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Obstacles and levers to social mobilization: the history of co-determination in France and Germany

Freins et leviers de la mobilisation sociale : l’histoire de la codétermination en France et en Allemagne
Nicolas Aubert, Xavier Hollandts et Peter Wirtz
Cet article est une traduction de :
Freins et leviers de la mobilisation sociale : l’histoire de la codétermination en France et en Allemagne [fr]


Cet article propose une étude comparative et historique des facteurs de mobilisation (Davis et Thompson, 1994) autour de la codétermination en France et en Allemagne. L’opportunité politique, les intérêts partagés des acteurs, la présence d’une infrastructure sociale, la dynamique de la mobilisation et la présence d’une institution socle ont permis à la codétermination de s’imposer en Allemagne (Gomez et Wirtz, 2018). Ces ingrédients n’étaient pas présents en France malgré une réflexion originale sur la nature de l’entreprise justifiant la codétermination. Nous contribuons ainsi à la compréhension de l’institutionnalisation d’une idéologie politique et montrons comment deux pays relativement proches politiquement peuvent emprunter des trajectoires différentes.

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1. Introduction

1At a time when corporate social responsibility—considering environmental, social, and governance criteria—is becoming a growing social demand, employee co-determination on boards of directors deserves particular attention. With significant employee representation on boards of directors (or supervisory boards), co-determination represents an organizational mechanism for concretely introducing a social dimension into one of the most important bodies of corporate governance. But we need first to define what we mean by co-determination in the present work. As Germany is often cited in the literature as having the governance system with the highest degree of co-determination, and as successful mobilization of co-determination is the subject of our comparative study, we will adopt the German definition as enshrined in the Mitbestimmungsgesetz (co-determination law). In France, the term codétermination (literally Mitbestimmung in German) is sometimes used interchangeably to designate two realities. In German company law, these are identified distinctly as Unternehmensmitbestimmung and Betriebsmitbestimmung. Of the two, the present study focuses solely on Unternehmensmitbestimmung, that is, employee representation on the supervisory board, the highest level of strategic control at the head of the company. Betriebsmitbestimmung is more concerned with the organization of the operational level of companies, affecting working conditions, for example, and where employee influence is exercised through works councils (Betriebsrat). This latter reality could usefully be referred to as “co-management,” thus reserving the term “co-determination” for the highest strategic-level governance body : the supervisory board or board of directors. The timing of the institutionalization of Unternehmensmitbestimmung and Betriebsmitbestimmung was not the same across the Rhine. The terms do not quite address the same organizational reality. Unternehmensmitbestimmung was defined by Mitbestimmungsgesetz (1951) and Mitbestimmungsgestetz (1976), and Betriebsmitbestimmung was legally defined by the Betriebsverfassungsgesetz of 1952.

2In France, the issue of co-determination has recently resurfaced as part of the discussions leading up to the June 2019 PACTE law. Co-determination exists to varying degrees in different countries. Comparative studies of various national governance systems typically show that it is exceptionally strong in Germany (Jackson, 2005), with equal representation between employees and shareholders on the boards of the largest companies. In fact, this would appear to be a particularly characteristic feature of the German governance system, to the point of considering it the consequence of a specifically German culture (Albert, 1991 ; Wirtz, 2002). However, Gomez and Wirtz (2018) show that culturalism does little to explain the genesis of German co-determination. On the contrary, its institutionalization appears more as the result of a mobilization effort that may have been led by certain trade union actors in a particular socio-historical context, first in the late 1940s and early 1950s (Montanmitbestimmung 1951), and then during the 1970s (Mitbestimmungsgesetz 1976). At the time of writing, if co-determination is not the product of cultural determinism but of a voluntary mobilization effort, then, in theory, institutionalization in various national contexts is not impossible. Indeed, co-determination was also discussed in the political and economic history of post-war France, albeit without the same result, even though some of the basic arguments put forward by its proponents at the time resembled those put forward in Germany (Aubert and Hollandts, 2022). This raises the question of what led to this divergence in results, with a strong and lasting institutionalization of joint co-determination in the largest German companies, while the initiative carried out under the banner of “company reform”—to use the terminology of the Sudreau report (1975)—remained largely a dead letter in France (Aubert and Hollandts, 2022).

3The aim of this article is therefore to provide a comparative study of the mobilization of co-determination in France and Germany to better understand the facilitating levers and possible obstacles. In their study of the institutionalization of German co-determination in the coal and steel sector after the Second World War, Gomez and Wirtz (2018) show that the success of this social movement was the result of the simultaneous presence of the four dimensions of mobilization identified in the work of Davis and Thompson (1994) (political opportunity, shared interests, social infrastructure, mobilization dynamics). To the four dimensions of mobilization identified by Davis and Thompson (1994), Gomez and Wirtz (2018) add the notion of an anchor institution whose support, not necessarily directly concerned with achieving mobilization, is instrumental in framing the debate and the promoters’ arguments. In Germany, for example, the Catholic Church played the role of such an institution, helping to institutionalize co-determination. Comparison with the French case helps us understand why, despite comparable political and social ideas within the political elites of the two countries in the post-war period, co-determination on supervisory boards was rapidly institutionalized in Germany but not in France. How important are the dynamics of social mobilization and the four dimensions identified by Davis and Thompson ? Do all the dimensions need to be present and aligned to lead to effective mobilization and rapid institutionalization ? What is the role and importance of an anchor institution in the process ?

4As a working method, we chose a comparative analysis of historical mobilization processes influencing co-determination in France and Germany. To this end, we replicated the analytical method employed by Gomez and Wirtz (2018) for coding their historical qualitative data on comparable material collected for the French case, as identified in Aubert and Hollandts’ (2022) historical description of the corporate reform movement. One of the main findings is that the failure to institutionalize strong, widespread co-determination in France, whether immediately after the war or in the 1970s, was due to the absence of a demonstration of shared interest around this specific social issue. This lack of shared interest is partly linked to the nature of the social and organizational infrastructure of French trade unionism, which nonetheless does not prevent the idea of co-determination from resurfacing and making its presence felt in public debate over the long term, albeit with less impact than in Germany, as the recent PACTE law testifies.

5This research makes contributions to several fields. The issue of employee participation in governance bodies is of interest to work on corporate social responsibility, for which it is one of the potential levers (Ghirardello et al., 2018). The obstacles to the institutionalization of co-determination on boards of directors in France also provide a better understanding of the specific temporal dynamics of the governance system of French companies (Wirtz, 2020). In this way, our article contributes to furthering the literature on national corporate governance systems (Charreaux, 2006). Finally, we also contribute to the theory of social mobilization by identifying the mechanics of the brakes on a social movement, whereas previous research has focused solely on cases of successful mobilization (Davis and Thompson, 1994 ; Gomez and Wirtz, 2018).

