Let's socialize! The European Business Elite and Their Informal Meetings, 1978-1988

This presentation focuses on informal meetings initiated by the Swiss Union of Commerce and Industry in Interlaken in 1978, which regrouped the Industrial Federations of the Federal Republic of Germany, Austria, Denmark and the Netherlands. Its purpose is to contribute to the existing literature on the varieties of capitalism, which seeks to analyze and compare different regimes of industrial relations, inter-firm relations, as well as government-business relations. Historians and Swiss historians as well, often refer to typologies created by political scientists such as Peter Katzenstein or, more recently, Peter A. Hall & David Soskice in order to characterize and compare the capitalist systems of different countries. This presentation, instead of trying to classify the Swiss capitalist system using ad-hoc categories, analyzes the representations and categorizations of the historical actors. It shows how the Swiss Union of Commerce and Industry chose to create a selective community of business association leaders sharing similar views on economic and social issues. The presentation also highlights the types of interpersonal relations these members of the European business elite developed and nurtured.