Germans have now been unified for thirty years, longer than they had been separated by concrete barriers, yet the Wall in their respective heads has persisted. Unequal wages, a lack of investment in structurally weak regions, and ongoing western elite domination continue to fuel Eastern perceptions of second-class citizenship, despite significant shifts in the fates of key social groups who initially saw themselves as the “winners” and losers” of unification. This article considers the dialectical identities of four groups whose collective opportunity structures have been dramatically reconfigured since 1990: eastern intellectuals and dissidents; working women and mothers; eastern youth; and middle-aged men. It argues that the two groups counted among the immediate winners of unification—dissidents and men—have traded places over the last three decades with the two strata counted among unity's core losers, women and youth. It also testifies to fundamental, albeit rarely noted changes that have taken hold with regard to the identities of western Germans across thirty years of unification.
Joyce Marie Mushaben is a Curators’ Distinguished Professor of Comparative Politics and Gender Studies (Emerita) at the University of Missouri-St. Louis, an Affiliated Faculty member in the bmw Center for German and European Studies at Georgetown University, and participates in the eu feminist think tank, Gender5Plus.