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Historical and International Comparison of Business Interest Associations

19th-20th Centuries


Edited By Danièle Fraboulet-Rousselier, Andrea Maria Locatelli and Paolo Tedeschi

This book brings together selected essays on European Business Interest Associations (BIAs) as important components of European social and economic development over the last 150 years. The studies were originally presented at the 2012 World Economic History Congress, organized in association with an international research programme on BIAs in Europe. They adopt a historical research methodology with the aim of updating previous scholarship from within the social sciences; they also look at a number of different European countries, allowing for a comparative approach. They explore the roots and identity of BIAs, analyse their activities and examine their financing sources and strategies. Some essays discuss the decline of the old system of craft guilds and the emergence of new forms of economic organization and representation: new BIAs had to contend with the development of the trade unions and the growth of state economic interventionism and so they progressively increased their activities in order to serve European companies. Other essays present specific national examples of the evolution of BIAs throughout the twentieth century and also look at the development of Eurofederations.


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The Genesis of the Swiss Business Interest Associations (1860-1914) (Cédric Humair)


31 The Genesis of Swiss Business Interest Associations (1860-1914) Cédric HUMAIR Université de Lausanne Introduction On the eve of the First World War the Swiss economy was criss- crossed by a dense network of Business Interest Associations (henceforth BIAs), which were deployed at the local, cantonal and national level1. Guaranteeing the coordination of this set of heterogeneous constituent elements, five peak associations enabled the employers to effectively influence the actions of the central state, thereby responding to the main function of these associations. However, nothing presaged such a development in 1860. Among the agricultural, handicrafts and trading societies existing at that time, none had as yet acquired a national dimension. How and why did business circles manage to institute this extremely dense enmeshing of associations and societies, thus conferring a high level of organisation on Swiss companies? The aim of this contribution is to respond to this question by inscribing it within economic and political developments at the national and international scale, and by underlining the specificity of this shift to organised capitalism in Switzerland2. 1 For an overview of Swiss BIAs, see Gruner, E., Die Wirtschaftsverbände in der Demokratie. Vom Wachstum der Wirtschaftsorganisationen im schweizerischen Staat, Erlenbach-Zürich/Stuttgart, Eugen Rentsch Verlag, 1956; Meynaud, J., Les organisations professionnelles en Suisse, Lausanne, Payot, 1963; Humair, C., Guex, S., Mach, A., Eichenberger, P., “Les organisations patronales suisses entre coordina- tion économique et influence politique. Bilan historiographique et pistes de recherche”, in Vingtième Siècle. Revue d’histoire, 2012, n. 115,...

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