Rethinking German Political Economy: Lessons for Comparative Theorizing after the Social Democratic Century

Wednesday, August 30, 2017 8:30am to 6:00pm
Goethe-Institut, 530 Bush Street, San Francisco

Audience: Researchers and Doctoral Students


The social democratic century is over. Throughout most of the past century, European welfare states consistently extended their commitment to protecting citizens against the externalities of capitalist development by intervening in the economic sphere. Yet, more recently, market shifts and policy adjustments have left rich democracies less effective in ensuring citizens’ welfare.

This workshop explores the comparative political economy behind these changes in advanced countries by probing the changing politics of Germany’s social market economy. The event is organized by SMLR's Center for Global Work and Employment

Call for Papers and Agenda

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For decades, Germany’s evolving form of welfare capitalism illustrated the possibilities of social democracy. However, over the last decades, the pillars of stability seem to have progressively crumbled. 

SMLR's Center for Global Work and Employment wants to build on a long tradition to leverage assessments of the changing “German Model” for innovation in theorizing broader changes. In the past, German developments proved to be an important prism for conceptualizing evolving capitalism and democracy. At the current juncture, the country has the potential to again inform consequential revisions of existing theories. Appropriately contextualized analyses of causal processes and outcomes of change in Germany can yield a better understanding of ongoing transformations across capitalist democracies.


The workshop focuses on three themes in particular, seeking to make progress toward formulating

  1. A dynamic theory of capitalism that grounds the conceptualization of evolving political conflict in changing patterns of economic growth and financial accumulation
  2. A conception of democratic governance that integrates transnational institutions as part of multi-level repertoires for representing popular will and regulating economic forces
  3. An analytic approach to tracking evolving answers to a shifting social question – primarily for leverage in Europe but with applicability beyond.