With technology that reaches world-wide, the Internet is a globalising force that makes us redefine our concepts of time and place. In the glorious e-days when the Nasdaq index was still rising, the extension of web-based technology led observers to predict the emergence of a global e-business elite that would share not only new ways of doing business but also similar values and codes of conduct that, in essence, were American. In France, the net economy was said to have revolutionised French capitalism by introducing an entrepreneurial spirit and a willingness to take risks, an approach that (as many commentators pointed out) had unfortunately been historically lacking. Yet, some feared that American-inspired business models and managers would set standards based on American values and in so doing undermine the French socio-economic model.
This article will investigate the values and identities held by a group of economic actors on the net. Specifically, I will attempt to draw a profile of French e-managers and their values and standpoints on world issues. I will ask whether they identify themselves with American rather than French values and whether their socio-economic backgrounds and careers differ from those of previous generations of French business leaders. I will draw on a series of interviews which I conducted from spring 2000 to spring 2001 with French managers working in start-up companies on the Internet - that is, recently established and rapidly growing companies providing services or goods on-line. In setting up these interviews, I decided to focus on companies in the Īle-de-France region, where most French e-managers work. The managers were selected randomly from articles in the economic press and 35 of those contacted agreed to participate in a semi-structured interview of about 30-45 minutes. They were asked to speak on three broad questions: "How would you describe French capitalism?"; "What would be the ideal form of capitalism in the 21st century?"; and "Does it still make sense to speak about the nationality of a company?" With four exceptions, the interviews, which were conducted in French and taped, took place in the managers' offices.
Of these 35 managers, only 3 were self-taught and 3 others had a BA or an MA from a minor university, while the vast majority had graduated from selective university programmes such as BA or MA programmes at Assas or Dauphine in Paris (7 interviewees) or from the Grandes Ecoles (22 interviewees). Among the Grandes Ecoles graduates, 16 had a degree from one of the most prestigious business or engineering schools in Paris, 5 from less prominent but still highly reputable schools in the provinces, and 1 from a recently established school. Moreover, having a traditional French educational background, many interviewees had accumulated several degrees from Grandes Ecoles and French and foreign universities. These highly respected educational credentials lead to the assumption that e-managers are likely to come from a family environment of middle and senior management (cadres moyens et supérieurs) that provides the social and cultural capital that enhances chances of early success in the difficult and highly competitive entrance examinations for the most prestigious Grandes Ecoles (Bourdieu, 1989). Such social origins tend to ensure sufficient means to pay school fees that, for some business schools, are considerable (Meuleau, 1995). This assumption is confirmed by the fact that the interviewees described their fathers as managers, entrepreneurs, dentists, estate agents, and teachers at various levels. The above indicates that with respect to social origins and educational credentials, Parisian e-managers are closer to previous generations of French corporate managers (Bauer & Bertin-Mourot, 1997; Bourdieu & de Martin, 1978) than, for example, to the provincial businessmen, with no prestigious diplomas, who revolutionised post-war French retailing (Chadeau, 1995).
It is also worth noting that, when doing business on the net, social relations and established networks appear to play an important role and, as these are still established in 'traditional' ways, the physical location of a company remains essential. For example, some interviewees explained the location of their company by the wish to be in the proximity of the Parisian Sentier district where many start-up companies settled when the Internet arrived in France, and others regretted that they had had to leave this location in order to obtain larger offices elsewhere in the Īle-de-France region. Physical presence was likewise judged to be important when raising capital, as stated by a manager in a business incubator designed to nurture start-up companies on the Internet:
These results show that, like traditional corporate managers, Parisian e-managers tend to give preference to members of the educational elite, in particular those from prestigious commercial or engineering schools. In e-business, high-level diplomas remain an asset because they enable access to the "old-boy" network. In other words, practices followed by e-managers reflect their preference for traditional networks and personal contacts, or their reliance on the elite selected by the French educational system. Moreover, most of the interviewees were anxious to stress their notable educational credentials and so attached the importance of belonging to the 'elite' to their educational status. Seen from this perspective, it is clear that the spread of Internet in France has not created a new management elite less determined by educational credentials from the Grandes Ecoles (Lazuech, 1999, pp.39-56 & pp.97-102).
