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Axel van den Berg

Photo of Axel van den Berg

Stephen Leacock Building, Room 712
855 Sherbrooke Street West
Montreal, Quebec, H3A 2T7

Tel.: 514-398-6846
Fax: 514-398-7276
E-Mail: axel [dot] vandenberg [at] mcgill [dot] ca (Axel van den Berg)
Office: Leacock 816

Research Areas

Economic sociology; welfare states and labour markets; the relation between sociology and economics; contemporary sociological theory



(PhD, McGill University, 1985).

Professor, at McGill since 1984. He has taught at the University of Alberta (1982-1984) and been visiting research fellow at the Swedish Institute for Social Research (1988-1990 and 1991-1992) and the Amsterdam School of Social Science Research (1997-1998), a visiting professor at the Vienna Institute for Advanced Studies (2001), and a European Union Marie Curie Incoming International Fellow at SISWO/ Social Policy Research and the Amsterdam Institute for Advanced Labour Studies (AIAS) (2004-2005).

Professor van den Berg 's current SSHRC-funded research, “Incentives, Labour Market Policies and Flexibility" looks at the effects on labour market transition patterns of the major Canadian labour policy reforms of the 1980s and 1990s. He is now seeking funding for a collaborative project with Prof. Paul Bernard of the Université de Montréal for a project on “Shifting interactions between employment and social policies: new welfare regimes in OECD countries and Canadian provinces?” Both projects are closely linked to a large European research network (see http://www.siswo.uva.nl/tlm/), in which researchers from over a dozen countries have been conducting cross-national comparative work on labour market transition patterns and social and labour market policy reforms. Prof. Van den Berg co-authored (with Prof. Erik de Gier of the University of Nijmegen) the network’s major policy report, Managing Social Risks through Transitional Labour Markets: towards an enriched European Employment Strategy (Het Spinhuis/Transaction 2006). He is currently involved in funding applications for several multinational research projects by members of the network to study the interrelations between changing welfare state regimes and labour markets in Europe, Canada and Australia.

Professor van den Berg’s recent work in sociological theory has primarily dealt with the debates about the uses of rational choice theory in the social sciences. Together with Professor Hudson Meadwell (Political Science) he has edited Rationality and the Social Sciences (Transaction, 2004) and with Professor André Blais (Political Science, Université de Montréal) a special issue of Sociologie et sociétés entitled La théorie du choix rationnel contre les sciences sociales? Bilan des débats contemporains (Vol.XXXIV, No. 1, Spring 2002). Together with Professors David Pariser (Concordia University) and Anna Kindler (University of British Columbia) Professor van den Berg has done SSHRC-funded research on the differences in the criteria of aesthetic judgment applied to amateur and professional art in different cultures. His earlier book on the Marxist theory of the state, The Imanent Utopia: From Marxism on the State to the State of Marxism, was re-published in 2003, with a new Introduction (Transaction). He continues to write on a range of topics in sociological theory, from the legacy of Pierre Bourdieu to debates about calls for a ‘public sociology’ and the relation between ‘agency’ and structure.

Professor van den Berg is interested in supervising graduate work on topics in political economy, the welfare state, labour markets and industrial sociology, the sociology of the economy, and the problematic status of sociology as "science." He has worked with graduate students on wide range of topics, including the new Russian business class and liberal democracy; the movement to canadianize sociology; physical attractiveness and earnings; forestry worker transition in Sweden and BC; welfare states and European integration; sex segregation in the labour market; adult education and training and labour market prospects; press coverage of controversies about the environment; and punishment as a social institution. Professor van den Berg teaches courses on contemporary sociological theory, sociology of the welfare state, sociology of work and industry and economic sociology.


Selected Publications


The Immanent Utopia: From Marxism on the State to the State of Marxism. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1988. Republished, with a new introduction, by Transaction Publishers, Brunswick, NJ, 2003.

Labour market Regimes and Patterns of Flexibility: A Sweden-Canada Comparison, Lund: Arkiv. 1997. Axel van den Berg, Bengt Furker and Leif Johansson.

La théorie du choix rationnel contre les sciences sociales? Bilan des débats contemporains , special theme issue of Sociologie et sociétés, Vol.XXXIV, No. 1, Spring 2002. Axel van den Berg and André Blais, eds.

The Social Sciences and Rationality: Promise, Limits and Problems/>, New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction, 2004. Axel van den Berg and Hudson Meadwell, eds.

