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The controversial Americanisation of the Italian mechanical industry after the Second World War: the case of Necchi

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This paper analyses the process of Americanisation of the Italian mechanical industry after the Second World War, focusing on the case of Vittorio Necchi Spa, the main Italian sewing machine producer. The transformations of Necchi during the 1950s clearly demonstrate the way the processes of diffusion of a new managerial culture developed within an industrial sector with a big relative weight in the Italian economy. They show also that the adoption of new practices depended on the constitution of a propitious institutional environment, which could evolve in a complex dissemination system. The paper suggests a firm-level interpretation of this knowledge transfer, underlying the relevance in the explanation of the concrete processes of cross-country diffusion of managerial practices of elements like the enterprises' power structures, the specific carrier pathways of the managers involved, their ability to establish durable relationships with the main managerial culture production centres and the attributes of the knowledge that each firm regarded as strategic in different periods. In the case considered, even in a favourable institutional environment, where the spreading of managerial US practices, boosted by the US aid administration, was largely a demand-driven process, the adoption of new practices depended on the legitimisation strategies of the managers and on the adaptability of new technological and organisational schemes to the firm's historical path.
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Keywords: Americanisation; Italy after 1945; managerial knowledge transfer; micro business history

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Bocconi University, Milan, Italy

Publication date: August 1, 2008

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