Yet, in comparison with earlier generations of managers, three major differences can be discerned. The first concerns the kinds of Grandes Ecoles attended by the managers in the start-up companies. During la seconde industrialisation (the second industrialisation period from 1870 to 1914), access to managerial positions was gained mainly by engineers, especially by graduates from the Ecole Polytechnique, and in the aftermath of WWII, by graduates from the school of civil servants, the Ecole Nationale d'Administration (Bauer & Bertin-Mourot, 1997; Chadeau, 1995; Thépot, 1979). Though the diplomas from these colleges do not provide any specific business knowledge, they enhance career prospects in large company management positions, and in many cases such a career path - described by Bauer as the State career ladder (Bauer & Bertin-Mourot, 1987) - include state administration and ministrial cabinet posts. These schools are, therefore, traditionally far more prestigious than even the most prominent business school, the Ecole des Hautes Etudes Commerciales, which suffered for a long time from the widespread belief that it offered intellectually inferior education (Bourdieu, 1987, pp.8-18; Lazuech, 1999, p.51). More recently, however, this school has, along with the other most prestigious and selective Parisian business schools from which many managers of start-up companies graduated, gained increasing esteem (Le Point, no.1159, 1994, pp.101-104). Nonetheless, although these managers may belong to the French educational elite emanating from the Grandes Ecoles, they are still not part of the 'top' elite that, traditionally, benefited from the State career ladder. Moreover, their schooling was rather different since their training, inspired by American business schools, stressed business and management skills (Lazuech, 1999 pp.39-56; Meuleau, 1995; Warde, 2000). In addition, with a few exceptions, all of the interviewees had gathered extensive experience within corporations or small and medium sized enterprises at various levels, both in France and abroad, before joining a start-up company.
A second difference between traditional corporate managers and the start-up managers is the youth of the latter on achieving managerial rank. Most of the interviewees were in their early thirties, and this appears to be a widespread phenomenon if the results of the enquiries made by JDNet (2000), SOFRES (2000) and the Agence pour la Création d'Entreprises (2000, p.49) are anything to go by. Joining a start-up company appears, therefore, to have been a fast way to achieve managerial responsibility.
Thirdly, there are generational differences. Born predominantly between the mid-1960s and the mid-1970s, the managers in start-up companies belong to the crowded, post-war generation that also had the highest number of high school graduates (Préel, 2000). Succeeding in the competitive entrance examinations for some of the most prestigious Grandes Ecoles is likely to have been particularly difficult for them, since the rise in applications did not bring about an increase in admissions to these schools (Euriat & Thélot, 1995, p.414). In general, this age group had to learn to face risk and changing conditions. When its members arrived on the labour market in the late 1980s and early 1990s, it was particularly difficult to get a position as a cadre and many had to go through multiple internships and short-term contracts (Préel, 2000). For the majority of the e-managers, entrance to professional life was made easier by their diplomas and college affiliations. Yet, despite these advantages, they also experienced uncertainty because of the lack of permanent positions for business school graduates (L'Express, 27 February 1997; Figaro Economie, 24 April 1995; Le Point, 3 December 1994). At that time, according to one interviewee, who also ran courses at the Ecole des Hautes Etudes Commerciales, the dream of most business school graduates was to join a large company. Yet the downsizing of the 1980s and 1990s had made this difficult, and the path to responsibility and power was perceived as very long (Bouffartigue & Gadea, 2000, pp.71-98). A considerable number of the interviewees explained that they had chosen to migrate to a start-up company because it offered better possibilities of achieving a managerial position. Some hoped to use their managerial expertise within larger companies at a later time, whereas others aimed to launch their own companies. In other words, uncertain and slow career prospects within larger corporations had caused them to drift into smaller structures that offered responsibility and independence but an uncertain future. For their generation, uncertainty has become a life-style. For them, the idea of moving from one job to another is normal and the way to job security is by "learning" so as to improve future employability, as quite a few interviewees expressed it. In the late 1990s and early 2000, they saw the best opportunities in the net economy. In this regard, their standpoint echoes the 1990s management literature they are likely to have encountered at school (Boltanski & Chiapello, 1999, pp.92-153).
