The Politics of Deindustrialization and Expectations

Timur Ergen

All rich capitalist democracies have experienced processes of deindustrialization over the past forty years. Structural change towards a declining importance of manufacturing for employment and economic output is generally explained as the result of forces beyond the control of societies, such as productivity growth differentials between sectors, shifts in the structure of expenditures with increasing incomes, or technological change. Yet different countries and regions show numerous differences along their pathways to sectoral change which cannot be explained by theories on a secular shift towards a service economy. This project systematizes these differences – in scale, scope, timing, and type – and uses in-depth historical case studies of selected regions and sectors in Germany and the United States to try to understand the causes of divergent development. How did different collectives cope with, manage, foster, impede, and shape deindustrialization? How did they come up with new models of economic growth, specialization, and social compromise? As a process of large-scale societal change, deindustrialization offers insights into how economic actors develop expectations, how approaches to economic modernization come into being, and how social conflicts structure pathways of economic change. Conceptually, the project contributes to questions of the formation of expectations in the economy.

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