Managing Social Risks through Transitional Labour Markets: towards an enriched European Employment Strategy, Erik de Gier and Axel van den Berg, Amsterdam: Het Spinhuis/Transaction Publishers, 2006.

Articles and Chapters

“Critical Theory: Is There Still Hope?,” American Journal of Sociology, Vol. 86, No. 3, Nov. 1980, pp. 449-78.

“Habermas and Modernity: A Critique of the Theory of Communicative Action”, Current Perspectives in Sociological Theory, Vol. 10, 1990, pp. 161-193.

“Creeping Embourgeoisement? Some Comments on the Marxist Discovery of the New Middle Class,” Research in Social Stratification and Mobility, Volume 12, 1993, pp. 295-328.

“Sweden: Still the Model?,” in Avi Gottlieb, Ephraim Yuchtman-Yaar, Burkhard Strümpel, eds., Socioeconomic Change and Individual Adaptation: Comparing East and West, Greenwich, CT: JAI Press, 1994, pp. 159-192. Axel van den Berg and Ryszard Szulkin.

“External Flexibility in Sweden and Canada: A Three Industry Comparison,” Work, Employment and Society, Vol.9, No.4, 1995, pp. 689-718. Michael R. Smith, Anthony C. Masi, Axel van den Berg and Joseph Smucker.

“Whatever Happened to the Legitimation Crisis? Some Reflections on the Evolution of the Québec Welfare State,” Québec Studies, Vol. 19, 1995, (Fall-Winter), pp. 41-58.

“Liberalism Without Reason?,” Contemporary Sociology, Vol.25, No.1, January 1996, pp.19-25.

“Insecurity, Labour Relations, and Flexibility in Two Process Industries: A Canada/Sweden Comparison,” Canadian Journal of Sociology, Vol. 22 (1997): 31-64. Michael R. Smith, Anthony C. Masi, Axel van den Berg and Joseph Smucker.

“The Mind of the Beholder: Some Provisional Doubts About the U-Curved Aesthetic Development Thesis,” Studies in Art Education, Vol. 38, Issue 3, Spring 1997: 158-178. David Pariser and Axel van den Berg.

“Beholder Beware: A Reply to Jessica Davis,” Studies in Art Education, Vol. 38, Issue 3, Spring 1997: 186-191. David Pariser and Axel van den Berg.

“To Cut or Not to Cut: A Cross-National Comparison of Attitudes toward Wage Flexibility,” Work and Occupations, Vol. 25, No.1, February 1998: 49-73. Axel van den Berg, Anthony C. Masi, Michael R. Smith and Joseph Smucker.
Reprinted in Cornfield, Daniel B., Campbell, Karen E. and McCannon, Holly J., eds. 2001. Working in Restructured Workplaces: Challenges and New Directions for the Sociology of Work, Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications, Ch. 18 (pp. 349-366).

“Labour Deployment within Plants in Canada and Sweden: A Three-Industry Comparison,” Relations Industrielles/Industrial Relations

, vol. 53, no.3, Summer 1998: 430-457. Joseph Smucker, Axel van den Berg, Anthony C. Masi and Michael R. Smith.

“Out of Habit: Notes Toward a General Theory of Deliberate Action,” Amsterdams Sociologisch Tijdschrift, Vol. 25, No.3, October 1998: 429-463.

“Is Sociological Theory Too Grand for Social Mechanisms?” in Peter Hedström and Richard Swedberg, eds., Social Mechanisms: An Analytical Approach to Social Theory, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998, pp. 204-237.

“Manufacturing Change: A Two-Country, Three-Industry Comparison,” Acta Sociologica, Vol. 43, No. 2 (June), 2000: 139-156. Axel van den Berg, Anthony C. Masi, Joseph Smucker and Michael Smith.

“Teaching Art Versus Teaching Taste: What Art Teachers Can Learn from Looking at a Cross-Cultural Evaluation of Children’s Art,” Poetics, 29, 2001, pp. 331-350. David Pariser and Axel van den Berg

“Visions of Eden: The Differential Effects of Skill on Adults’ Judgements of Children’s Drawings: Two Cross-Cultural Studies,” Anna Kindler, David Pariser, Axel van den Berg and Wan-Chen Liu, Canadian Review of Art Education, 28 (2), 2001, pp. 35-63.

