Research event

Paradoxical internationalisation: Topical lessons from organised civil aviation and from a process of societal aggregation

A presentation by Arndt Sorge (Social Science Research Centre Berlin (WZB). A session of the Organization and Management Research Colloquium on Innovation in the Public Sphere.

Prior registration is not required. Refreshments will be served.

Political and policy discussions deal with oppositions of, and shifts between, openness and closure, international and national regulation or markets. I argue that such oppositions are facile. There are two main reasons for this: 1- temporary equilibria tend to consist of opposite manifestations, which are stable because they are combinations of opposite manifestations. 2 – such temporary equilibria result from shifts from one manifestation to another over time, and they do not monotonically point in one direction, such as “globalisation”. Oppositions appear in retrospect as coherent, because they are related to the institutional differentiation of policy arenas and systems of action. I look at an industry to support this argument, civil aviation. This is an exemplary case because it was an international industry right from the start, in the 1920s. It has had internationally open markets, international regulation and strong national prerogatives from the beginning. This combination was reinforced by the Chicago convention of 1944 which provided the framework for international civil aviation to the present day. The major tendency of development was from a regulated international cartel (in IATA) to more liberal but regulated markets, in which there are no monopolies but alliances and networked airlines; national governments play a role which has changed qualitatively but not quantitatively. One quasi-exception to this is the integrated European air space, in which airlines with dominant ownership in a EU country can operate freely. This quasi-exception is thus related to societal aggregation beyond the nation state. I suggest that many, if not most, industries show similar characteristics of paradoxical internationalisation. Societal aggregation is a much more generic but related example of paradoxical internationalisation.  A distinctive forerunner to European societal aggregation was German integration, mainly in the 19th century but also before. This has also involved shifts to and back from openness and closure, local-provincial and national regulation. Belgium and Switzerland are not much different in this respect. If there is a valid template for explaining and conceiving of European integration, it is German integration in the 19th century.

Arndt Sorge is honorary professor at the University of Potsdam. Previously, he was the François Sellier Professor of International Management, University of Groningen 1999-2010, and a director at the Social Science Research Centre Berlin (WZB) 2006-11. He had previously worked at universities and research institutes in the Netherlands, Germany, Britain and France and is now an honorary professor at the University of Potsdam. His work involved international comparisons of organisation, management, industrial relations, human resources and technical change. His last major book was Comparative International Management (with Niels Noorderhaven and Carla Koen, Routledge 2015). He has had leading roles in the journal Organization Studies and in the European Group for Organization Studies (EGOS), between 1983 and 1999.