Career Strategies in a Barren Academic Market Place: The Case of Humanities and Social Sciences in Sweden 1915–1955

Tobias Dalberg, Uppsala University

The encounter between individual career strategies and a supply of vacant positions at universities is a problem that relate to a general division between more individual and more structural-oriented perspectives in social science research. Should career trajectories be explained as an outcome of an individual’s own characteristics and aspirations, or as resulting from demographic factors and organizational structures? In line with an intermediate position, this paper suggests that individuals shape their careers and strategies in response to structural opportunities or limitations. The empirical section begins with an analysis of the number of candidates competing for each vacant position. Competition was most intense in the disciplines that were subjects of instruction at upper secondary school. The smaller the market for PhDs in a particular discipline, the more common it was to find only one qualified candidate for a vacant professorship. The analysis then turns to the career strategies of the aspiring scholars. Five distinct types of career strategies were identified by way of sequence analysis of career states, i.e. occupational positions. Three of these were characterized by a long-standing acquaintance with their respective institutions. These were upper secondary school teachers; researchers at cultural institutions such as archives, libraries and museums; and university teachers. The remaining two career types contained, within each group, more varied career patterns. One of the types, which I have termed cross-border researchers, contained researchers who crossed national borders as well as researchers who crossed borders to other fields and became active in newspapers and literary magazines or in state administration. The second type consisted of researchers who switched between universities and cultural institutions. Here, it became clear that not only upper secondary schools, but also cultural institutions could serve as a kind of waiting room for those who strove to become professors at universities.

No extended abstract or paper available

 Presented in Session 45. Education, Discrimination and Social Stratification