Industrial Decline and the Rise of the Service Sector?

16.-17.09.2016, Konferenz, DHI Washington

How did Western Europe and North America cope with the multifaceted structural transformations since the 1970s?

Conference at Institute of Contemporary History, Munich - Berlin
Conveners: Sebastian Voigt (IfZ Munich) and Stefan Hördler (GHI Washington), and Howard Brick (University of Michigan, Ann Arbor)

Organized by the Institute of Contemporary History, Munich, and the German Historical Institute, Washington D.C.

For some years now, the 1970s have come into the focus of historical research. Although there is no consensus about how best to characterize the various, often contradictory developments of this decade, it seems clear that the postwar order in all Western industrialized nations underwent a fundamental change. The period of economic growth and prosperity after 1945, the so-called trente glorieuses (Jean Fourastié), definitely came to an end. Problems that were believed to have been solved permanently — especially mass and youth unemployment — reemerged and turned into structural problems in the early 1980s. Triggered by the oil (price) crises in 1973 and 1979, economic growth rates collapsed and industries like the coal, iron, and steel industries slipped into a final decay from which they never recovered. On the one hand, the decline of the old industrial sector and the resulting loss of millions of jobs in Western industrialized nations challenged the narrative of continuously growing prosperity. On the other hand, the emergence of a service-sector economy and the rise of a new class of "knowledge workers" (Peter F. Drucker) set in. The "post-industrial society" (Daniel Bell) with ambivalent implications, many scholars argued, had irreversibly arrived. In this upcoming conference, the organizers wish to examine the structural social and industrial developments that have taken place since the 1970s in a comparative and transnational perspective and to explore both contemporary perceptions as well as today's theoretical conceptions.

Conference report