Finally, Inkeles (1981) notes the importance of selecting appropriate units of analysis, levels of analysis, and the time span for which convergence, divergence, or parallel change can be assessed. These comments echo earlier sentiments expressed by Weinberg (1969) and Baum (1974) about how to salvage the useful elements of standard convergence theory while avoiding the pitfalls of a simplistic functionalist-evolutionary approach. Common to these attempts to revive convergence theory is the exhortation to develop more and better empirical research on specific institutional spheres and social processes. As the following sections demonstrate, a good deal of work along these lines is already being done across a wide range of substantive questions and topical concerns that can aptly be described in the plural as convergence theories, indicating their revisionist and more pluralistic approach.
Under the density decline and convergence thesis, market forces are gradually eroding union density levels, leading to convergence with the U.S. level throughout the developed world. A key implication is that the U.S. decline has been unavoidable and that little, including labor law reforms, can be done to reverse it. Canada appears to refute this thesis, for it has stronger laws, and density is double that of the United States. Yet (1) Canada's higher public‐sector density may mask private‐sector declines, (2) any private‐sector differences simply may reflect a tendency for Canada to lag the United States, and (3) labor law may not explain U.S.–Canada differences. This article explores these possibilities, finding little support for them. It concludes that a strong case can be made for Canadian‐style labor law reforms but that such reforms may not be sufficient by themselves to revitalize the U.S. labor movement.
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Whether the convergence thesis or some variant of it still had any predictive validity for social security systems was one of the issues at the conference. Again, there were at least two separate debates at the conferences which only partly overlapped.