6This article is organized as follows. Section 2 develops the academic literature on mobilization theory and corporate governance, and presents the method used to identify the dimensions of mobilization. Section 3 reports our analyses of the institutionalization of co-determination in Germany and France. Section 4 offers a discussion of these analyses. Section 5 concludes the article.

2. Literature review : Mobilization theory and corporate governance

7There is a significant body of comparative literature concerning the various national corporate governance systems around the world (Charreaux, 2006 ; Filatotchev et al., 2013). Much of this work, however, portrays governance systems as a relatively static reality. Usually, typologies of national systems classify them according to whether they consider the interests of a greater or lesser number of different stakeholders : at one end of the scale are Anglo-American systems, whose governance is almost exclusively focused on protecting financial stakeholders (notably shareholders) ; at the other end are pluralistic systems, such as Japan’s, which focus on the interests of multiple stakeholders (Yoshimori, 1995). Continental European countries, such as France and Germany, would fall somewhere between Anglo-Saxon monism and Japanese pluralism, with varying degrees of emphasis on one stakeholder or another. The role of employees appears to be exceptionally strong in Germany, the result of a particularly consensual Rhineland culture (Albert, 1991). Various explanations have been put forward to explain the existence of such differences between national systems (Charreaux, 2006). Among the most widespread explanations is the legal-financial approach, which posits that the nature of a governance system depends on the legal tradition of the countries concerned (common law vs. civil law : La Porta et al., 2000). Hence, the primacy of shareholders’ interests in the United States is the result of the specific origins of American law. However, historical studies have shown that a system of corporate governance such as that of the United States has evolved considerably over time, and that the protection of shareholders’ interests has not always dominated. In fact, it is a relatively recent development in the history of capitalism (Gomez, 2003). Lazonick and O’Sullivan (1997) show, in fact, that American shareholder capitalism is not the result of a particularly protective pre-existing legal framework but stems from the problem of capital transmission in large entrepreneurial firms that reached maturity at the beginning of the 20th century. The strengthening of legal protection for financial interests came later, as an institutional adaptation to the changes in the American capitalist system, initially family-based, then managerial, and finally shareholder-based (Gomez, 2003). According to Roe (2003), who also distances himself from the purely legalistic explanation, the essential determinant of whether investors or employees’ interests are considered is a country’s dominant political ideology, which tends to be institutionalized through legislation. Thus, countries described as social democratic would favor employees, while liberal countries would give primacy to shareholders. However, such an approach leaves two questions open : What are the concrete mechanisms for understanding the institutionalization of a political ideology through legislation in the evolutionary dynamics of a governance system ? And how can we account for the fact that two countries that are relatively close on Roe (2003)’s political scale, such as France and Germany, have such different institutional trajectories ? The latter question appears particularly relevant in the case of employee co-determination, which was gradually institutionalized at a very high level by German law between the late 1940s and the 1970s, whereas it never reached the same level in France, despite several initiatives based on similar ideas (Aubert and Hollandts, 2022).

8The work of Davis and Thompson (1994), which provides an understanding of the advent of shareholder capitalism in the United States in the 1980s through the theory of social mobilization, seems to provide a particularly promising conceptual basis for answering these two questions. To answer the first, Davis and Thompson show that American shareholder capitalism is not the result of liberal ideological determinism (or of determinism inherent in the country’s legal tradition) but of a concrete political struggle in the 1980s, which did not impose itself, and whose success depended on a major mobilization effort. For the success of this mobilization, Davis and Thompson (1994) identify four dimensions, whose simultaneous alignment appears to be a necessary condition for successful institutionalization : the context of political opportunity, the interests of the actors, the organizational infrastructure, and the dynamics of mobilization. According to the authors, it is the presence of these four dimensions that enables us to understand the transition from managerial to shareholder capitalism in the United States.

9First, such mobilization must be able to take advantage of a context of political opportunity, characterized by major changes or even societal ruptures. This context concerns all the power relations in the political environment and the way in which disruption and instability affect the status quo, increasing the chances of successful mobilization (Davis and Thompson, 1994). Institutional instability thus appears to be a particularly fertile breeding ground for successful social mobilization. Regarding control of large listed American companies, the wave of mergers and acquisitions made possible by the invention of junk bonds to finance hostile takeovers in the context of the strong deregulation of the Reagan years would have constituted such a rupture and, therefore, a context of political opportunity that favored shareholder mobilization. A second dimension of mobilization concerns the interests defended. According to Davis and Thompson (1994), a group’s interests are defined by the gains and losses resulting from its interaction with other groups : groups need to be able to form a powerful front to defend shared interests. However, the mobilization of shareholder control was led by large institutional investors, representing a major share of the savings of American households (whose pensions depend essentially on investments in the stock market). Meanwhile, the interests of American employers, who could have opposed shareholder control to maintain the managerial capitalism that had dominated until then, were fragmented. In fact, some executives themselves benefited from the wave of takeovers promoted by institutional investors and made common cause with the shareholder front comprising small shareholders and institutional investors. In this way, management was unable to present a united front in the face of a particularly dynamic mobilization of shareholders from all sections of the population. This mobilization was then led by actors from what Davis and Thompson (1994) describe as a veritable mobilization “industry.” According to the authors, this industry came into being in a short space of time (around two years), with the emergence of organizations such as ISS (Institutional Shareholder Services) and related networks, which enabled formation of an organizational mobilization infrastructure. The existence of such an infrastructure is the third dimension of successful social mobilization. Social infrastructure corresponds to the intensity of shared identity and social ties linking individuals or organizations within a group, affecting its ability to act on its interests. Finally, the fourth dimension is the concrete dynamics of the mobilization process, which depends on the actors who commit themselves to it with energy and conviction. Mobilization is the process by which a group acquires collective control over the resources required for collective action. Thus, the players in the shareholder mobilization “industry” are engaged in an intense lobbying effort with the various political and economic players.

3. Methodology

10One of the contributions of the present work is to examine the plausibility of social mobilization theory in contexts other than American shareholder capitalism. The question is whether this theory has a more general scope and enables us to understand the institutionalization (or otherwise) of other types of governance systems.

