Oslo Summer School in Comparative Social Science Studies 1997

Beliefs in Government, Or: The Evolution of Political Orientations in Western Europe 1960 - 1990

Main Discipline: Political Science
Lecturer: Professor Max Kaase
Institution: Wissenschaftszentrum Berlin f�r Sozialforschung, Germany
Dates: 4 August - 8 August, 1997

When the project "Beliefs in Government" was conceptualized under the auspices of the European Science Foundation in 1987/88, this plan reflected a widespread feeling that enough important changes in the political beliefs and behaviors of West European publics had taken place to warrant a comparative stock-taking effort. Concepts like the legitimation crisis, value change, the participatory revolution, the internationalization of governance and the decline of the welfare state indicated major upheavals in citizen orientations and far-reaching consequences for the conduct of the democratic political process. Still, it was mostly unclear whether these changes were uniform and boundary-transcending phenomena, what their sources were, and what implications they had on the future of democratic politics. Therefore, a lot of support was mustered for the project which started in 1989 and came to an end in 1994.

As it turned out, shortly after the beginning of the project the breakdown of communist rule in Central and Eastern Europe and, with it, the eclipse of the only viable alternative to democratic governance took place. Thus, the "Beliefs in Government" data end at about a time which, in retrospect, may well be regarded as a watershed for the development of Western European societies after World War II. "Beliefs in Government" operated under two major premises: it had to be comparative, and it had to be longitudinal. This entails substantive as well as methodological implications. As a consequence, the course will begin on the first day with some general concerns of comparative research in the social sciences and then describe the project in detail. Over the next three days, core substantive topics regarding the development of socio-political orientations in Western Europe will be covered. The lectures on the last day will then try to summarize the findings and to look ahead into the future of democratic government.

Basic readings

"Beliefs in Government" has produced the following five volumes:

The introductions to volumes 1-4 and all of volume five are required reading (altogether about 250 pages of reading).

The lecturer
Max Kaase is Professor of Political Science and Comparative Social Research at the University of Mannheim, Germany. He is presently a Research Professor at Wissenschaftszentrum, Berlin, Germany. He was the co-director of the comparative Beliefs in Government project 1989-1994. He is the author of Political Action. Mass Participation in Five Western Democracies, London 1979 (with S. H. Barnes, et. al.), Politische Gewalt und Repression, Berlin 1990, and Estranged Friends: The Transatlantic Consequences of Societal Change, New York 1996 (with Andrew Kohut).