetsuo, ed., Hybrid Factory: The Japanese Production System in the United States (Oxford, 1994).

23 For a thoughtful article on the impact of computer-mediated transactions and combinatorial innovation, see Varian, Hal R., “Computer Mediated Transactions,” American Economic Review 100 (May 2010): 110. Varian believes that “one interesting implication of computer mediated transactions among knowledge workers is that interactions are no longer constrained by time or distance” (p. 8). I disagree: time zones plus language and understanding constraints do persist, speed in communications notwithstanding.

24 If multinationals are taxed by a corrupt government, the revenues are clearly not used in the “most advantageous” manner for a national economy.

25 Can the presence of multinationals bring negative externalities? Of course. My argument is, however, that a careful study of the historical record shows far more desirable outcomes than adverse ones.

26 Including but not limited to coordinated collective bargaining, arrangements for worker participation and voice at the plant level, coordinated systems of vocational education and training, and particular kinds of financial institutions.

27 Streeck, Wolfgang, Re-forming Capitalism: Institutional Change in the German Political Economy (Oxford, 2009).

28 Hall, Peter A. and Gingerich, Daniel, “Spielarten des Kapitalismus und institutionelle Komplementaritäten in der Makroökonomie: Eine empirische Analyse,” Berliner Journal für Soziologie (Winter 2004).

29 See, for example, Iversen, Torben and Soskice, David, “Distribution and Redistribution: The Shadow from the Nineteenth Century,” World Politics (2009): 438–86;Kitschelt, Herbert et al., “Convergence and Divergence in Advanced Capitalist Democracies,” in Continuity and Change in Contemporary Capitalism, ed. Kitschelt, Herbert et al. (New York, 1999); Swenson, Peter, Capitalists Against Markets (New York, 2002); Thelen, Kathleen, How Institutions Evolve: The Political Economy of Skills in Comparative-Historical Perspective (New York, 2004); Cathie Jo Martin and Duane Swank, In Search of Self (Boston University, unpublished manuscript).

30 Swenson, Capitalists Against Markets; Mares, Isabela, “The Sources of Business Interest in Social Insurance,” World Politics 55, no. 2 (2003); Martin, Cathie Jo, Stuck in Neutral: Business and the Politics of Human Capital Investment Policy (Princeton, 2000).

31 Swenson, Capitalists Against Markets; Thelen, How Institutions Evolve.

32 Djelic, Marie-Laure, Exporting the American Model: The Postwar Transformation of European Business (Oxford, 1998); Ranieri, Ruggero, “Remodelling the Italian Steel Industry: Americanization, Modernization and Mass Production,” in Americanization and Its Limits: Reworking U.S. Technology and Management in Postwar Europe and Japan, ed. Zeitlin, Jonathan and Herrigel, Gary (Oxford, 2000), 236–68; Jonathan Zeitlin, “Americanizing British Engineering? Strategic Debate, Selective Adaptation, and Hybrid Innovation in Postwar Reconstruction,” in Americanization and Its Limits, 123–52.

33 Johnson, Chalmers, MITI and the Japanese Miracle (Stanford, 1982); Zysman, John, Governments, Markets and Growth: Financial Systems and the Politics of Industrial Change (Ithaca, N.Y., 1983).

34 Peter Hall and David Soskice, “An Introduction to Varieties of Capitalism,” in Varieties of Capitalism, 37.

35 Streeck, Wolfgang, Social Institutions and Economic Performance: Studies of Industrial Relations in Advanced Capitalist Economies (London, 1992).

36 Casper, Steven and Whitley, Richard, “Managing Competences in Entrepreneurial Technology Firms: A Comparative Institutional Analysis of Germany, Sweden, and the U.K.,Research Policy 33 (2004): 89106.

37 Amable, Bruno, The Diversity of Modern Capitalism (Oxford, 2003); and Whitley, Richard, Business Systems and Organisational Capabilities: The Institutional Structuring of Competitive Competences (Oxford, 2007).

38 Braczyk, Hans-Joachim, Cooke, Philip, and Heidenreich, Martin, eds., Regional Innovation Systems: The Role of Governances in a Globalized World (London, 1998; republ. 2003); Saxenian, AnnaLee, Regional Advantage: Culture and Competition in Silicon Valley and Route 128 (Cambridge, Mass., 1994); Allen, Matthew, “The Varieties of Capitalism Paradigm: Not Enough Variety?Socio-Economic Review 2 (2004): 87107; Deeg, Richard and Jackson, Gregory, “Towards a More Dynamic Theory of Capitalist Variety,Socio-Economic Review 5 (2007): 149–79; Streeck, Wolfgang, Re-forming Capitalism (Oxford, 2009).

