Visions of Modernity: American Business and the Modernization of Germany

Visions of Modernity: American Business and the Modernization of Germany

Visions of Modernity: American Business and the Modernization of Germany

Visions of Modernity: American Business and the Modernization of Germany

Synopsis

In much the same way that Japan has become the focus of contemporary American discussion about industrial restructuring, Germans in the economic reform in terms of Americanism and Fordism, seeing in the United States an intriguing vision for a revitalized economy and a new social order. During the 1920s, Germans were fascinated by American economic success and its quintessential symbols, Henry Ford and his automobile factories. Mary Nolan's book explores the contradictory ways in which trade unionists and industrialists, engineers and politicians, educators and social workers explained American economic success, envisioned a more efficient or "rationalized" economic system for Germany, and anguished over the social and cultural costs of adopting the American version of modernity. These debates about Americanism and Fordism deeply shaped German perceptions of what was economically and socially possible and desirable in terms of technology and work, family and gender relations, consumption and culture. Nolan examines efforts to transform production and consumption, factories and homes, and argues that economic Americanism was implemented ambivalently and incompletely, producing, in the end, neither prosperity nor political stability. Vision of Modernity will appeal not only to scholars of German History and those interested in European social and working-class history, but also to industrial sociologists and business scholars.

Excerpt

It was one thing for German visitors to Detroit to be infatuated with Fordism; it was quite another for industrialists, trade unionists, engineers, and economists to restructure the troubled German economy along American lines. From 1924 on, few disputed the need for dramatic economic restructuring--or rationalization, to use the term preferred by Germans-- but controversy did surround what form rationalization should take. Which American economic principles and practices could be adopted and which were valid only in the circumstances of the New World? Did Fordism have to be implemented in toto or could one pick and choose among its elements and still attain the desired levels of profitability and prosperity? Would economic modernization along American lines automatically bring about an Americanization of society and culture? German proponents of Fordism and Americanism quickly found themselves embroiled in a far-ranging and often acrimonious debate about America's past and present and Germany's future.

The secrets of American economic success such as Fordism, were interpreted in contradictory ways. German commentators disagreed about the relative importance of natural endowments, technological achievements, and innovative products. Some identified mass markets as a cause of prosperity; others, as a consequence. Many Social Democrats insisted that farsighted, resourceful, and daring entrepreneurs created the American economic miracle, whereas industrialists singled out America's ostensibly enthusiastic, hardworking, and apolitical workers as the critical factor.

German proposals for imitating the American economic model were . . .

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.