Universität KonstanzExzellenzcluster: Kulturelle Grundlagen von Integration

Empirical Social Research

Three projects

Prof. John W. Meyer


Project 1

The analysis of about 500 secondary school social science textbooks from about 70 countries since 1950. The aim is to see how much notions of a more globalized and universalized or post-modern world appear in such books, and to analyze the factors associated with such notions. Dimensions of interest include emphases on human rights, the environment, international society, legitimate social diversity, and curricular style that put the interests and capacities of the student at the center of instruction, all as opposed to traditional homogeneous nationalism. Findings show a great deal of curricular change (even in history texts), especially in the last two decades. Change occurs in all sorts of countries, not simply the West, but is more characteristic of countries most closely linked into wider world society.

Project 2

The analyses of catalogues of about 15 universities around the world through the twentieth century, to see how models of knowledge and of the student change. Grossly, one can observe the general relative decline in the humanities and the rise in the social sciences. Within fields, knowledge becomes much more fluid – almost everything is seen as knowable, not simply some core or stock forms. And the student is no longer subordinated to much classificatory knowledge (as in, e.g., zoology) – rather, the student has access to theories of the putative causal processes involved. Thus one can study social groups or cultural forms or technical issues formerly seen as beneath the purview of the university. And there is much more legitimation of the interests and choices of the student, and of the modern individual in general.

Project 3

The global rise in formal organization. A remarkable trend toward elaborated and formalized organization characterizes social structures around the world in every social sector in recent decades – health, education, business, government, science, recreation, religion. Prevailing theories explain this poorly, since the trend characterizes even the least developed countries, and even the social sectors lacking the complex interdependencies formerly thought to create advanced organizational forms. For instance, modern universities are everywhere – not simply in places under the scrutiny of the Bologna Process – pressed to take on the organizational forms of managerialism, and tend to acquire greatly expanded administrative structures. The project aim is to develop clearer arguments about the processes involved, which clearly derive from global and globalizing forces.