The Development of Cartel+ Theory between 1883 and the 1930s – from International Diversity to Convergence
Cartel theory, being the doctrine of the cooperation between entrepreneurs of the same industry, was founded in 1883 by the Austrian Friedrich Kleinwächter. This theory, with its specific concepts, was essentially confined to the German-speaking world until World War I. Other cultural or language areas such as the Anglosphere and the Romanic countries had different terminologies and different insights into the topic: There were theories about syndicates, combinations or trusts. The peculiarities of the respective economic cultures hindered a unification of the terms, their meanings and their underlying theories up to the early 1920s. From the mid-1890s, German cartel theory had undergone several conceptual reforms and outdid its foreign-language counterparts in terms of differentiation. Until about 1910, cartel theory (besides American trust theory) had become the most respected theory on economic unions. After World War I, international cartels became needed. Since 1929, the terminology of German cartel theory became fundamental for the corresponding debates, which had taken place first at the International Economic Conference of the League of Nations in 1927. With the entry into the 1930s, the German cartel doctrine had become a scientific standard worldwide. This recognition makes it clear that German economic science was by no means in every respect ‹backward› in the interwar period, which is the current state of research. Therefore, German economics was better prepared than any other national economic discipline for the development of an ever more organized economy as evoked by the extensive cartelization and state-initiated regulation of the 1930s. So, cartel-related expertise was increasingly used in the policy of the controlled economy of the Third Reich.