Uses of the Past by Enterprises in Central-Eastern Europe, II Workshop on Business History in Central and Eastern Europe

Uses of the Past by Enterprises in Central-Eastern Europe, II Workshop on Business History in Central and Eastern Europe

Tomasz Olejniczak and Anna Pikos (Kozminski University) in cooperation with the European Business History Association
From - Until
23.10.2020 -
Connections Redaktion, Leipzig Research Centre Global Dynamics, Universität Leipzig

This online workshop aims to develop further the network and community established during the first workshop in Warsaw in October 2019. It will also foster a discussion to generate ideas for research projects in business history in CEE.

Uses of the Past by Enterprises in Central-Eastern Europe, II Workshop on Business History in Central and Eastern Europe

In the context of this workshop, we wish to approach the past and interpretations of the past as resources, which are used or can be used by business organizations for their purposes in the present and the future. We understand history as performative interpretation, a tool that helps actors make sense of the past and present and build towards the future. We focus on uses of the past in CEE; however, case studies on other regions are also welcome in case they deepen our understanding of “uses of the past” by CEE enterprises.

The above understanding of history appears nowadays in more and more, specific areas of the discipline, replacing a traditional public understanding of history as being synonymous with the past. Business organizations also tend to see it now as a symbolic resource available for a wide variety of creative uses such as branding, strategy, and identity creation. However, CEE presents a special case in this respect, since most of the enterprises in the region experienced discontinuities due to nation state building after World War I, then the socialist era and the corresponding processes of nationalization. When the Communist regimes collapsed, new capitalist companies were established, many of them on the premises of former socialist enterprises. Multinationals, particularly from Western Europe and the United States, established new businesses or took over ownership of existing establishments. Both groups of companies faced the problem of how to handle socialist heritage, which was economically and environmentally unsustainable, and often considered as an uncomfortable past.

Most of the new capitalists (and particularly the firms from the west) decided to distance themselves from a past that was perceived predominantly problematic and start their “history” from scratch. Therefore, the past was either to be forgotten or wrapped up in nostalgia. Later, many entrepreneurs learned how to commodify the past and tried to use it to legitimize their organization. However, the past is rarely seen in the region as a source for creating knowledge, based on which business decisions are made. Entrepreneurs and business schools find the practices of multinational companies, such as Apple, Tesla, or McDonald’s, more relevant as models than the enterprises from their own region. However, this approach ignores the regionally specific business environment and path dependencies. The shortage of knowledge on CEE business history can result in a lack of understanding of the context, thus, in bad managerial and political decisions. Moreover, it deprives the international community of business historians of learning in greater detail about the varieties of capitalism.



13:00 – 13:15 (CET)

Volodymyr Kulikov and Alfred Reckendrees

Panel 1: “Longevity and Discontinuity in the Business History of CEE”
13:15 – 14:30 (CET)

Facilitator: Antonie Doležalová, Charles University

Tomasz Olejniczak and Anna Pikos (Kozminski University). Fake history? Uses and Abuses of History in Long-lived Polish Companies.
Michael Coates (The University of California, Berkeley). The Russian Encyclopedia Industry and its Soviet Past, the 1990s-2000s.
Camilla Ferri, Maria Lusiani, and Giovanni Favero (Ca’ Foscari University of Venice). The Shifting Uses of the Past in Cultural Heritage: The Case of Caffé Pedrocchi.

Panel 2: History as a Resource to Create Tradition
14:45 – 16:00 (CET)

Facilitator: Wim Van Lent, Montpellier Business School

Mária Hidvégi (Tungsram Operations Kft.). Tungsram Corporate History: “Innovation is our Heritage.”
Anna Soulsby (Nottingham University Business School, UK). Organizational Heroes and the Control of Managerial Legitimacy in Post-Communist Societies.
Sandra Cvikić Ivo Pilar Institute of Social Science (Croatia). Post-Communist / Post-War Economic Nationalism and Historical Legacy – a Case Study Of “Borovo Factory” (Vukovar, Croatia).

Panel 3: Uses of Business History: What Business Historians of CEE can offer to the Business World?
16:30 – 17:30 (CET)

Facilitator: Alfred Reckendrees, Copenhagen Business School

Distinguished guest: Jonathan Morris, professor, head of the “Heritage for Business at the University of Hertfordshire.”
- Presentation by Jonathan Morris “Heritage for Business”
- Questions by the facilitator
- Discussion (Q&A)

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