Skip to main content Accessibility help
  • Print publication year: 1996
  • Online publication date: June 2012

2 - Three Labor Policy Domains


This chapter introduces the three nations whose labor policy domains we investigate using the organizational state model – the United States, Germany, and Japan. We begin with an overview of recent changes in their economies and labor forces and then turn to short historical explications of their labor politics in the early 20th century. We conclude with a discussion of analytic strategies for drawing inferences about sociopolitical behavior through cross-national comparisons.


Following their recoveries from the devastation of World War II, both Germany and Japan rapidly joined the U.S. in dominating the world economy during the quarter-century from the early 1960s to the late 1980s. These three nations were clearly the world's upper-class societies: Despite having less than 10 percent of the global population, their combined gross domestic products comprised 51.6% of the $1,756 trillion world GDP in 1965, and by 1988 they accounted for 52.3% of the $17,018 trillion world GDP (calculated from the World Bank, 1990: 183). During this era, Japan's economy grew the fastest of the three, so that its share of world GDP leaped from 5.2% to 16.7%. Germany's share remained roughly constant (6.5% and 7.1%), but the U.S. portion tumbled from 39.9% to 28.5%. By 1988 their citizens' per capita annual incomes were roughly identical (Germany = $18,480; U.S. = $19,840; Japan = $21,020), a plateau matched only by the four Scandinavian countries and exceeded only by tiny financial powerhouse Switzerland (p. 179).