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How Institutions Evolve: The Political Economy of Skills in Germany, Britain, the United States, and Japan (Cambridge Studies in Comparative Politics) Paperback – September 6, 2004

ISBN-13: 978-0521546744 ISBN-10: 0521546745

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Product Details

  • Series: Cambridge Studies in Comparative Politics
  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press (September 6, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0521546745
  • ISBN-13: 978-0521546744
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.8 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,191,948 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

"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

Book Description

This book contributes to a literature in the political economy of the developed democracies that focuses on different institutional arrangements that define distinctive models of capitalism. It explains the historical origins of important cross-national differences in four countries (Germany, Britain, the United States and Japan), and also provides a theory of institutional change over time. The latter is considered a frontier issue in institutionalist analysis, of which there are several varieties coming out of economics, political science, and sociology.

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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By adam.smith on February 11, 2006
Format: Paperback
How Institutions Evolve is widely considered one of the most important recent contributions to the institutionalist literature. It received the Woodrow Wilson award, the most prestigious book award of the American Political Science Association.

Thelen is concerned with the interplay between continuity and change in institutions. Focusing on vocational training, she demonstrates the persistence of country specific patterns of vocational training through periods of dramatic political change. In an extended treatment of the German case she demonstrates how, in spite of this continuity, the function of vocational training in Germany has dramatically changed over the years. While created against the opposition of organized labor at the end of the 19th century, it gradually changed into an importan pillar of union power in Germany's political economy.

Her argument is directed mainly against the 'punctuated equilibrium' approach to institutional change, which views institutions as stable until a major 'critical juncture' changes them entirely.

Though 'vocational training' may not strike most readers as the most exciting of subjects, Thelen's focused theoretical lense, as well as the historical depth of her treatment make this book a good, at times fascinating, read. It is sure to become required reading for all students and scholars of political institutions.
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How Institutions Evolve: The Political Economy of Skills in Germany, Britain, the United States, and Japan (Cambridge Studies in Comparative Politics)
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