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A26 The Transculture of Capitalism

The Transculture of Capitalism – Challenges of a New Spirit? (2012-2017)

Coordination: Markus Pohlmann


The new spirit of capitalism is transcultural by origin. It is constituted by three waves of management concepts that shaped ideas of a newly principled way of life (i.e. the generalization of the idea of an entrepreneurial self), a new notion of organization (i.e. the idea of lean management), and a new form of state institutions (i.e. the idea of the new public management). We investigated how these ideas translate into collective patterns of interpretation (i.e. collective scripts), how this translation is related to local contexts and if it constitutes new rules of conduct for actors. By analyzing career patterns and carrying out in-depth interviews with the leaders of big enterprises (mainly industrial companies) and major hospitals in Asia and Europe (Japan and South Korea, Germany, Austria and Switzerland), we clarified that “transnationality” and “globalization” does not necessarily lead to the emergence of new spirit of Capitalism – i.e. convergence at the level of organizations as well as the neoliberalization of the economic thinking. This outcome indicates that one should pay more attention to the transnational dynamics and transcultural interactions that explain how the capitalist sprit emerges and transforms within historical flows of ideas and practices.

Sub project 1: Globalization and new spirit of Capitalism in Asia and Europe

This research program focuses on the impact of globalization on the corporation, and especially on industrial companies. A common theme of mainstream globalization literature is that the number of transnational corporations increases, and that this process drives the emergence of a managerial “world class” or global elites. The global elites are supposed to push the neoliberal transformation of the world economy forward. This thesis culminates in the idea of a new spirit of capitalism. The research program puts the thesis of a global economic elite to the test, by examining the empirical career patterns and action orientations of top managers, who lead the big industrial corporations of the world’s largest economies today.

Based upon these research questions, we delineated the development of enterprises and economies through firsthand accounts. At the same time, we examined the social origin of top managers, their strategic orientations, and what differences they see between younger and older generations of executive leadership. As a consequence, our findings and analyses indicate that globalization has an impact on top management in Asia and Europe in a various form. This result demonstrates the importance of paying attention to traditions, practices and particularities that prevail despite global trends and competition.

Sub project 2: Hospital Management – New Organizational and Managerial Approaches in International Comparison

The second sub-research project is ‘Hospital Management – New organizational and managerial approaches in international comparison’. The project focuses on administrative and medical directors of big hospitals in different countries. We investigated what kind of organizational and management concepts they adopt and use in their management practice. The project asked whether similar methods that became popular in the context of industrial management gain currency in different countries, or to what extent they are rejected or adapted to the specific needs of hospitals. Specifically, we raised research questions such as whether and how far pathways adjust or paradigms shift, which groups of actors carry these developments, and what concepts are adopted and which ones prevail in their new environment.

Our findings show that the economization of organization in the health care sector is generally prevalent in Asia and Europe. However, the economic thinking and adaptation of the management concepts indicate divergence not convergence. The result proves that one has to pay attention to the different organizational and institutional foundations, the legacy of institutions and the interactions between different actors and institutions in different social, economic and cultural settings in this field.


  • Kwon, Jaok, Markus Pohlmann and Jivanta Schöttli (submitted), „Transnational Elites in Japan? International Career Mobility in East and South Asia, International Journal of Japanese Sociology
  • Pohlmann, Markus and Xiuyin Shi (submitted), Der „Geist“ des Kapitalismus und seine Trägerschichten: Handlungsorientierungen ökonomischer Eliten in Deutschland und China, Sociological Studies 社会学研究
  • Klinkhammer, Julian (submitted), „Finanzmarktorientierung und globale Eliten. Spiegelt sich der Wandel der schweizerischen Spielart des Kapitalismus in neoliberaler Unternehmensführung der Industriemanager wider?, Jahrbuch der Schweizerischen Gesellschaft für Wirtschafts- und Sozialgeschichte
  • Bär, Stefan and Markus Pohlmann (submitted), „Autonomieverlust der Medizin? Zum Strukturwandel moderner Großkrankenhäuser in Deutschland, Österreich und der Schweiz. In: Arbeitsbeziehungen des öffentlichen Sektors: Kontinuität, Wandel und Kriese. Schwerpunktheft der Industriellen Beziehungen (Gastherausgeber: Andrea Müller und Werner Schmidt).
  • Pohlmann, Markus, Volker Helbig and Stefan Bär (forthcoming 1/2017), „Ein neuer Geist des Kapitalismus? Selbstoptimierung und Burnout in den Wirtschaftsmedien, Österreichsche Zeitschrift für Soziologie“. 
  • Bär, Stefan and Markus Pohlmann (2016), „Kurswechsel im Krankenhaus – Auf dem Weg zu einer markt- und profitorientierten Dienstleistungsorganisation? In: Bode, Ingo und Werner Vogd (Hg.): Mutationen des Krankenhauses. Soziologische Diagnosen in organisations- und gesellschaftstheoretischer Perspektive. Springer VS. S.229-250. 
  • Pohlmann, Markus and Hyun-Chin Lim (2015), „Um Novo “Espírito” do Capitalismo? A globalização e seu impacto na difusão do pensamento de gestão neoliberal na Alemanha e nas economias do Leste Asiático”, Plural, Revista de Sciencias Sociais, Vol. 22, No. 2: 115-144. 
  • Pohlmann, Markus and Hyun-Chin Lim (2014), “A New „Spirit“ of Capitalism? – Globalization and its Impact on the Diffusion of Neoliberal Management Thinking in Germany and the East Asian Economies”, Development and Society, Vol. 43, No. 1, p. 1-32.
  • Markus Pohlmann and Elizângela Valarini (2013), “Elite econômica no Brasil: Discussões Acerca da Internacionalização da Carreira de Executivos Brasileiros”, Revista de Sociologica e Politica, Vol. 21, No. 47, 37-51.

