BORIS Theses

BORIS Theses
Bern Open Repository and Information System

Social Mobility in Modernizing Switzerland

Seiler, Simon Dominik (2018). Social Mobility in Modernizing Switzerland. (Thesis). Universität Bern, Bern

18seiler_sd.pdf - Thesis
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Whether modernization leads to socially more open and mobile societies is one of the long-standing questions in sociology. Despite several decades of social science research, the question remains whether modernization processes such as industrialization, urbanization or educational expansion curb the relevance of social origin for the allocation of social positions. Focusing on 19th and 20th century Switzerland, this dissertation aims to answer this question from two perspectives. The first part offers a critical review of the methods used to measure and compare social mobility. It argues that the index of Mutual Information is better suited than often-used log-multiplicative models to answer research questions relating to the degree of a society’s overall openness. An application of the M-index to survey data from Switzerland also shows that this method can be used more flexibly, e.g. by making it possible to consider the status characteristics of the mother and father simultaneously. The most substantive contribution made by this thesis, however, is in the second part, which focuses on the relevance of social origin during Switzerland’s industrialization in the 19th century. Analyzing the effects of social origin during this phase of modernization is of special value when testing the modernization thesis, as most contributions to it were formulated by contrasting pre-industrial and industrial societies. Switzerland in the 19th century represents a well-suited test case for such an attempt as it included regions of rapid industrialization, while other areas remained predominantly agrarian. Newly collected data from the mainly agrarian canton of Lucerne and the early-industrialized canton of Glarus between the 1830s and 1880s make it possible to exploit this feature, the more so as the created dataset includes some indicators for modernization at the level of the municipalities. In broad terms, empirical analyses of both the linkage between father’s and son’s social class and homogamy by social origin support the general assumption of the modernization thesis. For example, stronger social mobility has been found in the much more industrialized canton of Glarus than in the more agrarian canton of Lucerne, and the case of the city of Lucerne supports the hypothesis that urbanization decreases the effects of social origin. By going into more detail, however, the results become less conclusive and suggest that the modernization thesis fails to provide clear and testable explanations for how different phases of the various sub-processes of modernization affect the relevance of social origin and how these processes combine to time-trends that can be observed in a given historical context.

Item Type: Thesis
Dissertation Type: Single
Date of Defense: 13 December 2018
Subjects: 300 Social sciences, sociology & anthropology
900 History > 940 History of Europe
Institute / Center: 03 Faculty of Business, Economics and Social Sciences > Social Sciences > Institute of Sociology
Depositing User: Hammer Igor
Date Deposited: 20 Feb 2020 16:20
Last Modified: 13 Mar 2020 19:55

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