Oslo Summer School in Comparative Social Science Studies 1995

Comparative Aspects of Industrial Modernization in Europe, USA, and Japan

Main discipline: Sociology
Lecturer: Professor Horst Kern
Institution: University of Göttingen, Germany
Dates: 31 July - 4 August, 1995


Must industrial modernization be conceptualized as a secular process which follows a distinct logic everywhere or would it be better to understand it as a multifarious development on different tracks? Whereas in the 60's most thought was strongly influenced by the first concept, in the 80's the idea that there is a need for more differenziation came to the forefront. Different models of industrial modernization, either historical or national ones, were identified and interpreted as historically enduring entities. The lecture reconstructs these debates on convergence or divergence in industrial modernization. Also the question if at present, in an era of new economic challenges all over the world (increasing need for innovation, changing gender composition of the workforce, notorious over-supply of labour, global markets), the responses of actors are becoming more uniform or not, will be discussed.

The lecture is divided into four blocks. The first block (I, II) refers to theoretical controversies in the area of industrial modernization and organizational practices in industries. The second block (III, IV) reconstructs new insights into industrial modernization which developed during the 80's, particularly the growing sensitivity for historical and cross country (or cross cultural) differences in industrial developments. The third block (V, VI, VII, VIII) looks more closely at new and ongoing changes of the framework in which economic actors have to operate. This block shall give more precise information about the current situation and checks changes in the sources of efficiency (rationalization vs. innovation), in the composition of the workforce (feminization of the labour market, surplus in labour supply), and in the spatial range of economic actions (globalization vs. regionalization). Finally, the fourth block (IX, X) discusses if these new challenges can be met in the context of the national models of industrial restructuring of the 80's or whether they will lead to the reform or to the erosion of these models.

In addition to these four blocks, the possible interlinkages between the collapse of Soviet type economies on the one hand and the phenomenon of industrial modernization on the other hand could be an interesting topic in the lecture. Alternative approaches to these problems could interpret the present developments in these economies either as a leapfrogging modernization or as the creation of a new international division of labour in which these economies play the role of inferior suppliers. Unfortunately, due to a lack of time we will not have the chance to consider these problems.

The lecturer
Horst Kern is professor in Sociology at the Soziologisches Seminar, University of Gottingen, Germany. Together with Michael Schumann, he has done two studies of the consequences of modernization in German industry that already are generally considered as classics: "Industriearbeit und Arbeiterbewu tsein" (1974) and "Das Ende der Arbeitsteilung?" (1984). In addition, he has published extensively in several languages. One of his major concerns is that one should not take for granted that industrial modernization develops along one single path, and hence international comparative studies is of paramount importance to understand this field.