11In this respect, the choice of comparing the dynamics of mobilization in France and Germany is a priori highly relevant for at least two reasons. First, parity co-determination on German supervisory boards is the highest observed to date. In no other national governance system are employees represented in the same proportion as shareholders (50 %) in large listed companies (with over 2,000 employees). In this respect, the German governance system can be considered the perfect counterexample to American shareholder governance. This case is therefore particularly interesting for studying the plausibility of Davis and Thompson’s theory and its robustness regarding a different institutional environment. Second, according to political theories such as Roe’s, or legal-financial theories such as La Porta et al.’s, France and Germany would be very similar (civil law legal traditions and rather left-wing ranking on the political scales used). However, the strength of employee co-determination on boards has never reached the same level in France as in Germany. It therefore seems reasonable to look for the cause of this difference, not in the initial conditions (which are similar) but in the differences in concrete mobilization processes and the actors who have campaigned for co-determination, drawing on specific levers.

12To conduct this work, we have drawn on historical sources from both countries to trace the history of co-management from the end of the Second World War to 2020. To analyze the institutional dynamics of the respective governance systems, we have divided the overall period into four sub-periods, each of which marks a particular context of political opportunity.

13The following German sources were consulted : biographies (Adenauer, 1965 ; Lauschke, 2005 ; Mertsching, 2006) ; statements and testimonies of contemporary actors and their observers (Deus, 1950 ; Hengsbach et al., 1990 ; Krämer, 2000 ; Langner, 1980 ; Müller-Armack, 1948 ; Potthoff, 1955 ; Rauscher, 1968 ; Raymond, 1954 ; von Nell-Breuning, 1968) ; editing of sources (Müller-List, 1984) ; social encyclical Quadragesimo Anno ; and Biedenkopf reports (1970 and 2006). The documents, most of which are in German, have been systematically analyzed according to the four dimensions of mobilization proposed by Davis and Thompson (1994).

14The following French sources were consulted : books (Desbuquois and Bigo, 1946 ; Bacon, 1949 ; Bloch-Lainé, 1963 ; Rosanvallon, 1976 ; Beffa and Clerc, 2013) ; official reports to the government (Lasserre, 1950 ; Sudreau, 1975 ; Auroux, 1981 ; Balligand and De Foucault, 2000 ; Cornut-Gentille and Godfrain, 2005 ; Gallois, 2012 ; Notat and Sénard, 2018 ; Frerot and Hurstel, 2018) and more than a dozen laws and regulations. These sources were also coded according to the Davis and Thompson framework. The results of this coding are summarized in the appendix.

15The theoretical framework of social mobilization developed by Davis and Thompson (1994) serves as a hermeneutic grid for the structured interpretation of these sources. As a reminder, it comprises four dimensions of mobilization, whose presence or absence was systematically identified in all the sources processed, in the manner of a thematic coding of qualitative data (Miles and Huberman, 1994). Most of the coding of German sources—apart from the Biedenkopf reports, that is, those concerning the initial institutionalization of co-determination by the 1951 law—had already been coded by Gomez and Wirtz (2018). Consequently, the coding tables relating to Germany have not been reproduced in this article, unlike the coding of French sources (cf. appendix).

16From a methodological point of view, this article also makes a twofold contribution to Gomez and Wirtz (2018), whose work focuses on a single national system of governance (Germany), whereas the present research is comparative. This potentially increases the external validity of the results. Indeed, the work of both Davis and Thompson (1994) and Gomez and Wirtz (2018) describe single cases only of successful mobilizations, leading to the institutionalization of a new governance (shareholder-based in one case, co-determined in the other). Yet the study of the plausibility of mobilization theory would be strengthened by studying at least one case where one or more of the dimensions identified by Davis and Thompson are absent to see if this changes the outcome in terms of institutionalization.

17Our second contribution is lengthening the time horizon to study the presence (or not) and importance of social mobilization in longer-term institutional dynamics.

4. The institutionalization of co-determination in Germany and France

18Table 1 summarizes the main comparative results for both countries. It shows, in the German case, two particularly important moments of mobilization : first, institutionalization in a particular economic sector (coal and steel) at the end of the 1940s, and, second, the general extension of the system in the mid-1970s. In contrast, France has not seen a comparable intense mobilization of co-determination on boards of directors. Elements of co-determination have been introduced over time but never to the same degree as in Germany. Here, institutional evolution seems more incremental, such that employee presence on boards remains relatively modest (e.g., PACTE law).

Table 1 : Historical milestones in the institutionalization of co-determination in France and Germany

Table 1 : Historical milestones in the institutionalization of co-determination in France and Germany

Notes: i Jesuit Father Oswald von Nell-Breuning was the main author of Pope Pius XI’s social encyclical Quadragesimo Anno and an active advisor to German trade unions and governments. In Germany, he is considered the “father” of the Church’s social doctrine.

Text colors: Black= context of political opportunity; Blue= debate of ideas (books, reports, etc.); Green= dynamics of mobilization; Red= institutionalization.

4.1. Co-determination institutionalized in Germany in 1951 and 1976

19In post-war Germany, the context of political opportunity was particularly favorable. After the defeat of the Third Reich, Germany was in ruins. This applied not only to the cities but also to many of the major institutions of society and public life, such as the political parties. Germany was then occupied, and the western part of the country saw the emergence of a federal Germany in just a few years, under the watchful eye of the Allies anxious to prevent any resurgence of Nazism. This context of great upheaval and relative institutional emptiness was therefore particularly conducive to social experiments and mobilization. Germany’s industrial heartland was the Ruhr Valley, where the coal and steel industry had played a key role in supporting the war effort. After the end of the war, this area came under British military administration, allowing for a full-scale experiment in the governance of large industrial firms. The British, anxious to break the economic power of the big industrialists who had supported the Nazi dictatorship, imposed partial employee control of the supervisory boards of the coal and steel sector. This was originally a provisional solution, imposed by the British military government in anticipation of a forthcoming reorganization of the various German institutions. At the time, there was nothing to indicate that the measure would be enshrined in the legislation of the nascent Federal Republic of Germany. This is clearly demonstrated by the edited sources (Müller-List, 1984) concerning public and parliamentary debates, as well as the correspondence of the various players involved. The socio-political context was favorable to co-determination, but this was not a sufficient cause for its institutionalization in the form of a federal law, more so as Montanmitbestimmung was originally an experiment in the British occupied zone alone. Nationwide institutionalization was therefore far from a foregone conclusion and required intense social mobilization. Chronologically, the context of political opportunity was therefore primary, but without the mobilization that followed, the result would not have been the same.

