Research Project at the University of Gothenburg 1988-1990 sponsored by Riksbankens Jubileumsfond, RJ, Stockholm
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 of the project’s historical and sociological point of departure was developed, questioning perspectives of path dependency and intrinsic driving forces in historical processes. An approach was developed focusing on the role of language and conceptualisation of social phenomena. The theoretical assumption of this approach was that nothing is given or predetermined before it has been conceptualised.
In empirical terms, the project focused on comparing the democratization processes in Germany and Scandinavia. As the project developed, modernisation became increasingly seen as a process full of contradictions, tensions and backlashes, far more than a smooth and predetermined evolution. The modernisation processes in Western industrialising societies encompass several 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, one of the sources of tension. Interpretive frameworks and conceptual topography often lag behind technological change, 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 several 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.