Power in Helmut Kohl's Republic: The Two Faces of German Democracy

in German Politics and Society
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  • 1 Dartmouth College and Harvard University
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Even as the tenth anniversary of the opening of the Berlin Wall was being celebrated, a scandal was beginning that seems destined to bring the Kohl era, however it is defined, to a close. My purpose in this article is to propose a framework for thinking about the broader political meaning and possible impact of the CDU’s difficulties. In this instance as in many others, I will argue, events in the Federal Republic are best understood if approached simultaneously from two angles. On the one hand, Germany remains bound to, if not necessarily by, its multiple experiences of dictatorship. Viewed in this context, events acquire meaning and significance as part of an ongoing process of democratization, or of an effort to “master” a past to some degree enduringly unmasterable. On the other hand, a half-century after its creation, the Federal Republic is an established democracy with a remarkable record of success and a predictable roster of problems. From this perspective, developments in Germany illustrate dilemmas and dysfunctions common across the advanced industrial democracies.