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Convergence Theory

  The convergence theory, in history and sociology, states that all industrial systems, whether capitalist or communist, would converge in their social, political and economic systems because of the determinant effects of technological development. It is a view first put forward by Clark Kerr and colleagues in the 1960s. It is located in the tradition of functionalist analysis which assumes industrialism to be a particular type of society with specific needs for which like solutions will be found resulting in the development of similar types of society; it is a modern version of Max Weber\'s theory of the importance of bureaucratic structures in the management of production and distribution of services. It also suggests that it is the forms of technology to be found in a given society which determine the nature of that society.

Convergence theorists believe that the whole world is entering an era of complete industrialization. According to this theory a ‘logic of industrialism’ ensures that all social developments result in definite changes in social institutions. All industrialized countries tend to become more alike. It is claimed that it is only through industrialization that the countries of the Third World will be able to break out of their poverty.

Proponents of this view believe that in a number of respects industrialized countries will become more alike. Modern industrial systems of production, it is argued, create a highly complicated division of labour, incorporating wide-ranging skills and competencies. Furthermore, unlike preindustrial societies, industrialized societies are more open there are greater opportunities and freedom for people to choose their work and improve their social status, rather than this being determined by traditions and the family they were born into. In industrialized countries specialist education is believed to become more important, and a higher level of literacy and skills is found among the population as a whole. A further feature convergence theorists claim that industrialized societies have in common is that the majority of the population live in cities rather than in rural areas. Proponents of the convergence theory argue that as industrialized societies become more alike, they then develop networks of interdependence. Because such societies will gradually come to share the same outlooks and interests it is argued that the possibilities of war diminish.

The capitalist revolution in the former USSR, the success of mixed economies such as Japan and Germany, and the decline of pure market economies such as the UK and US might appear to offer support for convergence theory. However, historical contingencies—particularly the devastation and reconstruction of both Japan and Germany following World War II—are important factors in explaining the development of these states. Moreover, convergence theory neglects the possibility that political and social institutions may be significantly autonomous from technological ‘imperatives’.

In recent years the theory has been modified in recognition of the fact that industrial countries become more alike in certain respects than others. Most significant are the use of similar industrial technologies and the similarities of the daily lives led by the population. Other aspects of life, such as political systems, religious beliefs and patterns of economic organization, it is conceded, are more variable.

The originator of the theory did not go so far as to endorse convergence as a means of helping humanity resolve some of its major problems, though others have reached this conclusion. Andrei Sakharov, once a prominent Soviet dissident, advocated the active furtherance of convergence. He argued that the greater the similarities between the Soviet Union and the United States then there would be a reduction in global tensions. It remains the task of history to test the accuracy of this argument. DA BO\'L

See also bureaucracy; capitalism; culture; dependency theory; diffusionism; evolutionism; globalization; socialism; society; theories of modernity; urbanism/urbanization; world system.Further reading J.K. Galbraith and , S. Menshikov, Communism and Co-existence: from the Bitter Past to a Better Prospect; , Clark Kerr, Industrialism and Industrial Man; The Future of Industrialized Societies.



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