National Diversity: Germany, Spain, Sweden and the UK
This chapter concentrates on the unique patterns of development of European countries in the post-Second World War period. The emphasis is on the distinctive socio-economic formations in Germany, Spain, Sweden and the UK and differences between the countries in the role and power of governments, employers and trade unions. However, the debate on convergence or divergence of European societies also stresses that, despite the diversity of experience discussed below, all countries (as advanced capitalist societies) have experienced similar trends in their postwar economic histories. In a stylized way we can divide the postwar period into three phases: first, the period of 1945 to 1950/2 as one of reconstruction after the War; secondly, the early 1950s to the late 1960s/early 1970s as a period of rapid economic growth and prolonged full employment (variously labelled as ‘the 25 golden years’ of capitalism or the ‘Fordist’ era); and thirdly, the period from the mid-1970s has been characterized as one of recurrent economic crisis, slower growth, welfare state and public expenditure retrenchment and the adoption of neo-liberal economics. These developments are common to all countries and widespread structural changes have resulted in the erosion or demise of the political arrangements established in the earlier post-war period.
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