Managerial power in the German model: the case of Bertelsmann and the antecedents of neoliberalism

Germann, Julian and Beck, Mareike (2019) Managerial power in the German model: the case of Bertelsmann and the antecedents of neoliberalism. Globalizations, 16 (3). pp. 260-273. ISSN 1474-7731

[img] PDF (This is an Accepted Manuscript of an article published by Taylor & Francis in Globalizations on 09/08/20018, available online: - Accepted Version
Download (306kB)


Our article extends the research on authoritarian neoliberalism to Germany, through a history of the Bertelsmann media corporation – sponsor and namesake of Germany’s most influential neoliberal think-tank. Our article makes three conceptual moves. Firstly, we argue that conceptualizing German neoliberalism in terms of an ‘ordoliberal paradigm’ is of limited use in explaining the rise and fall of Germany’s distinctive socio-economic model (Modell Deutschland). Instead, we locate the origins of authoritarian tendencies in the corporate power exercised by managers rather than in the power of state-backed markets imagined by ordoliberals. Secondly, we focus on the managerial innovations of Bertelsmann as a key actor enmeshed with Modell Deutschland. We show that the adaptation of business management practices of an endogenous ‘Cologne School’ empowered Bertelsmann’s postwar managers to overcome existential crises and financial constraints despite being excluded from Germany’s corporate support network. Thirdly, we argue that their further development in the 1970s also enabled Bertelsmann to curtail and circumvent the forms of labour representation associated with Modell Deutschland. Inspired by cybernetic management theories that it used to limit and control rather than revive market competition among its workforce, Bertelsmann began to act and think outside the postwar settlement between capital and labour before the settlement’s hotly-debated demise since the 1990s.

Item Type: Article
Schools and Departments: School of Global Studies > International Relations
Depositing User: Sharon Krummel
Date Deposited: 24 Apr 2018 14:44
Last Modified: 09 Feb 2020 02:00

View download statistics for this item

📧 Request an update