20This mobilization was spearheaded by the charismatic union leader Hans Böckler, president of the powerful unified German Trade Union Confederation (Deutscher Gewerkschaftsbund, DGB), formed in the post-war years by the merger of Catholic Christian trade unionism with unionism close to social democracy. This merger of trade union forces gave the social movement a strong organizational infrastructure. Indeed, given Germany’s moral and institutional destruction, the Catholic Church was one of the very few institutions still standing after the war, and one of the only places where the German public had the right to assemble. The other institutions of public life, including the political parties, were to be gradually reformed. The Social Democratic Party was able to reconstitute itself quickly after the war, albeit on the more conservative side of the political landscape : the originality lay in the creation of a Christian Democratic Party (Christlich-Demokratische Union, CDU), which quickly enabled Konrad Adenauer to be elected as the first Chancellor of the young Federal Republic of Germany. The German Catholic Church, which had resisted the neo-paganism of Nazi ideology, enjoyed a certain moral support. As a major popular party, the CDU was unique in that it brought together two strong streams in a single party : the Christian workers, and a more conservative group close to business circles. It was the Catholic networks that provided an instrumental infrastructure in the effort to mobilize co-determination. The Katholikentag, a major annual gathering of lay Catholics, was banned by the Nazis but resumed after the war. This gathering represents a moment of reflection on the Church’s position on societal issues. The 1948 Katholikentag passed an explicit resolution in favor of employee co-determination. From then on, the leaders of the mobilization, including Böckler, who was himself rather distant from the Church, were able to invoke the latter’s official position to legitimize their demands. This provided a basis for the argument of an interest widely shared not only by the Social Democrats and the part of trade unionism close to them but also a significant fringe of the CDU. The result was a particularly strong and united mobilization front. The anchor institution of the post-war West German Catholic Church was thus instrumental in conferring a sense of shared interest transcending individual and categorical interests. The social mobilization led by Böckler, with the support of the networks to which Catholic workers belonged, took a decisive turn with the vote for a strike, overwhelmingly supported by all unified trade union tendencies. Adenauer, concerned about social peace in the fledgling republic, asked employers and trade unionists to negotiate a solution. The strike was averted, and the co-determination law for the coal and steel sector came into force in 1951.

21The four mobilizing dimensions of Davis and Thompson’s (1994) conceptual framework were thus well aligned at the time of the legislative institutionalization of co-determination : a context of political opportunity characterized by a very strong rupture, an organizational infrastructure (in the form of unified Catholic and trade union networks), the argumentation in favor of a shared interest based on the invocation of the Church’s position perceived as legitimate by a majority part of the population, and a concrete mobilization process led by a charismatic and highly visible leadership.

  • 1 Mitbestimmung im Unternehmen. Bericht der Sachverständigenkommission zur Auswertung der bisherigen (...)

22By the early 1960s, the DGB was ready to remobilize to obtain extension of the coal and steel co-determination model to all industries. However, the political context was not very favorable at the time. The institutions of the Federal Republic had been established, and the population was benefiting from what came to be known as the German “economic miracle.” The government was initially conservative-liberal (CDU-FDP), followed by a grand coalition (CDU and SPD). The latter might have been more inclined to listen to the DGB’s position, but it is worth noting that a counter-mobilization of the employers emerged with the creation in 1964 of a pressure group to virulently combat co-determination. At most, the government of the grand coalition between the CDU and the SPD succeeded in setting up a think tank to prepare for possible future legislative reform. This was the first Biedenkopf Commission in 1968,1 which published its report and recommendations for the extension of co-determination in 1970. The political context changed radically in November 1972, when the SPD emerged stronger from the elections. This led to a political mobilization, and a compromise was worked out between the SPD and the FDP (the liberal party) supported by the social-catholic wing of the CDU. This resulted in the 1976 co-determination law, which extended mass worker representation to all sectors of activity, although certain technical details meant that the system fell short of the unions’ expectations. Employers, for their part, were up in arms about the law, and took the matter to the Karlsruhe Constitutional Court, which finally ruled in 1979 that co-determination was in line with the Basic Law (Grundgesetz).

23More recently, after the turn of the millennium, employers made another attempt to get rid of co-determination, taking advantage of a government initiative to modernize company law. A commission was set up to consider modernizing the legal framework for co-determination, the second Biedenkopf Commission (Biedenkopf, 2006). The commission’s scientists and union representatives gave a rather favorable assessment of co-determination, but the employers’ representatives called for a reduction in the proportion of employees represented on the board. In the end, Chancellor Merkel declared that co-determination was an integral part of the achievements of the German social market economy model.

4.2. The failure to institutionalize co-determination in France

  • 2 From Paul Bacon (1949) to the Sudreau report (1975), every major work or report is entitled or uses (...)

24Unlike Germany, France has not experienced the coincidence of the four dimensions of mobilization identified by Davis and Thompson (1994), even though the country has always developed an independent and original way of thinking on the subject. For almost a century, French political leaders and intellectuals have also been questioning the nature of the company and have concluded that it needs to be reformed in depth, particularly in terms of its governance. Aubert and Hollandts (2022) trace the milestones of the corporate reform movement from 1945 to 1975,2 a period that coincides with that analyzed by Gomez and Wirtz (2018), when co-determination took hold in Germany. Among the milestones that can be linked to corporate reform are academic works and industry research (Desbuquois and Bigo, 1946 ; Bacon, 1949 ; Bloch-Lainé, 1963 ; Rosanvallon, 1976 ; Beffa and Clerc, 2013), official reports to the government (Lasserre, 1950 ; Sudreau, 1975 ; Auroux, 1981 ; Balligand and De Foucault, 2000 ; Cornut-Gentille and Godfrain, 2005 ; Gallois, 2012 ; Notat and Sénard, 2018 ; Frerot and Hurstel, 2018), and more than a dozen laws and regulations. Corporate reform is the result of a wide range of influences, driven by political leaders of different stripes, which see the company as a human community where employees must share in profits, capital, and decision-making. The first two forms of participation have become established in France, however the last, which is more specifically concerned with co-determination, has not. The financial participation mechanisms envisaged by the social Gaullists should have made it possible to promote a broader form of participation or possibly to provide a springboard for political participation on boards of directors, that is, co-determination. Financial participation represents only a “scaled down” version of potential corporate reform (Borzeix et al, 2015 ; Bevort, 2013). Corporate reform reached a climax with the Sudreau report commissioned by Valéry Giscard d’Estaing. This report advocated “co-supervision,” that is, allocating one-third of seats on boards of directors or supervisory boards to employees. This recommendation was thus close to a reduced version of the German co-determination model, which provides for joint co-determination for companies with over 2,000 employees, and one-third co-determination for smaller companies. However, it was never followed up by a generalized legal framework.

  • 3 Examples include Roger, B. (ed.), 2012, L’entreprise, formes de la propriété et responsabilités soc (...)

