How Institutions Evolve: The Political Economy of Skills in Germany, Britain, the United States, and Japan / Edition 1

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The institutional arrangements governing skill formation are widely seen as constituting a key element in the institutional constellations that define distinctive "varieties of capitalism" across the developed democracies. This book explores the origins and evolution of such institutions in four countries - Germany, Britain, the United States, and Japan. It traces cross-national differences in contemporary training regimes back to the nineteenth century and, specifically, to the character of the political settlement achieved among employers in skill-intensive industries, artisans, and early trade unions. The book also tracks evolution and change in training institutions over a century of development. It uncovers important continuities through putative "breakpoints" in history, but also - more important perhaps - it provides insights into modes of institutional change that are incremental but cumulatively transformative. The study underscores the limits of the most prominent approaches to institutional change, and it identifies the political processes through which the form and functions of institutions can be radically reconfigured over time.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"One cannot praise enough Thelen's continuing contribution to the progress of institutional theory, especially the theory of institutional change. She masterfully weaves together a comparative tale of four countries to provide a critique of the functionalist rationalism of much of the current debate on institutions and economic systems in general."
Wolfgang Streeck, The Max Planck Institute for the Study of Societies

"Why do institutions vary across nations? How do institutions persist and change over time? Exploring vocational and skills training in major industrial nations, Kathleen Thelen casts new theoretical light on these fundamental questions. This brilliant book is a must-read, not only for students of the political economy of advanced industrial societies, but for all social scientists grappling with how to explain institutional development."
Theda Skocpol, Harvard University

"This brilliant book, focussing on Germany in comparison to the UK, the US and Japan, makes three major and original contributions to the comparative political economy literature. First, Thelen provides a coherent comparative theory of why training systems differ across developed economies today based on the differences in institutional settlements a century or more earlier between business, unions and artisans. Second, and supplementing this, she develops a theory of institutional change which shows (contrary to the standard punctuated equilibria argument) how institutions embody continuities through reconfiguration even in the face of major external shocks. Third, she establishes the critical role of business in the evolution of training systems. Beyond these achievements, her analytic skill and her use of rich historical sources make the book a quite compelling read."
David Soskice, Duke University

"This is a superb work of comparative historical political economy. It makes a sound and enlightening empirical contribution to our understanding of the emergence of four quite distinct national systems of vocational training."
H-Net Book Review, H-German

"Full of intelligence, Thelen's book is an important study in labor history and labor economics, and it should be ready by all who are interested in the role and development of social institutions."
Gerald Friedman, Industrial and Labor Relations Review

"It is rare to have the opportunity to read such a masterful survey of the historical development of industrial training in four of the world's major industrial economies, Germany, Britain, Japan and the US. Thelen has achieved a tour de force in covering the institutional evolution, the political strategies of the actors and their interaction over a century. Her study is also a true exercise in comparative analysis, in which the contrasting experience of the four countries is used to highlight the range of different institutional paths taken by skill formation in these four countries."
British Journal of Industrial Relations

"This is an excellent piece of scholarship. It adds substantialy to our understanding of labor markets and of economic and political institutions in general...Researchers focused on specific issues of human capital investment, as well as those interested in very large questions about the nature of institutions, will find this book to be a provocative read." - EH.Net, Thomas N. Maloney, University of Utah

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780521546744
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press
  • Publication date: 9/1/2004
  • Series: Cambridge Studies in Comparative Politics Series
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 352
  • Sales rank: 1,113,527
  • Product dimensions: 5.98 (w) x 8.98 (h) x 0.79 (d)

Meet the Author

Kathleen Thelen is Associate Professor of Political Science at Northwestern University. She is the author of Union of Parts: Labor Politics in Postwar Germany and co-editor of Structuring Politics: Historical Institutionalism in Comparative Analysis. Her work on labor politics and on historical institutionalism has appeared in, among others, World Politics, Comparative Political Studies, The Annual Review of Political Science, Politics and Society, and Comparative Politics. She is chair of the Council for European Studies, and serves on the executive boards of the Comparative Politics, European Politics and Society, and Qualitative Methods sections of the American Political Science Association. She has received awards and fellowships from the Max Planck Society, the Institute for Advanced Study in Berlin, the Society for Comparative Research, the National Science Foundation, the Alexander von Humboldt foundation, the American Scandinavian Foundation, and the German Academic Exchange Program.
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Table of Contents

1 The political economy of skills in comparative-historical perspective 1
2 The evolution of skill formation in Germany 39
3 The evolution of skill formation in Britain 92
4 The evolution of skill formation in Japan and the United States 148
5 Evolution and change in the German system of vocational training 215
6 Conclusions, empirical and theoretical 278
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