Another characteristic of this generation is its internationalism and Europeanism, two buzzwords for companies and educational institutions in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Students born between 1965 and 1974 were among the first to benefit from the newly established exchange programmes between universities and business schools. The internationalisation movement was particularly pronounced within the most prominent Parisian business schools, some of which had initiated this process back in the 1960s and 1970s (Lazuech, 1998, pp.70-71). Indeed, most of the managers interviewed had accumulated studies, internships and jobs abroad, since, as one interviewee stated, "any international coloration of one's CV was an asset for job prospects". The interviewees had gained their international experience within as well as outside Europe, but mostly in English-speaking countries.
However, when speaking of the UK and more especially the United States (to which they referred extensively), it was in the way of a random experience, their contact with the neo-Anglo-American socio-economic model having occurred at a stage in their lives when they had already assimilated traditional French ideas on the United States. Thus, their vision of the United States was conditioned by their socialisation in France, within the Parisian bourgeoisie, the Grandes Ecoles and the images transmitted by the French press. Their stays in the United States seem to have confirmed the positive as well as the negative traditional French conceptions of that country. That is to say, Paris and France remained the centre of their lives in the sense of being their anchor points in observing the world. This suggests that, despite the Internet and despite globalisation, locality remains crucial for the way in which knowledge is shaped and thus the way social actors perceive the world.
To illustrate how managers' values and world views are shaped by traditional French concepts I will use the example of the interviewees' images of the United States. When asked to describe the "ideal socio-economic" model, young managers, just like the older generation of traditional corporation managers, spoke of the desirability of a mixture of neo-Anglo-American capitalism with a French or European model. They defined the neo-Anglo-American aspects of this model as a lack of state intervention (unlike post-WWII French statism; see Kuisel, 1984), less regulatory bureaucracy, and flexible labour legislation that would allow for more efficient and competitive business. However, this was to be counterbalanced by French and European traditions of social cohesion and responsibility that were perceived to be lacking in the United States. Thus, though they see the United States as a model for improving French competitiveness, their perception of American capitalism is predominantly negative, since it represents, from their point of view, a non-tempered liberalism. American capitalism is seen as "ultra-liberalist", "immoral" and "asocial"; as one e-manager put it: "American society is good for those who succeed but uncharitable to those who do not".
Moreover, money is considered to be the "be all and end all" of American society. The managers in Parisian start-up companies spoke contemptuously about the key role they saw money and wealth playing within American culture. They stressed that, for them, unlike for American entrepreneurs, money was not the main aim of their enterprises. Indeed, all of the e-managers interviewed took a similar stance, with only minor variations, on the issue of money: "Money is a means and eventually the outcome of the undertaking, but not its primary objective". They spoke instead of their passion for their businesses, and their desire to participate in and contribute to the net revolution that could turn the French model into a more entrepreneurial kind of capitalism. Finally, they felt at home in France and, more particularly, Paris, and wanted to continue living and doing business there. It was the place from which they wanted to set out to explore the world, but also the place to which they wanted to return.
These examples show that managers in start-up companies still possess the traditional positive as well as negative images of the United States that have shaped French ideas since the 18th century (Boltanski, 1982; Duroselle, 1976; Kuisel, 1993; Mattellart, 1997; Winock, 1982). On the one hand, a positive image of the United States reflects criticism of France and expresses what France should do. As in the 19th century, today's e-managers admire American productivity and business models, which they copy and adapt within a French context. Venture capitalists and entrepreneurs follow the American market closely for indications of what might work in France. And, in a manner reminiscent of productivity trips to the United States in the early 1950s (Kuisel, 1993, pp.79-95), one e-business organisation, the Association pour le Commerce et les Services en Ligne, organises mission trips to Silicon Valley. On the other hand, a long-lasting negative image shows the United States as being predominantly consumerist, materialist and guided by a less humane socio-economic model than France (Kuisel, 1993; Rémond, 1962). This seems to be the principal reason for the cultural disquiet expressed by managers in respect of the United States. Moreover, in France, this negative image of the USA was particularly dominant throughout the 1990s when the concept of globalisation entered public debate (Albert, 1994; Desportes & Mauduit, 1999; Forrester, 1996; Izraelewicz, 1999; Manière, 1999; Minc, 1997; Zųlner, 2001).