25The results of Enterprise Reform movement is, therefore, important in both intellectual terms and in terms of proposals, but relatively unimportant if we observe concrete legislative advances or translations. For Bourlange (2019 ; p. 7) : “Moments of necessary reform are activated, provoked by political, economic and societal events that trigger an attempt at reform punctuated by an intelligent, comprehensive report, but often without effect. It is only since the 2010s that the issue of employee participation on boards has re-emerged in the debate, with reports (Gallois, 2012 ; Notat and Sénard, 2018) and laws (2013, 2015 and 2019) favoring minority participation. Co-determination has also been promoted by the work of the Collège des Bernardins, led by Olivier Favereau, which inspired the reports and laws that followed.3

26Analyzing the French situation in the light of Davis and Thompson’s (1994) theoretical framework, we can see that none of the dimensions of mobilization were present in France, apart from the context of political opportunity, which could have provided a favorable breeding ground.

27The context of political opportunity has, in fact, been propitious on several occasions. Like Germany, France experienced a major, albeit less brutal, institutional break-up at the end of the Second World War, and the National Council of the Resistance (Conseil National de la Résistance, CNR) program included elements of company reform. But national unity then gave way to division, and no major party or union made co-determination a priority. An exception was the work and legislation of Paul Bacon, a former resistance fighter, minister, and member of the Popular Republican Movement (Mouvement Républicain Populaire, MRP), and de Gaulle, who could have spearheaded the reform but left power in 1946 (he gave a remarkable speech on “participation” in Saint Etienne on January 4, 1948). Moreover, the context was not favorable at the time of the Sudreau report in 1975. The resignation of Prime Minister Jacques Chirac and the economic context relegated corporate reform to the background. The debate was only revived audibly and on a large scale with the Gallois report in 2012 and the Notat Sénard report in 2018, as well as the consecutive laws passed under the presidencies of François Hollande in 2013 and 2015 and Emmanuel Macron in 2019.

28The interests of the various players have never really converged toward the adoption of co-determination. Employee and employer unions were the main players involved, but with a few exceptions and nuances, they were opposed to co-determination. This opposition was particularly marked for employers and the CGT when the Lasserre report was published in 1950 and the Sudreau report in 1975. The French Democratic Confederation of Labor (Confédération française démocratique du travail, CFDT) had defended self-management in the 1970s, alongside Michel Rocard’s Unified Socialist Party (Parti Socialiste Unifié, PSU) and with the support of intellectuals such as Pierre Rosanvallon. But self-management remained far removed from co-determination, even though both practices involve, to varying degrees, greater participation than in the traditional capitalist enterprise. As a result, labor unions were never able to form a strong, united front in favor of mobilizing for co-determination in France. As a result, ideas for reform in this area have not enjoyed the support of an organizational infrastructure to sustain any mobilization effort. On the employers’ side, only the Business and Progress (Entreprise et Progrès) think tank had a more favorable stance. The interests of the various social players thus appeared to be fragmented.

29Certain networks did function, but without any real capacity to mobilize across traditional divides. Co-determination therefore lacked the social infrastructure to sustain it. However, it did attract the direct support of various political streams whose influence on French political life was considerable. For instance, the support of the social Gaullists was the most direct, and that of the Second Left and the CFDT was less direct as they were more in favor of self-management until the late 1970s (the CFDT still supports co-determination along the lines of the German model). Finally, after creating the Committee for Enterprise Reform (Comité pour la réforme de l’entreprise), the centrists were unable or unwilling to implement co-supervision, which was opposed by most employers and unions. The Sudreau Committee had nevertheless brought together personalities from many social partners, but they had no mandate to commit their organizations, and the lack of political support from a majority in the National Assembly was glaring.

30Historically, there has been no real mobilization of co-determination in France due to the lack of a charismatic political or union leader who, with the support of a strong organization and its social networks, could have built a consensus based on a discourse demonstrating the existence of a widely shared interest. On the contrary, the proposals of the corporate reform movement have often come from individuals on the fringesof their party or organization, which has been a handicap in disseminating their ideas and proposals : the various proponents of corporate reform evolved within a particular wing of their trade union or political formation and were sometimes marginalized within it. Bacon, for example, represented only a fraction of the MRP, despite his dual status as a trade unionist and politician. Louis Vallon, René Capitant, and François Bloch-Lainé are often classified in the minority stream of so-called social Gaullists. Pierre Sudreau, classified as center-right, neither belonged to a major political party nor enjoyed sufficient support from the presidential majority. Aware of this handicap, he tried to publicize his report and its contents, hoping to “go beyond” the political parties by taking society as a witness. He embarked on a major tour of the country, responding favorably to numerous requests to present the report and its proposals to students, citizens, employees, and business leaders (Bourlange, 2017). As Jean-Claude Guibal (quoted by Rimbaud, 2004) points out, the Sudreau report is undoubtedly the last example of a report guided by an underlying ideology, of social democratic essence, and which aimed to change corporate structures to modify mentalities and therefore practices of governance and power-sharing.

31Lastly, no institution has played the role of anchor institution in France to facilitate the institutionalization of co-determination. The major state bodies, so important in the French institutional landscape, could have played this role. Indeed, the State, notably through its senior civil servants, had the capacity to arbitrate (alternately) between the demands or needs of companies or workers and trade unions. What the promoters of corporate reform often had in common was that they held senior civil service positions and belonged to a social elite.

4.3. Comparison with the German case

32A comparison of the co-determination trajectories of France and Germany according to the dimensions of mobilization theory paints a contrasting picture (see Table 2). What characterizes Germany is a perfect alignment of the four dimensions of mobilization, founded on a core institution whose legitimacy is widely recognized and shared in post-war Germany. In France, “company reform” seems to be confined to discussion within relatively elitist intellectual circles such that the context of political opportunity alone has been insufficient to enable a genuine social mobilization movement. For a long time, the absence of an effective anchor institution— which could provide a sense of common interest, a moral guarantee, and access to extensive networks—has been a brake on effective mobilization, which could have enabled French “corporate reform” to go beyond mere ideas. Compared to the German situation, then, we can highlight two important divisions in France. First, the unions have been divided : the CGT’s ideological positions have clashed with those of the French Confederation of Christian Workers (Confédération française des travailleurs chrétiens, CFTC) and the CFDT, divisions have also separated the Christian business and trade union movements, and the CFTC and the French Center for Christian Employers (Centre Français du Patronat Chrétien, CFPC) have no common position. Even if they had adopted a common position, their influence in the 70s had become negligible compared to that of the German trade union and employers’ movements. It is therefore unlikely that such an alliance would have made much difference.

Table 2 : Comparison of mobilization dimensions

Table 2 : Comparison of mobilization dimensions

Source : adapted from Davis and Thompson (1994).

