Helmut Schmidt Prize Lecture 2013

Americanization? Europeanization? Globalization? The German Economy since 1945

October 24, 2013, 6:00 - 8:00pm
Award Presentation and Lecture at the GHI - Directions
Speaker: Mary Nolan (New York University)

Mary Nolan is a professor of history at New York University. Trained as an historian of modern Germany, she has explored a broad range of topics in her research. Most recently, her work has focused on European and American economic, cultural, and political relations and interactions during the long twentieth century. Prof. Nolan's book, The Transatlantic Century: Europe and America, 1890-2010, was published in 2012.

The Helmut Schmidt Prize is generously sponsored by the ZEIT-Stiftung Ebelin und Gerd Bucerius.

Please RSVP (acceptances only) by Tel. 202.387.3355, Fax 202.387.6437, or E-mail.

  • Picture Gallery
    Right to left: Chair of Helmut Schmidt Prize committee Jonathan Wiesen (University of Southern Illinois, Carbondale), 2013 Helmut Schmidt Prize recipient Mary Nolan (New York University), and GHI Director Hartmut Berghoff
    Right to left: Chair of Helmut Schmidt Prize committee Jonathan Wiesen (University of Southern Illinois, Carbondale), 2013 Helmut Schmidt Prize recipient Mary Nolan (New York University), and GHI Director Hartmut Berghoff
    GHI Director Hartmut Berghoff
    GHI Director Hartmut Berghoff
    Nina Smidt (American Friends of Bucerius)
    Nina Smidt (American Friends of Bucerius)
    Jonathan Wiesen (University of Southern Illinois, Carbondale)
    Jonathan Wiesen (University of Southern Illinois, Carbondale)
    2013 Helmut Schmidt Prize recipient Mary Nolan (New York University)
    2013 Helmut Schmidt Prize recipient Mary Nolan (New York University)
  • Event Report

    On October 24, 2013, the 2013 Helmut Schmidt Prize in German-American Economic History was awarded to Mary Nolan, professor of history at New York University. The Schmidt prize pays tribute to the former German chancellor for his part in transforming the framework of transatlantic economic cooperation. The prize, which is awarded every other year, has been generously sponsored by the ZEIT-Stiftung Ebelin and Gerd Bucerius since 2007.

    Professor Nolan was honored for her remarkable oeuvre, especially for her groundbreaking books Visions of Modernity: American Business and the Modernization of Germany (1994) and The Transatlantic Century: Europe and America, 1890-2010 (2012). Nolan's Visions of Modernity opened new perspectives on the history of the Weimar Republic by examining the German reception of "Fordism" and American ideas on the rationalization of work, production, and consumption. Bridging the fields of business history, labor history, and women's history, Visions of Modernity is a landmark study that threw new light on the complexity of Weimar culture and society. In her most recent book, The Transatlantic Century, Nolan offers a fascinating overview of the interactions between the Old and New Worlds. Her analysis centers on the differing - and at times opposing - understandings of modernity that have shaped European-American relations over the past century.

    After introductory remarks by Hartmut Berghoff (GHI) and Nina Smidt (American Friends of Bucerius), S. Jonathan Wiesen (Southern Illinois University, Carbondale) delivered the laudation, an excerpt of which follows here:

    "Mary Nolan's scholarly achievements are manifold, but before I highlight some of her specific interventions, allow me to suggest that her signal contribution to our field has been to conceive of economic history in its most capacious and creative terms. Professor Nolan is not a scholar who produces narrow studies of companies or market trends. Instead, she has been drawn to the multiple actors that converge in the economy-business owners, managers, politicians, labor leaders, and, of course, workers. To this last category she has lent especially fruitful attention. She has sought to understand workers-and indeed work-in their multifaceted dimensions by exploring the meaning and experience of labor. In her studies of the long twentieth century, her reach has been sweeping. She has looked at working class politics, working class culture, and the relationships between men and women in the workplace. She has taken us from the factory floor and the sweatshop to the union hall and the party headquarters. We have learned about salaried labor, wage labor, skilled labor, semi-skilled labor, manual labor, agrarian labor, and migrant labor. We have been introduced to Catholic bricklayers and Protestant pipefitters. We have seen European and American workers on the assembly line and on the picket line-and in the home, at the ballot box, and in the grocery store. We have descended into the coalmine and stood next to the blast furnace and the kitchen stove. We have observed industrialists, shop stewards, and Hausfrauen in imperial settings, in democracies, and under dictatorships. This colorful panoply should not obscure a key point: Mary Nolan's work has always been grounded in an exacting study of macroeconomic trends and microeconomic statistics, and she has also infused her writings with an appreciation of long-term social developments."

    After accepting the prize, Mary Nolan delivered a lecture titled "Americanization? Europeanization? Globalization? The German Economy since 1945." In her lecture, Nolan sought to place current efforts to increase economic cooperation between Europe and the United States in historical context. In the first part of her lecture, she examined the usefulness of the concept of Americanization for understanding the development of the German economy since 1945. Noting that scholars have used very different definitions of Americanization, Nolan argued that the scholarship on the Americanization of the German economy resembles the story of blind people touching different parts of an elephant and coming up with entirely different descriptions. That is to say, scholars' positions on the Americanization question seem to depend on which part of the economy they examine. Nolan herself argued that the German economy since 1945 is best understood as a hybrid economy because the Germans borrowed American models only selectively, this borrowing occurred in a German institutional context that differed greatly from that of the United States, and the German economy's relationship to the American model shifted substantially over the decades. Whereas the American model is characterized by competition, risk, and inequality, the German economic model has a much stronger commitment to both security and equality. If anything, the German economy today is less Americanized than it was in the 1950s and 1960s.

    In the second part of her lecture, Nolan introduced the concept of Europeanization as a more useful analytical tool in understanding the development of the postwar German economy. Although historians have generally neglected the influence of Europeans on one another, this intra-European influence, she explained, was at least as important as American influence on Europe. In particular, the balance between public and private consumption differed greatly between Europe and the United States. Whereas the Marshall Plan, for instance, promoted single-family homes, the Europeans preferred functional modern apartment buildings. In more recent decades, the European Union and the Euro have meant that Germany's economic relationship with the United States is mediated by European institutions. Germany has been a central player in the Europeanization of trade; its exports to the United States are dwarfed by its exports to other members of the European Union.

    In the last part of her lecture, Nolan briefly examined the concept of globalization, arguing that today Europe and the United States are part of a multi-centered world economy, in which they are not the only players. In conclusion, she discussed current prospects for a Transatlantic Free Trade Agreement (TAFTA) or Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), laying out two scenarios. While optimists hope that such an agreement might introduce more European elements into the US economy, others warn of the danger that a TAFTA or TTIP agreement could weaken the distinctively European features of EU economies, including the German one. In that case, Americanization really could come true. Nolan left little doubt about which of these outcomes she regarded as preferable.

    The lecture was followed by a lively question and answer session and a reception in honor of the prizewinner.

    RFW

  • Invitation
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    Helmut Schmidt Prize Lecture 2013