This excursus has been twofold. Firstly, it has shown that, within the net economy, there is a new generation of French managers who share a common kind of career development over the 1990s, one based on a typical French educational background of accumulating prestigious diplomas but initiated in the ideology of American-inspired business school training. Despite strong credentials, these individuals experienced uncertain career prospects when entering the job market, so that the net economy appeared as a window of opportunity which they were able and willing to exploit in the late 1990s when the Internet was commercialised in France. Secondly, I have argued that although managers in start-up companies are from a new generation, and despite the fact that they do business in cyberspace using American business models, they are far from being as 'globalised' or as 'Americanised' as the predictions of the glorious e-days would have us believe. When investigating their careers, an equal amount of continuity and change as with previous generations of French managers was noted. This is also the situation regarding the social and economic values of the managers interviewed. While they admire American productivity and business models, they do not feel at ease with the American socio-economic model or culture. Thus, the research reported by this article illustrates that, so far, French cyberbusiness is still very 'traditional' in the sense that its managers are not so different from their predecessors. This might indicate that though the Internet is by definition 'global', managers are still 'local'. Only the future will tell whether they will remain so or not.
 The author gratefully acknowledges the constructive comments received from the anonymous Mots Pluriels readers as well as from Dr. Martin Marcussen, of Copenhagen University.
 See for example Micklethwait & Wooldridge (2000).
 See for example articles published in inter alia Le Monde, Libération, Les Echos, Le Nouvel économiste, L'Express and Le Nouvel observateur, autumn 1999 - spring 2000.
 According to the electronic journal JDNet, almost 90% of the managers in start-up companies work in the Īle-de-France region and 63.2% of these within Paris. Moreover, of the 2360 companies in the Internet sector registered by JDNet in June 2001, 1246 are located in four departments of the Īle-de-France region (75, 92, 93, 94) (http://societe.journaldunet.com/php/commun/recherche.php4).
 The original questions in French were as follows: "Décrivez ce qui, selon vous, caractérise le modèle français du capitalisme. Selon vous, quel serait le modèle idéal du capitalisme dans le XXIe siècle? Selon vous, la nationalité de l'entreprise aura-t-elle encore un sens?"
 For example: Ecole Polytechnique, Ecole Supérieure d'Electricité, Ecole Centrale de Paris, Ecole Normale Supérieure, Ecole des Hautes Etudes Commerciales, Ecole Supérieure des Sciences Economiques et Commerciales, Ecole Supérieure de Commerce de Paris, INSEAD, and Institut d'Etudes Politiques de Paris.
 For example: Ecole des Hautes Etudes Commerciales du Nord, Ecole Supérieure de Commerce de Rouen and Institut National Polytechnique de Grenoble.
 Institution Internationale des Multimédias.
 On 18 October 2000, JDNet published a portrait of the typical e-manager, based on the 551 biographies in the journal's "Who's Who in the New Economy" ("Carnet des décideurs de la nouvelle économie"; see http://www.journaldunet.com/lecarnet/index.shtml): 30% of the respondents had a diploma from one of the most prominent French business schools (including the Ecole des Hautes Etudes Commerciales, Ecole Supérieure des Sciences Economiques et Commerciales, Ecole Supérieure de Commerce de Paris, and INSEAD), 28.1% had a diploma from prestigious engineering schools (such as the Ecole Polytechnique, Ecole Nationale Supérieure d'Ingénieurs, Ecole Centrale, Ecole Nationale Supérieure des Télécommunications, Ecole Nationale des Ponts et Chaussées and Conservatoire National des Arts et Métiers) and 10.4% held an MBA. This confirms the findings of a previous survey conducted by SOFRES (October 2000) and a report on start-up entrepreneurs in France published by the Agence pour la Création d'Entreprises in June 2000. However, the latter report also includes start-up companies that are not on the Internet.
