It is always tempting for contemporaries to consider their times as exceptional. Still, today’s Europe does look very different from the one only one generation ago. This is not because social change was stalled or absent in the 1960s and 1970s. On the contrary! It was, quite rightfully, regarded as the time of turbulence which saw, just to mention a few social incidences, the expansion of education, the turn downwards of marriage and fertility rates, the shift towards the service sector, the finalization of the European welfare states, the return of women into the labour market, increasing affluence and the thawing of social and political cleavages. These changes took different forms in different countries, to be sure, and Western and Eastern Europe did display comparable but not converging patterns (Therborn 2000). Nevertheless, all of Europe was affected by similar and rapid changes.
KeywordsEuropean Society European Integration Social Trend Political Integration Constitutional Treaty
The compilation of this handbook has been helped greatly by the Wissenschaftszentrum Berlin für Sozialforschung (WZB, Social Science Research Center Berlin). Jürgen Kocka, its past president, and Dagmar Simon, its former head of Research Planning, provided firm support and keenly kept on insisting on the historical dimension of the endeavour. The WZB hosted Stefan to spend his winter semester 2005/06 to work on the handbook. For allowing him to accept the invitation by granting a leave, Stefan also wishes to thank his home institution, the University of Education at Schwäbisch Gmünd. Jens Alber, head of the research unit “Inequality and Social Integration” and its members provided not only a hospitable environment but also valuable advice. The WZB furthermore hosted the author’s conference on 24, 25 March 2006. Marion Obermaier, Anna Verena Münch, Martina Sander-Blanck, Magdalena Luniak and Christoph Albrecht made this event possible; Sibylle Hardmeier, Sigrid Quack and Michael Zürn commented on several parts of the chapters. We hope this handbook does not fall too much short of the great expectations this great institution entrusted in us.
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