International Conference and Workshop Organizing and Presentations


  • Markus Pohlmann, “Corporate Elites“, Workshop, University of Heidelberg, 30 April.
  • Markus Pohlmann, “Industry 4.0 – Impact on Corporate Management”, Workshop, University of Heidelberg, 29 April.


  • Markus Pohlmann, “The Spirits of Capitalism in East Asia”, Capitalism and Capitalisms in Asia – Origin, Commonality and Diversity, Asia Center, Seoul National University, 22-23 October.
  • Markus Pohlmann, “Principles of Management, Leadership and Corporate Strategies in Germany”, Workshop, University of Heidelberg, 4 August.
  • Markus Pohlmann, “Ein neuer Geist des Kapitalismus?”Conference of „Loyalität und Kriminalität, University of Heidelberg, 26 June. 
  • Markus Pohlmann, „International und Neoliberal? Zum Wandel auf den Spitzenpositionen von Großkrankenhäusern“, Conference of Mutationen des Krankenhauses, University of Witten, 7 February
  • Markus Pohlmann, „The Mobility Regime of Big Business“, Conference of „Global Mobility Regimes“, University of Bielefeld, 6 February.


  • Markus Pohlmann, „The New Spirit of Capitalism? – Collective Mindsets of Top-Managers in Leading World Regions“, International Conference of „Max Weber and the New Spirit of Capitalism“, Karl Jaspers Center, University of Heidelberg, 4 December. 
  • Jaok Kwon-Hein, “The Spirit of Management in Japan: Recruitment and Career Patterns of Business Elites in a Globalized Economy”, Karl Jaspers Center, University of Heidelberg, 4 December. 
  • Markus Pohlmann, „Neoliberale Deutungsmuster und Kapitalismus in Brasilien“, Latin America Workshop, University of Heidelberg, 4 December. 
  • Markus Pohlmann, „Interkulturelle Konzepte von Führung und Organisation II“, Workshop, University of Heidelberg, 31 October. 
  • Markus Pohlmann, „The New Spirit of Capitalism? – Collective Mindsets of Top-Managers in Leading World Regions”, University of Sao Paulo, 18 September. 
  • Markus Pohlmann, “Collective Mindset Analysis”, University of Parana in Curitiba, 17 September. 
  • Markus Pohlmann, „The New Spirit of Capitalism? – Collective Mindsets of Top-Managers in Leading World Regions”, University of Parana in Curitiba, 16 September. 
  • Markus Pohlmann, „Interkulturelle Konzepte von Führung und Organisation I“, Audi AG workshop, Neckarsulm, 6 August. 
  • Markus Pohlmann, „Der neue Geist des Kapitalismus – Deutungsmuster von Top-Managern“, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin in Berlin, 11 July. 
  • Markus Pohlmann, „Der neue Geist des Kapitalismus – Deutungsmuster von Topmanagern im internationalen und intergenerationalen Vergleich, 
  • „Kapitalismus als Lebensform“, DGS-Sektion Wirtschaftssoziologie, University of Frankfurt, 27 June. 
  • “Principles of Management, Leadership and Corporate Strategies in Germany”, Workshop, University of Heidelberg, 31 May. 


  • Markus Pohlmann, “International and Global Management Studies”, Max-Weber Institute of Sociology, Heidelberg University, 9-10 December.
  • Markus Pohlmann, “Changing Values in the Korean Society – Attitudes and Collective Mindsets”, German-Korean Association of Sociology, Seoul, 12 October.
  • Markus Pohlmann, „Ein neuer Geist des Kapitalismus? Deutungsmuster von Top-Managern im internationalen Vergleich“, University of Darmstadt, 2 July.
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