 Figures show that in 1994-95, only 6.8% of the students in the best écoles préparatoires came from a working class background, whereas 48.5% came from families with a high level of income. The social inequality is even greater in respect of the social origins of those who succeeded in the highly selective entrance examinations to the Ecole Polytechnique, Ecole Nationale d'Administration and Ecole Normale Supérieure. In 1995, only 6-8% of the pupils were from a working class or lower middle class background (this includes farmers, employees, craftsmen and shopkeepers) (Euriat & Thélot, 1995, pp.410-414). On the other hand, Euriat and Thélot assert that in the business school, the Ecole des Hautes Etudes Commerciales, a higher percentage of the students are from a working class or lower middle class background, but the authors have no exact figures. The historian Marc Meuleau states that between 1950 and 1980 an average of 75% of these students were from an upper or upper middle class background (Meuleau, 1995, pp.116-22).
 It should be noted that only 14 out the 35 interviewees answered this question. A family environment in the mid- to high level income bracket likewise characterises a good proportion of start-up entrepreneurs in general, according to a report compiled by the Agence pour la Création d'Entreprises (2000, p.18) and a SOFRES enquiry (October 2000). The latter shows that 46% of managers in start-up companies "sont issus d'un milieu de cadres, 27% d'artisans et commerçants, contre 11% seulement d'employés ou d'ouvriers".
 The point that a location outside Paris is problematic was largely supported by participants in a debate on the theme "L'Internet est-il trop parisien?" that JDNet launched in autumn 2000. Both participants from Paris and from the provinces held that it was an advantage to be in Paris when doing business on the net in France (http://forums.journaldunet.com/dcforum/DCForumID36/3.html).
 In their work on the grands patrons in the 200 largest French companies from 1985-1994, Bauer & Bertin-Mourot conclude that 50% of the economic elite were graduates from either the Ecole Polytechnique or Ecole Nationale d'Administration. In comparison, only 7% came from the most prestigious business school, the Ecole des Hautes Etudes Commerciales (Bauer & Bertin-Mourot, 1997, p.51).
 This is confirmed by the serial entrepreneur Loïc Le Meur (quoted in "Dossier: La Cyber-élite française", JDNet, 2000).
 It should be noted that when speaking about the socio-economic model of the United States, the interviewed managers often also had the UK in mind. Thus, their discourse distinguishes, just like French public debate in general, between two types of capitalism: a neo-Anglo-American model, and a Rhine model (Albert, 1994).
 Aside from the group of managers in start-up companies, I interviewed another group of French managers in spring and autumn 1999. This group consisted of 10 corporate managers of about 50-60 years of age. They were selected randomly from among the largest companies in France within the food and high technology industries that were located in the Īle-de-France region. These managers were interviewed in the same way as the e-managers.
 This was, for example, explicitly stated by one young e-manager when describing the ideal form of capitalism for the 21st century: "Donc, le modèle idéal aurait les qualités du modèle anglo-américain - pour l'efficacité et pour le peu de présence de l'Etat et des impôts relativement modérés - mais il aurait une connotation sociale plus forte qu'en Angleterre et qu'aux Etats-Unis. Il aurait une connotation comme en France ou en Allemagne où on accorde davantage d'importance aux droits des salariés, aux aspects de leur pouvoir d'achat, à la question du salaire minimum... Donc, il serait à mi-chemin entre un capitalisme américain et un capitalisme rhénan." A CEO described the ideal form of capitalism in a rather similar way: "Ça pourrait être un capitalisme intermédiaire entre ce que l'on appelle le modèle anglo-saxon et le modèle rhénan. Ça pourrait, je ne sais pas, être un capitalisme plus régulé."
