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


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.