39 Crouch, Colin, Capitalist Diversity and Change: Recombinant Governance and Institutional Entrepreneurs (Oxford, 2005); Streeck, Wolfgang and Thelen, Kathleen, eds., Beyond Continuity: Institutional Change in Advanced Political Economies (Oxford, 2005); Morgan, Glenn, Whitley, Richard, and Moen, Eli, eds., Changing Capitalisms? Internationalisation, Institutional Change, and Systems of Economic Organisation (Oxford, 2005).

40 See the following by Whitley, Richard: Business Systems in East Asia: Firms, Markets and Societies (London, 1992); Divergent Capitalisms: The Social Structuring and Change of Business Systems (Oxford, 1999); and Business Systems and Organisational Capabilities (Oxford, 2007).

41 Kristensen, Peer Hull and Zeitlin, Jonathan, Local Players in Global Games: The Strategic Constitution of a Multinational Corporation (Oxford, 2005).

42 Zeitlin, Jonathan, “The Historical Alternatives Approach,” in The Oxford Handbook of Business History, ed. Jones, Geoffrey and Zeitlin, Jonathan (Oxford, 2008), 120–40.

43 Laurence, Henry, Money Rules: The New Politics of Finance in Britain and Japan (Ithaca, N.Y., 2001).

44 My thanks are due to Carlos Dávila, Stephanie Decker, and Raúl García Heras for their critical remarks on the fi rst draft of this essay. Unfortunately, for reasons of space, I have not been able to address all their comments.

45 Jones, Geoffrey and Zeitlin, Jonathan, eds., The Oxford Handbook of Business History (Oxford, 2008).

46 Barbero, María Inés, “Business History in Latin America: A Historiographical Perspective,” Business History Review 82 (Autumn 2008): 572.

47 Schneider, Ben Ross, “Hierarchical Market Economies and Varieties of Capitalism in Latin America,Journal of Latin American Studies 41 (Aug. 2009): 553–75.

48 The latter points differentiate Latin America from emerging economies in Pacific Asia.

49 This comment is generalizing about the role of the state: during the ISI period there was a substantial degree of economic nationalism which was most evident in the nationalization of mining, energy and public utilities, the reservation of “basic industries” for stateowned enterprise (SOEs), and, at times, the enforced use of joint ventures between foreign and domestic business. Some of the SOEs remain important business leaders, such as, for example, Codelco, the Chilean copper-mining corporation, or Petrobras, the Brazilian state oil company.

50 Schneider, “Hierarchical Market Economies,” 555.

51 See, for example, Leff, Nathaniel, “Industrial Organization and Entrepreneurship in the Developing Countries: The Economic Groups,Economic Development and Cultural Change 26 (July 1978): 661–75; Guillén, Mauro, “Business Groups in Emerging Economies: A Resource-Based View,Academy of Management Journal 43 (June 2000): 362–80.Cerutti, Mario, ed., Empresas y grupos empresariales en América Latina, España, y Portugal (Monterrey, 2005), contains six essays on Latin American groups. I completed this essay before seeing a copy of Colpan, Asli M., Hikino, Takashi, and Lincoln, James R., The Oxford Handbook of Business Groups (Oxford, 2010), which contains four chapters on individual Latin American countries (Argentina, Brazil, Chile, and Mexico).

52 For a rare example of a corporate history analyzing failure, see Rougier, Marcelo and Schvarzer, Jorge, Las grandes empresas no mueren de pie: El (o) caso de SIAM (Buenos Aires, 2006).

53 Some of the most important advances in business history in Latin America have been in banking and fi nance, but the focus, until recently, has been on the early part of the twentieth century: see Marichal, Carlos, “Banking History and Archives in Latin America,” Business History Review 82 (Autumn 2008): 585602.

54 An exception is Brennan, James P., The Labor Wars in Córdoba, 1955–1976: Ideology, Work and Politics in an Argentine Industrial City (Cambridge, Mass., 1994), which uses the archives of multinational automobile firms. For further comment on the ways in which “dependency theory” divided historians of business and labor, see Miller, Rory M., Foreign Firms and Business History in Latin America (Bogotá, 2010), ch. 1.

55 Cuervo-Cazurra, Alvaro, “The Multinationalization of Developing Country MNEs: The Case of the Multilatinas,Journal of International Management 14 (June 2008): 138–54. For some case studies, see Lourdes Casanova and Matthew Fraser, eds., From Multilatinas to Global Latinas: The New Latin American Multinationals (Inter-American Development Bank, n.d.), on line at

56 For an Argentine exception, see Daniel Friel, “Applying the Varieties of Capitalism Approach to Argentina: Institutions and the Strategy of Arcor,” paper presented at the 2009 Congress of the Latin American Studies Association, on line at edu/members/congress-papers/lasa2009/fi les/FrielDaniel.pdf.

