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Post-Reunification Restructuring and Corporate Re-bundling in the Bitterfeld-Wolfen Chemical Industry, East Germany


  • An earlier version of this article was presented at the 2010 Conference on ‘European Integration: Past, Present and Future’ at Wilfrid Laurier University, Canada, organized by the International Migration Research Centre, the Rimini Centre for Economic Analysis and the Viessman European Research Centre. Many thanks are due to Ute Hirsch and Günter Langner for their help in making contact with key individuals in the Bitterfeld-Wolfen chemical industry, and to Heiner Depner, Katrin Kappes (formerly Griebel), Frank Kobiela and Caroline von Bernuth (formerly Jentsch) for their superb research support. Special thanks are due to three anonymous IJURR reviewers for providing comments that substantially helped to strengthen the conceptual basis of what was originally designed as an empirical article. I also wish to thank Gerhard Braun, Alfred Hecht, Sebastian Henn, Andrew Munro, Josef Nipper, Kristina Schulz and Michael Seidel for valuable comments on earlier versions of this article. Finally, I would like to thank my former students from seminars at the universities of Frankfurt/Main and Marburg who participated in field trips to the Bitterfeld-Wolfen region and helped to conduct some of the interviews that informed this research.


While earlier research has shown that regional restructuring after reunification has led to broad de-industrialization processes in eastern Germany's chemical industry, this article focuses on how re-bundling processes at the corporate level have stimulated adjustments to the changing economic and political environment leading to a renewed regional development trajectory. The analysis is based on a conceptualization that assesses diachronic processes of rupture and re-bundling by applying a bottom-up perspective of how corporate adjustments and restructuring processes generate re-bundling types that manifest themselves in broader regional re-bundling scenarios. The empirical analysis focuses on a qualitative case study of Bitterfeld-Wolfen, the eastern region with the largest chemical industry. The research provides evidence that, although new firm formation has remained weak and acquisitions of chemical multinationals have generated structures only tenuously embedded in the regional economy, modernization and re-bundling process have contributed to a renewed, smaller yet stable, regional chemical industry. The analysis further shows that the associated processes depended on the roles of individual industrial leaders in the region, who acted as network builders, mobilized joint action and stimulated the development of a collective regional spirit.

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