chapter  7
20 Pages

War and Industry Dynamics

The Case of the Industrial Gases Industry After 1940
ByRay Stokes, Ralf Banken

This chapter uses the case of the development of the industrial gases industry during the rearmament period just before, and during, the Second World War to explore some of the ways in which the dynamics that define, reshape and redefine industries can unfold. It focusses on the issue of political risk as a key factor shaping these dynamics, in particular with regard to newcomer Air Products, based in the United States. In no small part as a result of trends that started during the Second World War, but also as a result of the agency of key new players that were able to gain or retain footholds in the industry as a result of the war, the international industrial gases industry was transformed, a transformation that was completed during the 1950s and 1960s. In general, the history of the international industrial gases industry confirms the hypothesis that war can serve as a conduit for significant technological and organisational change, although this case suggests some caveats because of the contrasting impacts of the First and Second World Wars, issues related to contingency affecting the survival of newcomers, and the fact that the industry’s transformation depended heavily on, but also affected, fundamental changes in other industries that had unfolded by the 1950s.