The Concept of "Normality" in German Foreign Policy since Unification

in German Politics and Society

In this paper I examine the use of the concept of "normality" in debates about German foreign policy since unification. In the early 1990s, left-wing intellectuals such as Jürgen Habermas tended to criticize the idea of "normality" in favor of a form of German exceptionalism based on responsibility for the Nazi past. A foreign policy based on the idea of "normality" was associated above all with the greater use of military force, which the right advocated and the left opposed. Thus, "normality" became a synonym for Bündnisfähigkeit. Yet, from the mid 1990s onwards, some Social Democrats such as Egon Bahr began to use the concept of "normality" to refer instead to a foreign policy based on sovereignty and the pursuit of national interests. Although a consensus has now emerged in Germany around this realist definition of foreign-policy "normality," it is inadequate to capture the complex shift in the foreign policy of the Federal Republic since unification.