57 On Petrobras, for example, see Dantas, Eva and Bell, Martin, “Latecomer Firms and the Emergence and Development of Knowledge Networks: The Case of Petrobras in Brazil,Research Policy 38 (June 2009): 829–44.

58 The quotation is from Schneider, “Hierarchical Market Economies,” 555.

59 For a fascinating discussion of German economic development, see Dunlavy, Colleen and Welskopp, Thomas, “Peculiarities and Myths: Comparing U.S. and German Capitalism,” German Historical Institute Bulletin no. 41 (Fall 2007): 3364.

60 Orren, Karen and Skowronek, Stephen, The Search for American Political Development (Cambridge, U.K., 2004).

61 Martin, Cathie Jo and Swank, Duane, “The Political Origins of Coordinated Capitalism: Business Organization, Party Systems, and State Structure in the Age of Innocence,American Political Science Review 102, no. 2 (2008): 181–98.

62 Martin, Cathie Jo, “Sectional Parties, Divided Business,Studies in American Political Development 20, no. 2 (2006).

63 Martin and Swank, “The Political Origins of Coordinated Capitalism.”

64 Ibid., 182.

65 Chandler, Alfred D. Jr., “Business History as Institutional History,” in Approaches to American Economic History, ed. Taylor, George Rogers and Ellsworth, Lucius F. (Charlottesville, Va., 1971).

66 Hall and Soskice, Varieties of Capitalism. The extensive VoC literature illustrates this, and a search for “Varieties” and “Capitalism” in EBSCOHost results in 283 academic peerr eviewed articles.

67 Hancké, Bob, Rhodes, Martin, and Thatcher, Mark, “Beyond Varieties of Capitalism,” in Debating Varieties of Capitalism: A Reader, ed. Hancké, Bob (Oxford, 2009), 273301.

68 Chandler, AlfredD. Jr., Strategy and Structure: Chapters in the History of the American Industrial Enterprise (Cambridge, 1962), Hall and Soskice, Varieties of Capitalism, 15.

70 Fellman, Susanna et al., eds., Creating Nordic Capitalism: The Business History of a Competitive Periphery (Basingstoke, 2008).

71 Peter Hall and Kathleen Thelen, “Institutional Change in Varieties of Capitalism,” in Debating Varieties of Capitalism, 273–300.

72 Karlsson, Svenolof and Lugn, Anders, Changing the World: The Story of Lars Magnus Ericsson and His Successors (Stockholm, 2010).

73 Herrigel, Gary, Manufacturing Possibilities: Creative Action and Industrial Recomposition in the United States, Germany and France (Oxford, 2010); Herrmann, Andrea, “Rethinking the Link between Labour Market Flexibility and Corporate Competitiveness: A Critique of the Institutionalist Literature,Socio-Economic Review 6 (2008): 637–69; Lange, Knut, “Institutional Embeddedness and the Strategic Leeway of Actors: The Case of the German Therapeutical Biotech Industry,Socio-Economic Review 7 (2009): 181207; Lorenz, Edward, “The Varieties of Capitalism Hypothesis about Labour Markets, Skills and Innovation: What's Right with It and What's Wrong with It,” unpublished manuscript, University of Nice, 2010.

74 See, above all, Crouch, Capitalist Diversity and Change.

75 Howell, Chris, “Varieties of Capitalism: And Then There Was One?Comparative Politics 36, no. 1 (2003): 103–24; Hancké, Bob, Rhodes, Martin, and Thatcher, Mark, “Introduction: Beyond Varieties of Capitalism,” in Beyond Varieties of Capitalism: Confl icts, Contradictions, and Complementarities in the European Economy, ed. Hancké, , Rhodes, , and Thatcher, (Oxford, 2007).

76 Herrigel, Manufacturing Possibilities.

77 Hall, Peter A. and Gingerich, Daniel W., “Varieties of Capitalism and Institutional Complementarities in the Macroeconomy: An Empirical Analysis,” MPIfG Discussion Paper 04/5 (Cologne, 2004); Martin Rhodes and Oscar Molina, “The Political Economy of Adjustment in Mixed Market Economies: A Study of Spain and Italy,” in Beyond Varieties of Capitalism, 223–52; Amable, The Diversity of Modern Capitalism; Schneider, “Hierarchical Market Economies.”

78 Crouch, Capitalist Diversity and Change. Proponents of VoC typically claim that national political economies more closely resembling the pure types (CMEs, LMEs) perform better than mixed models, precisely because of institutional complementarities (see Hall and Gingerich). But the empirical evidence does not support this view, since many of the most successful national political economies over the past two decades look more like “mongrels” or “hybrids” than pure types. See Kenworthy, Lane, “Institutional Coherence and Macroeconomic Performance,Socio-Economic Review 4, no. 1 (2006): 6991; and Zeitlin, Jonathan, “Introduction: Governing Work and Welfare in a New Economy: European and American Experiments,” in Governing Work and Welfare in a New Economy: European and American Experiments, ed. Zeitlin, Jonathan and Trubek, David M. (Oxford, 2003), 1–30.

