Discussion Paper Series 2019 #05: Financialization and Institutional Environments

Firm-level Outcomes from a Comparative Perspective

Abstract

This conceptual paper is concerned with the outcomes of the financialization of non-financial firms, and particularly with the role of institutions in shaping these outcomes. It centers on the question of whether the institutional setting of economies can be expected to moderate the effects of financialization on companies’ employment practices, investment decisions, R&D activities, and value chain. To approach this question, I first sketch out the concept of financialization and its meaning when considering its firm-level implications. I then draw on the literature on comparative institutional theory to identify two opposite institutional settings, liberal market economies and coordinated market economies. In a third step I combine empirical findings from the literature with theoretical reasoning, to hypothesize about how the outcomes of financialization on the firm-level differ between liberal and coordinated economies, developing two different scenarios about the trajectory of firm-level financialization in coordinated market economies. Finally, I discuss the implications of these scenarios for our understanding of financialization and its connection to institutional environments. Overall, the paper argues that taking an institutionally comparative perspective on financialization alerts us to the possibility that financialization does not represent a uniform process causing the same outcomes to manifest in non-financial corporations around the globe. Instead, as the financialization of firms takes place in diverse institutional settings, associated practices will have to be adapted to local institutions enabling and constraining them.

Author

  • Philipp A. Thompson (Freie Universität Berlin)

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