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Abstract

This article investigates the social network dimension in processes of cross-national transfer. The empirical focus is the conscious attempt to appropriate, in France after 1945, the American model of the large firm. Structural conditions—internal crisis and geopolitical dependence—created the context in which country-to-country transfer could take place. Our findings also show, however, that the transfer itself required the activation of concrete mechanisms and, there, social networks proved key. Our evidence shows in fact the tight and reciprocal interaction, the co-construction, as it were, of social networks on the one hand and processes of institutionalization on the other. Building upon our empirical findings, we propose furthermore that successful cross-national transfer hinges on a particular kind of network structure. In the story recounted here diffusion across national borders called for the smooth and successful articulation of two types of social networks—a cross-national “weak ties” network and national “strong ties” ones. In the end, this article accords with the current calls for cross-fertilization of institutional theory and social network theory. And we argue that both approaches are useful and complementary when dealing with country-to-country transfers.

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