“Can Security Enhance Efficiency? Testing a Little-Noted Assumption of the Rehn-Meidner Model,”Chapter 6 (pp. 101-116) in Henry Milner and Eskil Wadensjö, eds., Gösta Rehn, the Swedish Model and Labour Market Policies, International and National Perspectives, Aldershot: Ashgate, 2001.

“Aesthetic Modernism, the First Among Equals? A Look At Aesthetic Value Systems in Cross-cultural, Age and Visual Arts Educated and Non-visual Arts Educated Judging Cohorts,”Anna Kindler, David Pariser, Axel van den Berg, Wan-Chen Liu and Belidson Dias, The International Journal of Cultural Policy, Vol.8, No.2, 2002, pp. 135-152.

“A Cultural Perspective on Graphic Development: Aesthetic Assessment of Local and Foreign Drawings in Taiwan,” (in Chinese) Anna Kindler, Wan-Chen Liu, David Pariser and Axel van den Berg, Research in Arts Education, Vol. 5, May 2003, pp. 23-47.

“Blindfolded Visions: The Creeping Hegemony of Avant Garde Aesthetics,” Anna M. Kindler, David A. Pariser, Axel van den Berg, Wan Chen Liu and Belidson Dias, International Journal of the Humanities, Vol. 1, 2003, pp. 1541-1557.

“Politics versus Markets: A Note on the Uses of Double Standards,” Chapter 9 (pp. 139-152) in Raymond Breton and Jeffrey Reitz, eds., Globalization and Society: Processes of Differentiation Examined, Westport, CT: Praeger, 2003.

“Public Choice, the Public Sector and the Market: The Sound of One Hand Clapping?” Chapter 2 (pp. 13-25) in Pauline Dibben, Geoffrey Wood and Ian Roper, eds., Contesting Public Sector Reforms: Critical Perspectives; International Debates, Houndmills, Basingstoke: Palgrave, 2004.

“Responses to Down-Sizing under Different Adjustment Regimes: A Two-Country Comparison,” Chapter 9 (pp. 155-186) in Job Insecurity, Union Involvement and Union Activism, Aldershot: Ashgate, 2005, Hans de Witte, ed., Axel van den Berg and Anthony C. Masi.

“Conflict Theories in Political Sociology,” Chapter 3 (pp. 72-95) in Thomas Janoski, Robert Alford, Alexander M. Hicks and Mildred A. Schwartz, eds. The Handbook of Political Sociology: States, Civil Societies and Globalization, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005, Axel van den Berg and Thomas Janoski.

“Drawing and Aesthetic Judgments Across Cultures: Diverse Pathways to Graphic Development,” Ch. 13 (pp. 293-317) in Constance Milbrath and Hanns M. Trautner, eds., 2007, Children’s Understanding and Production of Pictures, Drawing, and Art: Theoretical and Empirical Approaches, Göttingen: Hogrefe & Huber Publishers, David Pariser, Anna Kindler and Axel van den Berg.

“Labour Market Policies in a Non-European Liberal Welfare Regime: the case of Canada”, forthcoming in Ruud Muffels, ed., Flexibility and Work Security in Europe: Labour Markets in Transition, Edward Elgar, Axel van den Berg, Claus-Henning von Restorff, Daniel Parent and Anthony C. Masi.

“Research in Transitional Labour Markets: Implications for the European Employment Strategy,” forthcoming in Ralph Rogowski, ed., The European Social Model and Transitional Labour Markets: Law and Policy, Ashgate, Axel van den Berg and Erik de Gier.


Courses Taught

Undergraduate Courses:
SOCI-304 Sociology of the Welfare State
SOCI 312 Industrial Sociology
SOCI 470 Topics in Economis Sociology

Graduate Seminar:
SOCI 652 Current Sociological Theory


Research Grants

“Incentives, Labour Market Policies and Flexibility: A Study of the Determinants of Labour Market Transitions,” SSHRCC, 2003-2006, with Daniel Parent (Economics, McGill University) and Anthony C. Masi (Sociology, McGill University).



1999-present, Member, Executive Council, Society for the Advancement of Socio-Economics

1999-present Associate Editor, Canadian Journal of Sociology

1999-present Member, comité de rédaction, Sociologie et sociétés

2000-present Editorial Board Member, The Netherlands’ Journal of Social Sciences

2001-present Editorial Board Member, Journal of Socio-Economics

2002-present Editorial Board Member, Socio-Economic Review