Chapter 4: Participatory capitalism: Fordist economic development and transformation in Germany 1950-2009

This chapter provides an overview of the Federal Republic’s economic and social development. It will show the basic trends of social change. The emphasis lies on the nexus between production and way of life as well as on the mediation of this connection via gainful employment and consumption.

The relevant data for this chapter have to meet three requirements:

  • At a first analytical level the transformation within the socioeconomic development model must be reproduced by means of long series of data, preferably beginning in the 1950s.
  • The employed economic and demographic macro data must be consistent with the national economic figures as a basis of socioeconomic modelling. At a second analytical level, therefore, differentiated data regarding socioeconomic development, in a consistent series from 1991 if possible up to the latest available data, must be applied.
  • If possible, the data depicted should be compatible with the internationally harmonised data series used for international comparison.

Thus, data derived from national economic figures, the Federal Statistical Office and the welfare budget have to be taken into account.


Macroeconomic development

Since the mid-1970s, a number of substantial changes have taken place within the dynamics of the Federal Republic’s economic and socioeconomic development: decreasing growth rates, increasing basic unemployment and growing income differences. Backwards data regarding the development of gross national product and productivity, incomes, income distribution and the welfare budget have to be examined in order to find out which development trends really typify the German economic and social model as a whole. Moreover, it has to be established whether and which ruptures occurred in the course of individual indicators or in the relation between certain indicators. The following connections will be investigated:

  • Feedback between mass production and mass consumption, mediated by coupling an increase in productivity with an increase in incomes, and the later erosion of this connection (e.g. because of income development lagging behind, saturation of mass markets, changes in the international division of labour);
  • Impact of real interest rates and inflation rate on the rate of growth and the gross rate of investment;
  • Export demand forming a large part of gross domestic product as well as long-term surpluses in both foreign trade and trade balance are pointing to a typical pattern of Germany’s interrelation with the world economy. This pattern is still in place despite the upheavals both in the international currency regime and at home (e.g. reunification).

Structures of industry and processes of innovation

How did the relation between different industries and sectors of the national economy change in the long run? Which industries pushed developments in the 60’s and 70’s and which ones do today? We will investigate the changes in the size of the net product and the number of working hours, while taking into account the changing shares in import and export. Furthermore, investigation is required as to how far statements about the research and development potentials and investments in individual branches can broaden this picture.


Fordist models of participation: Gainful employment and consumption

In the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s, participation was primarily based on the simultaneous expansion of gainful employment and mass consumption. During the transformation, since about 1975, a core of unemployment developed, accompanied by a rising share in female employment and a growing percentage of non-standardised employment, whereas the growth of consumption decelerated.

The redesign of the incomes transfer system in the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s contributed substantially to the emergence of Germany’s production and social model in the decades after World War II. Inter-family transfers were replaced by social redistributions, especially financial transfers between large social groups or generations in society. The main features of this development can be understood based on national economic figures and the development of the welfare budget. The development and financing of the state budget – especially the financing of the welfare state and the problems regarding the financing of social security systems, changes in the distribution of taxes amongst different incomes – can be understood by taking into account simple macro key figures concerning income transfers, tax system, subsidies, public goods and services.



This section will provide basic information on demography, describing population development in the foreseeable future, i.e. up to 2030, for all other chapters of the report. Key figures will permit us to assess the role of demographic factors in the financial destabilisation of social security systems and the state (e.g. coefficients of youth and age).



Daten und Datenquellen zu diesem Kapitel finden Sie hier.

Results (German)
Land, Rainer/(Beteiligung Ulrich Busch) (2008): Ressourceneffizienz und die Grenzen des fordistischen Typs sozioökonomischer Entwicklung. soeb-Arbeitspapier 2008-3. PDF
Land, Rainer (2008): Teilhabe und Lohnentwicklung in Deutschland und im internationalen Vergleich von der Nachkriegszeit bis heute. soeb-Arbeitspapier 2008-4. PDF
Busch, Ulrich (2008): Staatsverschuldung und Finanzierung der Sozialsysteme. soeb-Arbeitspapier 2008-2. PDF
soeb-Arbeitspapier: Bevölkerung, Erwerbstätigkeit und Arbeitszeit (wird noch erstellt). PDF
Web-Tab. 4-1: VGR Deutschland 1950-2009. PDF
Web-Tab. 4-2: Internationale Daten. PDF
Web-Tab. 4-3: Umweltgesamtrechnung. PDF
Web-Tab. 4-4: Erwerbstätigkeit, Demographie. PDF
Web-Tab. 4-5: Historische Daten zur Einkommensentwicklung. PDF

Responsibility for this chapter

Thünen-Institut für Regionalentwicklung Bollewick

Ulrich Busch, Technische Universität Berlin - Zentrum Technik und Gesellschaft