The Chameleon State: Global Culture and Policy Shifts in Britain and Germany, 1914-1933

The Chameleon State: Global Culture and Policy Shifts in Britain and Germany, 1914-1933

The Chameleon State: Global Culture and Policy Shifts in Britain and Germany, 1914-1933

The Chameleon State: Global Culture and Policy Shifts in Britain and Germany, 1914-1933

Synopsis

The role of the state in capitalist societies has been a bone of considerable contention among scholars. The two founding fathers of sociology held radically opposing views on this subject which were reflected in the numerous debates over subsequent decades to this day. Yet, no answer has been found to the vexing question: on whose side is the state in capitalist societies? The author examines current theories and, comparing Britain and Germany, shows that they are unable to explain the contradictory social and industrial policies in these two countries during the twentieth century. Based on in-depth archival and secondary sources the author offers an alternative theoretical framework, one that focuses on the interactions among historical contingencies, the global cultural context, and political processes.

Tien-Lung Liu is Assistant Professor in Sociology at Emory University. He specializes in historical comparative sociology and is currently focussing on the comparative study of political economies of China and other Asian countries.

Excerpt

The state in capitalist societies has been a bone of considerable contention among scholars. the two founding fathers of sociology, Karl Marx and Max Weber, held radically different views of the executive, legislative, judicial, and military entities that form the core of political power. Marx was adamant that regardless of its relationship to ruling classes, the state in capitalist societies serves the interests of those who own the means of production. in contrast, Weber argued that the bureaucratic state enjoys a high degree of independence and uses its own logic to manage public affairs. Since their time, the clashes between Marxian and Weberian perspectives have shaped the controversies and spawned various competing schools. However, despite a growing literature over several decades and numerous lively debates, the perennial question is yet to be answered: On whose side is the state?

This book attempts to build an alternative theoretical framework in order to explain the complex and contradictory behavior of the state as an agent of social and industrial policies in the twentieth century. I develop a contingency theory of state intervention and use archival sources to examine how and why, from the First World War to the Depression of the 1930s, the British and German centralized, cabinet-ranking Labor Ministries simultaneously or alternately sided with business, supported organized labor, pursued geopolitical goals, or made compromises under such particular conditions as the First World War, crises of institutional reconstruction, crises of industrial relations, challenges in international economic relations, and threats to capitalist property relations. This comparative study of the British and German Labor Ministries shows that neither national political culture nor powerful-group theories capture the veering and tacking of industrial . . .

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