5. Discussion

33Following our comparative empirical work, it emerges that co-determination did not take hold in Germany in a deterministic fashion due to cultural specificity but because of mobilization factors identified by Davis and Thompson (1994) and highlighted by Gomez and Wirtz (2018). The absence of several of these mobilizing factors has prevented co-determination from taking hold in France, despite a context of political opportunity that could have been favorable during several periods of its history. For instance, the interests of the various players did not converge, and the corporate reform that advocated co-determination had neither an organizational infrastructure nor a mobilization dynamic that was sufficiently established, where social dialogue, like relations between stakeholders, is marked by expressed or latent conflictuality. This is undoubtedly where the reform movement intended to bring an innovative approach to the conception of the company as a human community. Gomez and Wirtz’s (2018) analysis also identified the role played by the Catholic Church as an anchor institution in post-war Germany : although far removed from and not directly concerned by the operational concerns of the economic and commercial sphere, it was the catalyst in the immediate post-war period for the perception of a shared common interest of various partsof the population. For instance, it both (1) supported a discourse legitimizing the shared interest and (2) provided a social infrastructure, and therefore organizational resources, for the mobilization effort. As highlighted by Gomez and Wirtz (2018), it is undoubtedly on this point that the German case teaches us the need for, and valuable role played by, an anchor institution to enable the four dimensions of mobilization to converge.

34France had no such institution that could have played this key role, or, if one did exist, the players involved in a potential mobilization in favor of company reform failed to exploit it. As the debate on co-determination progressed, the idea took a back seat to more technical and less political proposals. Since the Auroux laws, there has been no debate on the dissymmetry of power in the company, whereas this ambition was present in all proposals from 1945 to 1975. During this period, the aim was to set up power-sharing and economic democracy mechanisms, whereas now it is a question of organizing diversity at the pinnacle of governance. The tension consubstantial with the corporate reform project constitutes a Gordian knot in the question of participation and power in business (Chapas and Hollandts, 2017). Bevort (2013) points out that any form of participation is by its very nature in tension with the (legal and managerial) principle of subordination.

35However, examples of co-determination (such as the German or Nordic models) exist and show that institutional arrangements are possible. Moreover, the German model has alternately played the role of reference or repellent, depending on the era or sensitivities. Reference to the German model can still be found in the Gallois report of 2012, translated into law in 2013, which has revived in France debate about the number of employees to be included on boards of directors or supervisory boards. The 2019 PACTE law sets this number at 3, starting with a 12-member board. This proportion is far removed from the proportion in force in Germany, which, in companies with fewer than 2,000 employees, is a minimum of one-third (of the supervisory board) or even half above that. Recent legislation has thus reduced the debate to the determination of a quantity far removed from the aspirations of Bacon and Sudreau, who hoped to effect a more fundamental reform of the company and its relationship with employees and thus redress the balance of power between capital and labor.

36Reading the comparative mobilization dynamics in France and Germany through the prism of mobilization theory thus answers our two initial questions : (1) How, in concrete terms, can a political idea concerning co-determination end up being institutionalized by becoming firmly anchored in law and practice ? (2) Why, despite sharing a dominant political ideology (according to the scale used in Roe’s work to explain national systems of governance), the two countries studied in the present work ultimately display very different governance mechanisms in terms of employee representation. The answer lies in a clear understanding of the concrete dynamics of mobilization, with strong alignment in one case and very weak alignment in the other, of the four dimensions highlighted by Davis and Thompson (1994).

37Although some see co-determination as a model of governance that dominates in Europe today (Clerc, 2018), our in-depth comparative study of French and German co-determination initiatives shows that the institutions in this area ultimately cover quite different realities in terms of the balance of power on boards. These differences between European countries are the result of very different institutionalization trajectories and mobilization efforts, despite the presence of legal traditions and initially similar political ideas.

38Our analyses also question the future of co-determination at a time when the place of work is being called into question and companies are gradually becoming “societalized.” Co-determination, in which shareholders and employees are the only stakeholders represented, is based on a historical opposition between capital and labor that may seem outdated in some respects. Employee participation in corporate governance may be outdated, given recent changes in the space, time, and methods of work. These changes are embodied in digitalized and remote work, which takes different contractual forms from salaried employment. Therefore, as described by Gomez (2022), “societalization” of companies, that is, “evaluation of the production of wealth that integrates its effects on society as a whole,” would also render co-determination outdated. In this spirit, the committees of mission-driven companies, for example, check that every decision they take considers social and environmental criteria. These committees, whose role is certainly limited to evaluating the company’s mission, only include one employee representative. In this way, labor representation can be challenged for its role as a constituent stakeholder. Changes in the world of work and “societalization” pose new challenges to co-determination, and we may well wonder about the forms taken by social mobilization on these subjects. Can mobilization theory, which has enabled us to gain a better understanding of the driving forces behind and obstacles to the historical mobilization of co-determination, also deepen our understanding of the current “societalization” dynamic ? What would be the ideal anchor institution, on a national or even international scale, to catalyze a broad, shared mobilization effort to societalize ? This question is an avenue for future research. For instance, future research could explore in greater depth the concept of the anchor or base institution, as well as the method for identifying it in an empirical field. For Gomez and Wirtz, the base institution can be identified “according to 3 pairs of antitheses : 1) they are necessary for institutional framing to take place, but not sufficient, as they are merely part of the game of mobilizing interests as described by Davis and Thompson (1993) ; 2) they are on the fringes of governance issues, as they are not directly involved in negotiations and therefore hold a discourse among others, but they are not foreign to them, as they develop a point of view on the general principles of governance ; 3) they are influential insofar as their voice counts in framing discourse, but not binding, as they are not directly involved in negotiations and the compromises reached” (Gomez and Wirtz, 2008, p 57).

6. Conclusion

39This article offers a comparative and historical study of the facilitating levers and possible obstacles influencing social mobilization of co-determination in France and Germany. In Germany, political opportunity, the shared interests of stakeholders, the presence of a social infrastructure, the dynamics of mobilization, and the presence of a supporting institution have enabled co-determination to take hold (Gomez and Wirtz, 2018). These ingredients have not been present in France, despite reflection on the nature of the enterprise justifying co-determination. We thus contribute a finer understanding than Roe’s (2003) political theory of the institutionalization (or lack thereof) of a partnership ideology in corporate governance within two national governance systems (Charreaux, 2006). We show how two countries that are relatively close politically can take different paths.

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Appendix : Coding results for mobilization dimensions in the French case

Dimensions of mobilization





(All quotes are translated from French by the authors)

Context of political opportunity


CNR program

de Gaulle speech

Bacon’s Law

Lasserre report

Centre de recherche et d'action sociales (CERAS) meeting with


Chaban-Delmas speech on the New Society

de Gaulle



Bigo and Desbuquois, Capitant


Bloch-Lainé, Chaban-Delmas and Delors


“- the right of access, within the framework of the company, to the functions of management and administration, for workers possessing the necessary qualifications, and the participation of workers in the direction of the economy ;

- the reconstitution, in its traditional freedoms, of an independent trade unionism, endowed with broad powers in the organization of economic and social life.”