79 Hall, Peter and Thelen, Kathleen, “Institutional Change in Varieties of Capitalism,” in Socio-Economic Review 7 (2009): 734.

80 Wolfgang Streeck and Kathleen Thelen, “Introduction: Institutional Change in Advanced Political Economies,” in Beyond Continuity, 1–39; Hall and Thelen, “Institutional Change in Varieties of Capitalism”; Mahoney, James and Thelen, Kathleen, “A Theory of Gradual Institutional Change,” in Explaining Institutional Change: Ambiguity, Agency, and Power, ed. Mahoney, and Thelen, (New York, 2010), 137; Streeck, Re-forming Capitalism; Herrigel, Manufacturing Possibilities.

81 Streeck and Thelen, “Introduction: Institutional Change in Advanced Political Economies”; Mayntz, Renate, “Systemkohärenz, institutionelle Komplementarität und institutioneller Wandel,” in Transformationen des Kapitalismus: Festschrift für Wolfgang Streeck zum sechzigsten Geburtstag, ed. Beckert, Jens, et al. (Frankfurt, 2006), 381–98; Hall and Thelen, “Institutional Change in Varieties of Capitalism”; Streeck, Re-forming Capitalism; Thelen, Kathleen, “Presidential Address: Economic Regulation and Social Solidarity: Conceptual and Analytic Innovations in the Study of Advanced Capitalism,Socio-Economic Review 8 (2010): 187207.

82 Gary Herrigel, “Institutionalists at the Limits of Institutionalism: A Critique of Two Books on Germany and Japan,” Symposium, Special on “Non-Liberal Capitalism” in Socioeconomic Review 3, no. 3 (2005): 559–67; Zeitlin, “Introduction: Governing Work and Welfare in a New Economy”; Jonathan Zeitlin, “Industrial Districts and Regional Clusters,” in Oxford Handbook of Business History, 219–43; Jackson, Gregory and Deeg, Richard, “From Comparing Capitalisms to the Politics of Institutional Change,Review of International Political Economy 15, no. 4 (2008): 680709; Schneiberg, Marc, “What's on the Path? Path Dependence, Organizational Diversity and the Problem of Institutional Change in the U.S. Economy, 1900–1950,Socio-Economic Review 5 (2007): 4780; Berk, Gerald and Schneiberg, Marc, “Varieties in Capitalism, Varieties of Association: Collaborative Learning in American Industry, 1900 to 1925,Politics and Society 1 (2005): 4687.

83 Gary Herrigel, “Corporate Governance,” in The Oxford Handbook of Business History, 470–500.

84 Compare Herrigel, Manufacturing Possibilities, to Zeitlin, Jonathan, “Shop Floor Bargaining and the State: A Contradictory Relationship,” in Shop Floor Bargaining and the State: Historical and Comparative Perspectives, ed. Tolliday, Steven and Zeitlin, Jonathan (Cambridge, U.K., 1985), 145.

85 Dewey, John, Human Nature and Conduct (1922), repr. in Dewey, John, The Middle Works, 1899–1924, vol.14, ed. Boydston, Jo Ann (Carbondale, 1983); Joas, Hans, The Creativity of Action (Chicago, 1996); Sabel, Charles F., “A Real Time Revolution in Routines,” in The Firm as a Collaborative Community: Reconstructing Trust in the Knowledge Economy, ed. Heckscher, Charles and Adler, Paul (Oxford, 2007), 106–56.

86 See Sabel, Charles F. and Zeitlin, Jonathan: “Stories, Strategies, Structures: Rethinking Historical Alternatives to Mass Production,” in Worlds of Possibility: Flexibility and Mass Production in Western Industrialization, ed. Sabel, and Zeitlin, (Cambridge, U.K., 1997), 136, and Neither Modularity nor Relational Contracting: Inter-Firm Contracting in the New Economy,Enterprise and Society 5, no. 3 (2005): 388403; Zeitlin: “The Historical Alternatives Approach” and “Industrial Districts and Regional Clusters”; Herrigel, Gary: Industrial Constructions: The Sources of German Industrial Power (New York, 1996), and “Corporate Governance”; Berk, Gerald: Alternative Tracks: The Constitution of American Industrial Order, 1865–1917 (Baltimore, 1997), and Louis D. Brandeis and the Making of Regulated Competition, 1900–1932 (New York, 2010); and Scranton, Philip, Endless Novelty: Specialty Production and American Industrialization, 1865–1925 (Princeton, 1997).

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