CONDIS: Continuity and Discontinuity in the Scandinavian Democratization Process

Research Project at the University of Gothenburg 1988-1990

Director : Bo Stråth

Researchers : Carl Holmberg, Jörgen Kyle, Britt Liljewall, Thomas Magnusson

A point of departure for the CONDIS project was the bias in modernisation theories dominant among comparative social scientists not long ago, that economic growth is the ultimate cause of welfare state development, where all states were thought to be caught up in a universal and evolutionist logic of industrialisation. Such theories pay insufficient attention to the political structures and cultural/ideological processes through which highly varied responses to industrialisation are mediated. During the research process a critical view on its own historical sociological point of departure was developed questioning perspectives of path dependency and intrinsic driving forces in historical processes. An approach was developed with a focus on the role of language and conceptualisation of social phenomenon. The theoretical assumption of this approach was that nothing is pregiven or predetermined before it has been conceptualised.

In empirical terms the focus of the project was on a comparison of the democratization processes in Germany and Scandinavia in comparison. 
Modernisation was seen as processes full of contradictions, tensions and backlashes, far more than being a smooth and predetermined evolution. The modernisation processes in Western industrialising societies were seen as encompassing a number of subprocesses such as industrialisation, bureaucratisation, professionalisation, and democratisation. These subprocesses have interacted in complex patterns and produced tensions. The 
subprocesses take the form of different rhythms and paces which is one of the sources of tension. Interpretive frameworks and the conceptual topography often lag behind technological change, for instance, with obvious difficulties for the political discourse. Periods of particularly strong tensions are experienced as 'crises', which have provoked claims for new definitions of problems and solutions and promoted conceptual and interpretive transformation.
The results of the CONDIS project have been presented in the two conference reports:Democratisation in Scandinavia in Comparison and Language and the Construction of Class Identities in addition to a number of articles on the theoretical implications of the concept of modernisation. Other outputs from the project were:

Carl Holmberg, Historien-jorden-framtiden . Socialistiska visioner i sekelskiftets agrardebatt . MA Gothenburg University 1993; Carl Holmberg, Längtan till landet. Ph D Diss Gothenburg University 1998; Jörgen Kyle, Peasant politics and the social question in Sweden 1840-1920 : traditions and conceptualisation, Gothenburg 1990 and Britt Liljewall, Bondevardag och samhällsförändring : studier i och kring västsvenska bondedagböcker från 1800-talet. PhD Diss Gothenburg University 1995.