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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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Origins and Shifting Functions of Business Interest Associations. The Dutch Case in the Twentieth Century (Bram Bouwens & Joost Dankers)


109 Origins and Shifting Functions of Business Interest Associations The Dutch Case in the Twentieth Century Bram BOUWENS & Joost DANKERS Utrecht University Introduction The BIA is here defined as an organisation of employers or companies working for the common interest of its members1. They typically perform activities to advance or defend interests of business collectively. These activities would be unduly costly or time consuming for an individual company to carry out by itself. The Dutch BIAs played a key role in the organisation of social relations, the famous “poldermodel”, which is seen as a decisive factor in Dutch economic success. Often these organisations started at the end of the nineteenth century as rather small, local societies of entrepreneurs. They soon aggregated into regional and national organisations that became powerful actors in the Dutch society and a typical feature of the Dutch business system. The BIAs unite different functions. These functions and their relative importance can change over time under political or economic pressure. In 2003 VNO-NCW, the largest Dutch federation of employers, together with the management consultant Berenschot presented a model that distinguished five different functions of the BIA. In this article we will use this model to analyse the changing functions of BIAs over time. Many BIAs started as a “society”, promoting common values, offering a network and platform for discussion. Entrepreneurs in the same industry 1 See van Waarden, F., “Regulering en belangenorganisaties van ondernemers”, in F.L. Holthoon (ed.), De Nederlandse samenleving sinds 1815; wording en samenhang, Assen/Maastricht,...

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