 For example, after having criticised French bureaucracy and described the reforms required, a young e-manager stated: "Je suis libéral, je suis capitaliste, mais je ne voudrais pas vivre aux Etats-Unis pour autant. Je ne voudrais pas un modèle américain pour autant. Donc, les choses doivent se faire à travers des mesures comme celles que j'ai mentionnées. On doit complètement garder notre identité française, qui est cette dimension sociale. Moi, ça ne m'intéresse pas d'être riche, si tout le monde est pauvre à côté de moi. Vraiment, ça ne m'intéresse pas." Corporate managers express similar ideas, though sometimes less explicitly, as in the following statement by a financial director, who is discussing neo-Anglo-American capitalism: "Je crois [...] que les Américains ont compris qu'ils sont allés un peu trop loin. [...] et alors, il est possible qu'on arrive à des intégrations, à ce que le modèle américain s'imprègne un peu plus de social, et vice versa. C'est vrai que l'Europe a besoin de beaucoup plus de liberté d'entreprise qu'elle en a aujourd'hui. On a des administrations qui coûtent trop cher, et entreprendre, c'est la galère."
 "[...] je pense que la société américaine est bien pour les gens qui ont un savoir-faire, qui ont envie d'entreprendre, qui n'ont pas d'idées, qui ont une bonne formation. Donc, ils ont ... ce qu'il faut pour réussir dans la société en générale. En revanche, pour tous les autres, à mon avis, elle doit être assez peu tendre. Donc, c'est une société pour ceux qui réussissent, mais pas pour les autres."
 This perspective is illustrated by a young e-manager whose company has been particularly successful: "Moi, je n'ai pas entrepris pour gagner de l'argent et s'il se trouve que j'en ai gagné, parce que les actions peuvent monter et dans ce cas-là, tant mieux. [...] lorsque vous créez une entreprise, ce qui est phénoménal, ce qui vous motive, ce n'est certainement pas l'argent, mais c'est la dimension création, plaisir de travailler etc. Cette notion de plaisir et de passion est tout à fait fondamentale. [...] Je le redis. Quand on crée une entreprise, l'argent ne doit jamais être un moteur de motivation. Jamais! Au mieux, c'est une conséquence."
 This view was expressed, for example, by two e-managers who have worked in the United States and the UK: "Moi, je suis dans la net économie plus, je pense, pour les idées. Je défends un concept qui est nouveau, qui change, qui amène des gens à se comporter différemment et c'est plus ça qui est mon moteur que les aspects financiers, bien qu'ils ne soient pas, bien sûr, négligeables." - "[...] aujourd'hui, j'ai vraiment envie de vivre cette expérience en Europe [the commercialisation of the Internet]. Ce que j'ai vraiment envie de voir, c'est que de nouvelles structures se mettent en place en Europe. L'Internet est un petit peu le déclic."
 The following examples are very illustrative of this point. One young e-manager answered the question of whether he would like to continue his career abroad in this way: "Pas pour travailler. Non, non je suis bien en France. J'ai envie de rester en France. Je paie mes impôts en France ... enfin, je veux rester en France, parce que c'est là où je me sens bien." Another e-manager answered in a similar vein, adding his regional attachment: "Non, non. Pour me balader, pour voir des gens, oui ... Mais sinon, non. Il n'y a pas de raison qui m'y pousse aujourd'hui! [...] J'aime trop bien ce pays, j'ai ma famille, mes amis, des attaches [...] ça n'exclut pas que je me balade, mais que j'aille m'installer spécifiquement par rapport à un pays ou une région dans mon pays. Ça ne me viendrait pas à l'idée aujourd'hui de m'installer à Marseille. Je n'ai rien contre la ville de Marseille, mais ça ne me viendrait pas à l'idée. Je ne pars pas, je suis parisien. Je suis parisien. De toute façon, de Paris, je peux aller n'importe où pour me balader, mais pas pour travailler."
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