Conversations with History: Institute of International Studies, UC Berkeley

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Comparing Rich Democracies: Conversation with Harold L. Wilensky, Professor Emeritus of Political Science; October 29, 2002, by Harry Kreisler

This interview is part of the Institute's "Conversations with History" series, and uses Internet technology to share with the public Berkeley's distinction as a global forum for ideas.

Welcome to a Conversation with History. I'm Harry Kreisler of the Institute of International Studies. Our guest today is Harold Wilensky, who is Professor Emeritus of Political Science at book coverthe University of California at Berkeley. He is a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the author or coauthor of thirteen books. Just published by the University of California Press is Rich Democracies: Political Economy, Public Policy, and Performance.

In this landmark work, the culmination of thirty years of systematic, comprehensive comparison of nineteen rich democracies, Wilensky answers two basic questions: What is distinctly modern about modern societies? In what ways are they becoming alike, and how do variations in types of political economy shape system performance? The book is being hailed as "a monumental work," "an instant classic," "a truly amazing accomplishment."

  1. Background ... influence of parents ... impact of the Depression ... importance of education ... impact of World War II ... interest in understanding society ... education
  2. Working with Labor Unions ... the labor movement ... first research jobs
  3. Being a Social Scientist ... graduate school at Chicago ... skills ... temperament ... defining the problem so that it can be disconfirmed
  4. Research Methods ... importance of interdisciplinary study ... follow the problem ... importance of comparative studies ... qualitative versus quantitative research
  5. Comparing Rich Democracies: Theory ... defining modernity and social change ... convergence theory ... mass society theory
  6. Comparing Rich Democracies: Examples ... political economy structures ... tax revolts ... mayhem index
  7. Conclusion ... advice for students

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