Creating Nordic Capitalism

The business history of a competitive periphery

by Susanna Fellman, Martin Jes Iverson, Hans Sjögren & Lars Thue

Questions from Creating Nordic Capitalism

Chapter 2:

  1. We suggest that Swedish economic history could be divided into four periods of more or less distinctive paths in terms of institutional settings, economic structure and economic performance. The point of departure for every such period is a change of institutions and technology that alters the possibilities for doing business. The first part of a long period of change has been referred to in Chapter 1 as a “formative phase”. Try to pinpoint key features in the four formative phases observed in Sweden, compare them and discuss which of them has been the relatively most important in terms of structural changes and economic performance.
  2. Give examples of the core principles of the “Swedish model”. To what extent is it still relevant to talk about a “Swedish model”, as a label for Swedish contemporary political economy? What happens to the answer if you vary the definition of the “Swedish model” (narrower-broader), in line with the three definitions put forward by the chapter author above?

Chapter 3:

  1. Analyse the reasons for why the Bonnier and Wallenberg families have managed to keep their positions as long-tern owners in Swedish business for over 150 years?
  2. What differences and similarities are there between the ownership performance (active, re-active, passive ownership) in the Bonnier and Wallenberg groups?

Chapter 4:

  1. ASEA/ABB has developed as a company concurrent with the emergence of the Swedish welfare state. Is, then, the essence of Swedish capitalism captured in the evolution of ASEA/ABB? Does ASEA/ABB represent a particular Swedish/Nordic way of managing companies, and if so in what sense? In what dimension have ASEA/ABB been integrated in to the Swedish political economy?
  2. ASEA/ABB epitomizes the “big business” character of the Swedish economy as it emerged from the second industrial revolution and onwards. But is the management of big business in Sweden akin to big business in the US, as described by Alfred Chandler? Were there any relationships between the strategies of ASEA/ABB and choice of organizational structure? How did ASEA act with regard to horizontal and vertical integration? Why was ASEA late in adopting the divisional form (M-form) of organizing its activities?

Chapter 5:

  1. Discuss the role of the State in Finnish capitalism during the various periods. How has it changed? Which divergence and similarities can you find between the periods? How has this influenced the individual companies? (Use also the Finnish case chapters.)
  2. Discuss divergences in labour market practices and institutions between Finland and the other Nordic countries? How can there divergences be explained?

Chapter 6:

  1. The state emerged as important owners of industrial enterprises in all Nordic countries during the twentieth century. What was the role played by the state as the owner of big business in different Nordic countries? Why did they emerge?
  2. Forest industry was the key sector in Finnish industry from the nineteenth century up to the last decades of the twentieth century. Why was forest industry so pronounced in the Finnish economy from the mid-nineteenth century up to the 1990s? What explanatory factors can be found from, e.g., the company structure, raw material acquisitions, or economic policy?

Chapter 7:

  1. What was the role of Soviet trade to the strategic decision-making in Nokia and Tampella?
  2. Describe the main differences and similarities in Nokia’s and Tampella’s strategic paths.

Chapter 8:

  1. In this chapter, Danish capitalism is characterized under the heading “Co-operative liberalism”. Which periods of the Danish business system could be regarded as mainly dominated by liberal economic principles and which were mainly dominated by co-operative economic principles? Discuss why the Danish business system seems to have moved between liberal and co-operative principles and to what extent this dialectic movement is a principle common to all Nordic economies.
  2. The Danish economy experienced fast growth from 1993 to 2007. What were the main reasons for this upswing and to which extent should the fundamental background of the upswing be identified inside or outside the Danish business system?

Chapter 9:

  1. At the end of the nineteenth century the Danish butter industry experienced a real breakthrough on the British market. What specific circumstances were particularly important to this breakthrough, and why did these reasons prove so important for the position of the Danish butter in Great Britain?
  2. The case of Arla Food is focused on three specific time periods: 1875-1900, 1950-73 and 1973-2007. To what extent was the relationship to the Danish government and the international political institutions important in all three time periods? Which role did these institutions play in the rise of the industry and the growth of Arla Foods in each of these three periods?

Chapter 10:

  1. One of the important characteristics of Danish capitalism in the first half of the twentieth century was the widespread self-regulation of competition. Identify the different methods which Carlsberg used in order to control competition on the Danish beer market, and discuss the reasons why the market moved from a protected co-operative market toward a competitive liberal market in the 1980s.
  2. In recent years, Carlsberg has changed its nature from being an export-oriented multinational towards becoming a transnational company with a globally coordinated policy on branding, management, production methods, R&D, etc. What changes lead to this transition of Carlsberg, and in comparison with other large breweries could we then regard Carlsberg as a first-mover or a late-mover in this transition?

Chapter 11:

  1. The concept of “Democratic Capitalism”, as used in this chapter, has been constructed and developed by historians. The concept represents an effort to catch some distinct and lasting features of the Norwegian economy – amid a complex and what often seems to be a messy reality. How do you think the concept fits Norwegian development? What are the arguments for and against? Discuss whether it could be used to characterize the other Nordic economies.
  2. The business system emerging in the nineteenth and the late twentieth centuries has been characterized as “liberal”. What are the similarities and differences between the organizational and institutional structures of these periods?

Chapter 12:

  1. Elkem has been active in sectors that are typical of Norway, but would it be right to call Elkem a “typical Norwegian company”?
  2. How did Elkem achieve international importance in the inter-war years?

Chapter 13:

  1. To what extent do you consider modern banking to be important to long-term economic growth?
  2. Discuss CBK’s internationalization strategy in the second period of globalization. Compare with what you know about banking in other countries (for instance your own country, if that is other than Norway). Can you observe any major differences? Can they be related to the configuration of the business system?