The modernization of the public administration has been one of the main objectives pursued by the Renzi government. What distinguishes the reform cycle launched in 2015 is the emphasis on centralization, unification, and the reduction of institutional fragmentation in the public sector after a long period in which autonomy and the organizational pluralism of administrations and government levels were enhanced. This reform strategy is consistent with the underlying trends of transformation in the political and institutional systems, in which the power of the prime minister has gradually increased. The actual impact of these reform measures, however, depends on concrete organizational instruments of subsequent implementing legislation in a context characterized by persistent spending cuts, which are necessary to maintain financial stability.
Fabrizio Di Mascio and Alessandro Natalini
Germany-watchers and many Germans have long been sour about the unified country. Often for well-founded reasons, there are few policy or cultural areas that have not been subjected to withering criticism: failed integration of immigrants, an antiquated political economy, insufficient coming-to-terms with the past, atrophied parties, or lackluster foreign policy. Nevertheless, the twentieth anniversary of the fall of the Wall and unification is an appropriate moment to pause and reflect on the accomplishments of contemporary Germany—export champion, environmental pioneer, cultural leader, and staunch multilateral European. Despite all of the problems of the last twenty years and the daunting challenges ahead, perhaps Germans can dare some cautious optimism and even a sense of pride.
Two Case Studies of (Grand) Narratives from and of the German Democratic Republic in Current Oberstufe Textbooks
Elizabeth Priester Steding
Much like history textbooks, literature textbooks produce a grand narrative, telling a nation's story via its literature. This article examines the presentation of literature of the German Democratic Republic (GDR) in upper level secondary school (Oberstufe) textbooks published in Germany in 2009 and 2010. Twenty years after German unification, literature textbooks are largely divided into two groups in accordance with their handling of literature from the failed socialist state: some focus on ideological criticism of the GDR, and some choose to avoid politics as much as possible. Both options result in a simplistic, even reductionist (grand) narrative of GDR literature. Case studies on Christa Wolf and Günter Grass reveal a consistent, positive portrayal of West German literature and a polarized representation of GDR literature.
In the years following unification, East German cityscapes have been subject to fierce contention because historic preservation and urban renewal have served as a local allegory of national redemption. Using conflicts over preservation and renewal in the city of Eisenach as a case study, I argue that historic cityscapes have served as the focus of many East Germans' efforts to grapple with the problem of Germanness because they address the past as a material cultural legacy to be retrieved and protected, rather than as a past to be worked through. In Eisenach's conflicts, heritage and Heimat serve as talismans of redemption not just because they symbolize an unspoiled German past, but also because they represent structures of difference that evoke a victimized Germanness—they are above all precious, vulnerable possessions threatened with disruption, pollution, or destruction by agents placed outside the moral boundaries of the hometown by its bourgeois custodians.
‘Tis the season of anniversaries in Germany. 2009 unfolded like a hit
parade of history. March ushered in the sixtieth anniversary of the founding
of the Federal Republic and May witnessed the sixtieth anniversary of
the end of the Berlin Blockade. After a summer lull, the seventieth
anniversary of Nazi Germany’s invasion of Poland fell on 1 September
and in October, the twentieth anniversary of the first Monday demonstration
in Leipzig took place. Finally, the month of November offered up a
major date—the twentieth anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall—and a
lesser one, suited more for the political connoisseur: the fortieth anniversary
of the Social Democratic Party’s (SPD) ratification of the Godesberger
Program. 2010, of course, culminates in October with the twentieth
anniversary of unification.
