Industrialisation and Social Welfare: Convergence Theory or Technological Determinism

  • Ramesh Mishra


If the citizenship view stresses the role of politics in the development of welfare in modern society, convergence theory emphasises the role of industrialisation in shaping the institutions of welfare. The emphasis on industrialism rather than Western political values and institutions (citizenship) enables this theory to take a wider view of welfare. Unlike citizenship, its perspective is neither limited to social services nor to Western industrial countries alone. In insisting that the decisive fact about modern societies is not their political affiliation as such — in Galbraith’s phrase ‘ideological billing’ — but their industrial character, the theory finds identical structural patterns and influences in both capitalist and socialist society.1


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Notes and References

  1. 1.
    In some form or another the notion of similarity or increasing similarity of the social structure of industrial societies is to be found in the work of many post-war sociologists and economists. Two best known works are Clark Kerr and others, Industrialism and Industrial Man (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1973) andGoogle Scholar
  2. J. K. Galbraith, The New Industrial State (London: Hamish Hamilton, 1967). I have chosen to focus on the Kerr version of the theory which is a comprehensive sociological presentation of the thesis.Google Scholar
  3. 2.
    Galbraith, The New Industrial State, p. 396. While this chapter is focused on industrialisation, the latter can be seen as a part of the wider process of the modernisation of societies. In fact, modernisation theory and the theory of industrialism are close cousins. The former often stresses the values and institutions of modernity in a general way, e.g. rationality, differentiation, specialisation, while the latter focuses more specifically on the industrial process. The phrase ‘modern industrial society’ manages to convey both these aspects of the social structure of advanced societies. On these points see, for example, Anthony D. Smith, The Concept of Social Change (London: Routledge, 1973) especially ch. 4;Google Scholar
  4. and Barry Turner, Industrialism (London: Longman, 1975) especially chs 2 and 3.Google Scholar
  5. 3.
    See, for example, Harold L. Wilensky and Charles N. Lebeaux, Industrial Society and Social Welfare (New York: Free Press, 1965).Google Scholar
  6. 13.
    For a general critique of the theoretical arguments underlying the convergence thesis see J. H. Goldthorpe, ‘Social Stratification in Industrial Society’, The Development of Industrial Societies, Sociological Review Monograph No. 8 (Keele: University of Keele, 1964) and Reinhard John Skinner, ‘Technological Determinism: A Critique of Convergence Theory’, Comparative Studies in Society and History, vol. 18(1), Jan 1976.Google Scholar
  7. 15.
    Richard M. Titmuss, The Gift Relationship (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1973) especially ch. 10.Google Scholar
  8. 16.
    John H. Goldthorpe, ‘The Development of Social Policy in England, 1800–1914’, Transactions of the Fifth World Congress of Sociology, vol. 4, 1962, p. 56. It is true to say, however, that once the group-action type of account is brought into the picture, the result can not be a mere supplementation but in some ways a revision of the theory. For a ‘phenomenological’ critique of explanations of social policy development see John Carrier and Ian Kendall, ‘Social Policy and Social Change’, Journal of Social Policy, vol. 2(3), July 1973.Google Scholar
  9. 17.
    Daniel Bell’s notion of a ‘post-industrial’ society carries this idea of an ‘institutional’ pattern of welfare — or more precisely the growing importance of the public and social sector within a liberal market society — a stage further. According to Bell, the industrial society has an ‘economising mode’, the post-industrial society a ‘sociologising mode’. In other words, there is a shift from the primacy of the economic and the individual to that of the social and the communal. Bell seems to take for granted the growing importance of social planning and social allocation and shows far more concern with the relevant tools and techniques. He admits, however, that ‘we have no adequate theory of public goods and social choice’. See Daniel Bell, The Coming of Post-Industrial Society: A Venture in Social Forecasting (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1978).Google Scholar
  10. 19.
    See Ivan Illich, Tools for Conviviality (London: Calder & Boyars, 1973), and Limits to Medicine (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1977);Google Scholar
  11. and also Herbert Marcuse, One-Dimensional Man (London: Routledge, 1964).Google Scholar
  12. 20.
    See, for example, J. Wilezynski, Socialist Economic Development and Reforms (London: Macmillan, 1972).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. 21.
    One sociologist, for instance, finds the theory ‘rather oldfashioned and clumsy, and… abandoned… by many of its erstwhile supporters’ (Anthony Giddens, The Class Structure of the Advanced Societies (London: Hutchinson, 1973) p. 21). See also Reinhard John Skinner, ‘Technological Determinism: A Critique of Convergence Theory’, Comparative Studies in Society and History, vol. 18(1), Jan 1976.Google Scholar
  14. 22.
    See Krishan Kumar, Prophecy and Progress (London: Allen Lane, 1978) chs 7 and 8;Google Scholar
  15. Donella H. Meadows et al., The Limits to Growth (London: Earth Island, 1972);Google Scholar
  16. Mancar Olson and Hans H. Landsberg (eds.), The No-Growth Society (London: Woburn Press, 1975).Google Scholar
  17. For an ingenious social argument against growth, see Fred Hirsch, Social Limits to Growth (London: Routledge, 1977).Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Ramesh Mishra 1981

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ramesh Mishra
    • 1
  1. 1.McMaster UniversityOntarioCanada

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