Paper presented to the fourth EMOT-workshop, theme 1, Economic performance outco- 1 mes in Europe, Berlin, January 30-February 1, 1997 This paper discusses performance characteristics and differences at three levels: at sector, firm and top management level. First, it explores the extent to which the particularities of the Dutch business system history influence the economic performance of different types of firms and sectors in the Netherlands. Elaborating on earlier work on the Dutch business system (Iterson and Olie, 1992; van Dijk and Punch, 1993: Sorge and Iterson, 1995, Iterson, 1997), it will be hypothesised which sectors and types of firms will prosper in the socio-institutional context and which sectors and types of firms will not. For instance, it will be brought forward that the agricultural sector, the mineral fuels and chemicals sector, the foods and detergents sector, the transport and transshipment sector and the financial services sector have emerged in a favourable socio-institutional context whereas the steel and the car sector have not. As to different types of firms, it will be brought forward that family-owned and state-owned companies are much less dominant in the Netherlands than public limited liability companies. At firm level, special attention will be given to the large multinational corporations, such as the Royal Dutch Shell Group, Unilever, AKZO, DSM and Philips. Secondly, the socially constructed managerial capabilities and discretion - again, related to economic performance - will be explored in this paper. They are to be understood as an outcome of the idiosyncratic formation of social groups in the Netherlands and the related emergent governance principles (Cf. Kristensen, 1995), which is known as `pillarisation''.