Bigo Desbuquois :

“In practice, representation does not require more than two or three members appointed by the workforce to the board of directors. On the contrary, management could, with the discriminations we have mentioned, be ensured on a parity basis by capital and labor. But on such difficult terrain, we need to proceed step by step, and gradually extend participation to broader and broader categories of personnel, according to their greater or lesser integration in the life of the company” (see footnote on page 17).

Bacon :

“After the stage of the works council, a mere consultative body, the stage of participation and co-management will be very close to being reached [...] The privileges of capital will gradually give way to the rights and prerogatives of labor, and the workers will finally be able to administer the proof of their economic and financial capacity” (Bacon, 1949 ; p. 36).

Proposition de Loi Bacon art. 6–9

Lasserre report (p. 25) : “Here’s the basic idea : since labor is at least as important a factor in production as capital, it’s not right for capital alone to have sovereignty over the company. This must be shared, and labor must become capital’s partner in the enterprise. Capital must cede a fraction of its prerogatives to labor.”


Sudreau committee and report




Proposition 12 of the Sudreau report :

“Opening up a new avenue of participation : co-monitoring.

Take the necessary measures to authorize employee representation on the boards of directors and supervisory boards of companies that so wish. Initiate a public debate on the possibility of introducing, on a mandatory basis and in the proportion of one-third, employee representatives on the boards of directors and supervisory boards of companies of a certain size. Determine the appropriate timeframe and method of appointment.”

1982–1983 and 1994

Lois Auroux

Austerity measures

1983 law, subsequently supplemented by the 1994 Giraud law (for former state-owned companies)





Corporate citizenship and trade union recognition.

Presence of directors representing employees in public companies.


Fabius law on employee savings


Presence (not compulsory) of a director representing employee shareholders when they hold more than 3 % of the capital of listed companies.


Godfrain Cornut-Gentille report

Breton Act on the development of employee shareholding and profit-sharing


Presence (mandatory this time) of a director representing employee shareholders when they hold more than 3 % of the capital of listed companies.


Gallois report


p. 21 : Second proposal : introduce at least four employee representatives on the boards of directors or supervisory boards of companies with over 5,000 employees, without exceeding one-third of members, with voting rights, including on board committees.


Law no. 2013-504 of June 14, 2013, on securing employment.



A board with more than 12 directors will have to appoint two board employee members, while a board with 12 or fewer directors will have to appoint only one.

Appointment thresholds of 5,000 employees in France or 10,000 in France and abroad.


Law no. 2015-994 of August 17, 2015, on social dialogue and employment


Designation thresholds lowered to 1,000 in France and 5,000 in France and abroad.


Notat Sénard report



Collège des Bernardins

p. 7 : Recommendation no. 6 : increase the number of employee directors on boards of directors or supervisory boards with over 1,000 employees from 2019, to 2 employees out of 8 non-employee directors, and three employees out of 13 non-employee directors.

This wording should be applied to mutuals and, if possible, to SASs with a board of directors.

Recommendation no. 7 : conduct a review of employee representation on boards, drawing lessons from 12 or 24 months’ experience, before considering extending it to companies with 500 to 1,000 employees, or increasing the proportion of employee directors on boards.





Increase in the number of employee directors : 2 employee directors on boards with more than 8 members (compared with 12 previously).

Extension of employee shareholder representation to unlisted companies.

Players’ interests

The whole period

Zero-sum game for different players (what employees gain ; employers lose)

No homogeneity of interests within the same category of players (between employee unions, between employer unions)

Majority of unions

“What are the rumblings in the corridors saying, with varying degrees of insistence ? In essence : that the reform of the company is off to a bad start, that basically nobody wants it, neither management, nor the majority, nor the unions. And that it will therefore remain a pleasant topic of conversation for a long time to come” (Antoine Silber).

“the status quo, union front against employer front, satisfies each of the social partners, who thus retain their clientele to the detriment of modernizing social relations in the workplace” (Bourlange, 2017 ; p. 197).


Employer refusal

Lasserre report



Lasserre report (p. 36) : “The hostility of the vast majority of employers to any genuine association of labor and capital is both easy to observe and to understand. Indeed, from the point of view of profits and even more so from the point of view of company management, it implies very heavy sacrifices which almost constitute an abdication.”


CGT and other unfavorable unions

Lasserre report

Majority of unions

Lasserre report (p. 111) : “The labor economic council, the study body set up in 1920 by the CGT, proposed that employee participation in management should be made compulsory in all companies [...]. At the same time, the Union des catholiques sociaux, the Union syndicale des techniciens de l’industrie, du commerce et de l’agriculture (USTICA) and the Association française pour la protection légale des travailleurs also presented a number of projects concerning management participation. »

Opinion of the CGT at the 1946 Economic and Social Council : “1° That the formula of capital-labor association, whose typically fascist character, a revival of Pétain’s Charter of Labor, must be vigorously rejected.”


Union differences


p. 97 : “The French union situation, in which rival union organizations are inclined to accuse each other of softness, increases this mistrust. The deception of German co-management adds to this, to explain an attitude that seems contradictory, made up of a succession of steps forward and steps back”. (Bloch-Lainé, 1963).


Rejection of class cooperation


p. 97 : “[The unions] do not want their assistance, more or less silent, to be interpreted at any time as an acquiescence that would commit or paralyze them. They fear being involved in decisions over which they have no real influence. They have the feeling that, by offering them the opportunity to speak as we do, we are seeking to integrate them into a system that remains alien to them, to make them endorse something in which they have little effective say.”


Management rejection


1975 : A few months later, management’s opposition became clearer. Management reaffirmed its opposition to any attempt at “co-management” or “co-supervision,” even by a minority. More or less explicitly, they put the trade unions’ monopoly on presenting candidates for the first round of works council elections on the balance sheet. Around this question, a muted war is being waged to determine whether management can open up these positions to other candidates, less opposed or even favorable to its positions. (Aubert and Hollandts, 2022)

Social infrastructure

The whole period

No lobby or united front or common platform

Politically, still a minority




Giscard d’Estaing

At different times, the reform movement could have enjoyed the political support of the left (Michel Rocard’s PSU), the right (social Gaullists represented by Chaban-Delmas) and the center (Valéry Giscard d’Estaing’s independent Republicans).

