Convergence Or Divergence?: Comparing Recent Social Trends in Industrial Societies

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McGill-Queen's Press - MQUP, Nov 16, 1994 - Social Science - 329 pages
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Trends in fertility decline, intergenerational relations, religion and secularization, ecological movements, employment and labour-market changes, personal authority, and social conflict are examined. This analysis shows an unmistakable convergence of social trends except in the domain of religion. But when the interconnection of these trends within each national society is examined, unexpected divergences are revealed. There are parallel trends in demography, organization of production, national institutions, social practices, and life style, and divergent trends in social inequality, social movements, and local institutions. Barriers between social classes have eroded and something that might be called multidimensional stratification has emerged, the diminution of violence in social conflicts implies an increasing volume of negotiation, and all forms of personal authority have been weakened. The transformation of the family structure is no doubt one of the most important changes in western civilization. The cross-national analyses of recent social trends help us to assess both convergence and divergence and to identify emergent singularities. Does convergence of trends mean these societies face a common destiny? With respect to trends so strong that they act as exogenous variables, the answer is yes. However, with respect to the responses those trends elicit in the context of a particular society, the answer is no. Massive convergence of trends does not mean that societies face a uniform future.

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Introduction Convergence or Divergence?
Is There a Single Pattern of Social Evolution?
Differing Levels of Low Fertility
Parents and Adult Children
Trends in Religion and Secularization
The Reduction of Personal Authority
Conflicts and Conflict Regulation
Institutionalization Tendencies
Comparative Structural Analysis of Social Change
Author Index
The Authors

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About the author (1994)

Soc, U Laval

Soc, U of Virginia

Mendras is Director of Research at CNRS and Professor of Sociology at the Institute of Politcial Studies, Paris.

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