ANR-FQRSC-SHS - Programme de collaboration France-Québec en SHS

France - Aluminium - Québec, local development and global strategy of two aluminium multinationals in the twentieth century – FRALUBEC

Submission summary

The proposed research project is focused on two aluminium production multinationals. The one, Pechiney, was a flagship of the French industry until it was taken over by the other one, Alcan, a flagship of the Canadian industry before it was, in turn, incorporated in 2007 by an Anglo-Australian transnational company, Rio Tinto, in which it is now a business group. The internationalization, at work in theses capitalistic operations, is nothing new in a branch of industry which was very early impacted by the formation of combines and a global approach of resources and markets. The evidence is that old relations which were built up between the two companies were successively or simultaneously inspired by cooperation and competition: competition in order to control bauxite mines in the South of France during a third of a century, cooperation and competition for bauxite development in African countries, a common research program in a new process for alumina production, confrontation in the building materials market, and so on.
Fralubec intends to carry out research, from a comparative viewpoint, about the respective ways of internationalization and world expansion of the two aluminium companies, and what was at stake in their “local” interrelations in the context of a “global” economy.
As far as we know, Pechiney and Alcan were first developed within the context of tight and long lasting relationship with specific territories in their original country: the Maurienne valley in France at the end of the 19th century, the Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean area in Quebec as from 1926. Their mark on these territories was, and is still, very strong in terms of environment, development, town planning, employment, wealth creation, The Fralubec project will examine and compare the types of development which were implemented in these two territories during the 20th century, and constantly related to the global evolution of the two companies. Two aspects of this development will be particularly examined: the first one is relating to the organizational cultures (sociostructural and cultural systems), and implementation in terms of work organization, industrial relations, training, careers.. The other one is relating to what we call to day “social responsibility of the companies”. It takes an interest in the interplay of the various parties, inside and outside the company, and how this one (under the more or less firm pressure of its partners) takes into account their preoccupations on the long term.
In order to carry out this work, the Fralubec project will set up a team of multidisciplinary researchers, in the crossed fields of economic and business history, urban studies and management science. It is based on sharing sources and skills which, in Quebec as well as in France, will be able to explore and interpret the complex phenomenons related to the multinational company to which it has to give a global interpretation. The research work carried out in the framework of the project will use various methodologies: going through company archives, building up data bases, gathering and treatment of stories from professionals about working practices. The project results will be highly valued: scientific publications, in Canada and in France, and also diffusion through exhibitions, seminars, and internet with the support of specific institutions in the field of technology and aluminium history, in France and Quebec. What is also at stake, is to make Rio Tinto Alcan sensitive to the importance of such a research approach in human and social sciences related to its history and heritage.

Project coordinator


The author of this summary is the project coordinator, who is responsible for the content of this summary. The ANR declines any responsibility as for its contents.



Help of the ANR 149,945 euros
Beginning and duration of the scientific project: February 2012 - 36 Months

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