The failure of the left-wing Gaullists led by Chaban-Delmas :

Left-wing Gaullists could have been a mobilizing social infrastructure, but it failed to establish itself as a mainstream within Gaullism (failure of Chaban-Delmas and the New Society) :

In his memoirs, Jacques Delors (Chaban-Delmas’ assistant from 1971 to 1972) says of Chaban-Delmas that “he was and remained the first of the social Gaullists, and that he was a convinced supporter of General de Gaulle’s ideas on participation” (Mémoires, Paris, Plon, “Pocket,” 2004, p. 95).

The failure of Michel Rocard’s PSU (Parti socialiste unifié) :

For example, Michel Rocard, a newcomer to the Parti socialiste (PS) from the PSU, was disowned by the Paris federation for having spoken out in favor of the Sudreau report : “The Socialist Party has never claimed that contractual procedures are a good in themselves, because employee–employer relations cannot be conceived outside of the class struggle. Under these conditions, the PS federation stresses that the personal positions taken by any of its members (particularly Michel Rocard, whose statements were widely echoed) in no way commit the Socialist Party.”

Giscard d’Estaing “the President is a minority in the majority” :

The Sudreau report of 1975 coincided with a number of unfavorable reversals for corporate reform. First, Jacques Chirac’s resignation put the president in a difficult situation within his own majority. Second, the economic crisis hit the country hard.

The CFDT’s abandonment of the self-management reference :

The 41st congress in Strasbourg, at the end of November 1988, saw the definitive abandonment of the socialist reference, and self-management was confused with a vague participatory approach by employees in the company.

Support for self-management weakened with the PS’ defeat in the 1978 legislative elections and the crisis.​quand-la-cfdt-voulait-le-socialisme-et-lautogestion/​#sdfootnote17sym


Trade union fears


p. 97 : Unions fear they don’t have enough experienced activists to take part in deliberations that are too numerous and too technical.


No movement in favor of co-determination. Still confined to Parisian circles.

Company reform has mobilized employers and unions against it.

No mobilization

No party or social partner

Without a sufficiently powerful social infrastructure to impose it, the Enterprise Reform cannot withstand the criticism of trade union and employer social partners. One example is the numerous positions taken against co-determination (Aubert and Hollandts, 2022).

Political stinginess :

“What do the rumors in the corridors say, with varying degrees of insistence ? In essence : that the reform of the company is off to a bad start, that basically nobody wants it, neither management, nor the majority, nor the unions”. Silber A., “We will reform sharp but short,” Le Point, 13/10/1975 quoted by Chatriot (2012 ; p. 195).

Opposition from management and unions :

As Bevort (2013 ; p. 43) points out, “French reports on company reform, such as the Sudreau report in 1975, are not supported either by employers, who refuse to move away from the traditional logic of consultation or branch collective bargaining, or by trade unions, who see this participation as a means of integrating and dividing employees in the face of trade union demands.”

Political opposition left and right :

Some Rassemblement pour la République (RPR) members take a dim view of this report, which seems to promote social progress in organizations where employers reign.

Pierre Bérégovoy develops some fairly strong criticisms of the Sudreau report : “lack of questioning of the ‘place where capitalism exercises its power and domination,’ acceptance of the ‘foundations of the capitalist economy,’ rejection of the socialization of the means of production and of ‘the self-organization of men,’ attempt to ‘ideologically integrate workers’ into the current system, confusion of genres through the invention of ‘co-supervision’.”

Note : the table shows the most representative passages.

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1 Mitbestimmung im Unternehmen. Bericht der Sachverständigenkommission zur Auswertung der bisherigen Erfahrungen mit der Mitbestimmung. BT-Drucksache VI/334, 1970.

2 From Paul Bacon (1949) to the Sudreau report (1975), every major work or report is entitled or uses the expression “Corporate Reform”. In alphabetical order: Bacon P. (1949), La Réforme de l’entreprise capitaliste, SERP; Bloch-Lainé, F. (1963), Pour une Réforme de l’entreprise, Le Seuil; Desbuquois, G. and Bigo, P. (1945), Les réformes de l’entreprise et la pensée chrétienne, Paris, Éditions Spes; Dubois, A. (1960), Confidences d’un patron sur la réforme de l’entreprise, Economie et Humanisme, Paris, les Editions ouvrières; Dubreuil, H. (1948), La Réforme de l’entreprise: vers un salaire humain, Paris, Editions OCIA; Lasserre, G. (1964), La Réforme de l’entreprise, Actes du colloque de L’Institut des Études Coopératives, Éditions de L’Institut des Études Coopératives; Loichot, M. (1966), La réforme pancapitaliste, Paris, Robert Laffont; Roux, A. (1976), La Réforme de l’entreprise: Rapport présenté à l’Assemblée générale du CNPF, Centre national du patronat français; Sudreau, P. (1975), La Réforme de l’entreprise, La Documentation française and 10/18.

3 Examples include Roger, B. (ed.), 2012, L’entreprise, formes de la propriété et responsabilités sociales, Paris, Lethielleux; Segrestin, B. & Hatchuel A., 2012, Refonder l’entreprise, Seuil; Favereau, O., 2014, Entreprises: la grande déformation, Parole et Silence; Favereau, O., 2016, Penser le travail pour penser l’entreprise, Presses des Mines; Roger B., 2015, Penser l’entreprise - nouvel horizon du politique, Parole et Silence; Segrestin B. and Levillain K. (dir.), 2018, La mission de l’entreprise responsable. Principes et normes de gestion, Presses des Mines. All these publications stem from a triple program of the Collège des Bernardins: “L’entreprise: formes de la propriété et responsabilités sociales” (2009–2011), “L’entreprise: propriété, création collective, monde commun” (2012-2014), and “Gouvernement de l’entreprise & création de commun” (2015–2018).

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Table des illustrations

Titre Table 1 : Historical milestones in the institutionalization of co-determination in France and Germany
Légende Notes: i Jesuit Father Oswald von Nell-Breuning was the main author of Pope Pius XI’s social encyclical Quadragesimo Anno and an active advisor to German trade unions and governments. In Germany, he is considered the “father” of the Church’s social doctrine.
Fichier image/png, 324k
Titre Table 2 : Comparison of mobilization dimensions
Légende Source : adapted from Davis and Thompson (1994).
Fichier image/png, 117k
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Nicolas Aubert, Xavier Hollandts et Peter Wirtz, « Obstacles and levers to social mobilization: the history of co-determination in France and Germany »Finance Contrôle Stratégie [En ligne], 27-1 | 2024, mis en ligne le 25 mars 2024, consulté le 13 juin 2024. URL : ; DOI :

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Nicolas Aubert

Professor, Aix Marseille Univ, CERGAM, Aix-en-Provence, France

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Xavier Hollandts

Professor, KEDGE BS

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Peter Wirtz

Professor, emlyon business school and IFGE.

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