Jennifer A. Jordan
How do groups of people produce particular markers of the past in the urban landscape? The terrain of markers in a given neighborhood, city, or country can result from the top-down vision of a centralized elite-or the relatively diverse, even contradictory, layers of multiple eras and multiple interest groups and actors. In post 1989 Berlin, the memorial landscape is a heterogeneous collection of statues, plaques, and conceptual memorial projects relating to various eras in the city?s nearly eight centuries of existence. More widely known sites may be created in somewhat top-down ways, and be the responsibility of federal and state officials. But, much memorial work happens at the district level, and in the hands of an array of local activists. This local responsibility clearly indicates the active involvement of both easterners and westerners in local democratic and civic processes in general, and in activities that shape the memorial terrain in particular. Despite the inequality of unification and the extensive institutional transfer that happened in many sectors of the political and economic arenas, many eastern Berliners play active roles in the civic life in general and memorial culture in particular of their neighborhoods and districts. These local practices result from the civic participation (and arguably social integration) of a range of Berlin?s residents, in both the eastern and western halves of the city.
Charles S. Maier
This essay looks at postunification Germany through the pages of German Politics and Society. The articles published during this period reveal the evolution of intellectuals' understanding of the unified country—concerns that mirrored changes in social, political, and cultural reality. Of course, academics are beholden to their own histories and Weltanschauung, a fact that produced, at times, prescient, sometimes fragmentary, and sometimes alarmist interpretations and analyses of the country in an attempt to provide orientation. Nevertheless, this review shows how German watchers have slowly up-dated their paradigms and are now not worrying as much about a mellowed, less German country that has fascinated them over the decades.
On October 3, 1990 the territory of the German Democratic Republic was incorporated into the Federal Republic of Germany, thereby ending forty-five years of German division. At the time, assessments varied widely about whether the wholesale introduction of the West German political, legal, and socioeconomic systems into the formerly communist east would be a success, and what the implications of success or failure would be for the new united Germany. Ten years later, opinions on these fundamental questions remain divided. One group of optimistic observers maintains that the full integration of the east into an enlarged Federal Republic is well underway, though these observers acknowledge that progress has been slower and more uneven than first anticipated. A more pessimistic assessment is provided by those who claim that, if the present pattern of development continues, the east will remain in a position of permanent structural weakness vis-à-vis the west in a way analogous to that of Italy’s Mezzogiorno.
Germans are inordinately preoccupied with the question of national integration. From the Kulturkampf to the Weimar Republic to the separation of East and West, social fractiousness is deeply ingrained in German history, giving rise to a desire to unify the "incomplete nation." Yet, the impulse to integrate German society has long been ambivalent. Between Bismarck and the Nazi interregnum, top-down efforts to force Germans to integrate threatened to erase valued differences. The twentieth anniversary of German reunification is the occasion to assess the reality of and ambivalence towards social integration in contemporary Germany. A review of economic and social measures of East-West, immigrant, and Muslim integration provides many indications of progress. Nevertheless, social cleavages persist despite political integration. Indeed, in some aspects, including in the party system, fragmentation is greater now than it was two decades ago. Yet successful social integration is a two-way street, requiring newcomers and oldtimers to interact. Integration of the European Union to some extent has followed this German path, with subsidiarity ensuring a decentralized social model and limited cohesion. German ambivalence about social integration is a major reason for the continuing social fragmentation of the society.
Jutta A. Helm
For more than a century, Germany has had a well-balanced system
of cities showcasing considerable variety in their social and physical
make-up. It has lacked spectacular global cities like New York,
Tokyo, or London. Instead, western cities include industrial cities
like those in the Rhine-Ruhr Valley and cities shaped by universities
and research (Göttingen or Freiburg), media and publishing (Hamburg),
culture and high-technology sectors (Munich), banking and
finance (Frankfurt/Main), wholesale trade and insurance (Cologne
and Düsseldorf), as well as government and administration (Berlin,
Bonn, and most state capitals). Dramatic social or economic crises
that generate debates about urban decline have not happened.
Thanks in part to effective urban governments, no German city has
come close to the near-collapse of American rustbelt cities during
the early 1980s, or the fiscal meltdown of New York City in the
1970s. Crime has been consistently lower and less violent, and the
American racial divide has no equivalent in German cities. East German
cities, while more unevenly developed, have been no less stable.
East Berlin was the dominant center, linked to the industrial
cities in the North (Rostock) and South (Leipzig, Halle, Dresden) by
a rather creaky infrastructure.