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Protest Voting in Eastern Germany

Continuity and Change Across Three Decades

David F. Patton

In 1989-1990, peaceful protests shook the German Democratic Republic (GDR), ushered in unification, and provided a powerful narrative of people power that would shape protest movements for decades to come. This article surveys eastern German protest across three decades, exploring the interplay of protest voting, demonstrations, and protest parties since the Wende. It finds that protest voting in the east has had a significant political impact, benefiting and shaping parties on both the left and the right of the party spectrum. To understand this potential, it examines how economic and political factors, although changing, have continued to provide favorable conditions for political protest in the east. At particular junctures, waves of protest occurred in each of the three decades after unification, shaping the party landscape in Germany.

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Helga A. Welsh

German unification prompted expectations of harmonization in political culture and promises of equivalent living conditions across the federation. Almost three decades later, the revival of narratives based on East-West differences has raised concerns whether inner unity, a term coined to describe political and material convergence across the former East-West divide, has stagnated or fallen behind. Frustration with the process of unification based on East-West contrasts, however, tends to downplay achievements and, importantly, regional diversity across the federation. I advocate a shift in perspective to the subnational (Land and communal) levels and illustrate regional variation with examples that address equivalent living conditions and demographic change. North-South differences coexist with East-West and within-region differences, suggesting not two but four or five Germanies. The eastern regions still occupy a special place in the unified Germany; they contribute to agenda setting and policy making with important implications across the federation.

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Carol Hager

Environmental movements became a major vehicle for promoting citizen participation in both East and West Germany during the 1980s. Their critiques of industrial society, however, reflected the different constellations of power in their respective countries. Movements in both East and West formed green parties, but their disparate understandings of power, expertise, and democracy complicated the parties’ efforts to coalesce during the unification process and to play a major role in German politics after unification. I propose that the persistence of this East-West divide helps explain the continuing discrepancy in the appeal of Alliance 90/The Greens in the old and new German federal states. Nevertheless, I also suggest that the Greens have accomplished their goal of opening technical issue areas—particularly energy—to political debate. This is currently working to enhance their image throughout Germany as champions of technological innovation and democratic openness in the face of climate inaction and right-wing populism.

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Katharina Bluhm

Research on the enterprise transformation in East Germany after unification has focused mostly on the role of the Treuhandanstalt as the central actor in this process who widely determined its outcomes. David Stark and László Bruszt (1998) even suggest that this top-down model of transformation was rooted in the special institutional past of East German state socialism. They argue that the “Weberian home-land” was characterized by weak social networks among firms in comparison, for example, with firms in Hungary or Czechoslovakia, while the planning system and the industrial organization were extraordinarily centralized and hierarchical. Hence, social networks could easily be destroyed after German unification by market shock and by breaking up large enterprises into manageable pieces by the Treuhandanstalt. Moreover, the former, intact centralized planning system could easily be replaced by another centralized and cohesive administrative apparatus, now backed by the strong West German state.

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Kimmo Elo

In mainstream analyses of the German political system, the emergence of the Left Party (Die Linke) is presented as an unexpected consequence of German unification and as an indication of the existence of an East-West divide. This view is for the most part based on the idea that German unification is a process of political integration of the East into the West. Such an understanding, however, downplays the long-term developments in the German party system. This article examines the emergence of the Left Party in light of both the long-term developmental tendencies of the German party system and findings from comparative studies among other West European countries. The article concludes that the main reason for the current political stalemate is the incapability of the postwar Volksparteien to respond to changes in political space and action. Based on evidence from comparative studies, the article also suggests a pragmatic rethinking especially in the SPD is necessary in dealings with the Left Party.

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This theme issue of German Politics and Society, “Eastern Germany

Ten Years After Unification,” presents five key papers first presented

at a conference organized by Thomas Ertman at the Center for European

Studies at Harvard University in June 1999. We are pleased to

present this reworked collection of articles that, under Ertman’s able

direction, speaks to the central concerns of the former East Germany’s

integration into the new Federal Republic. Ertman’s introduction

contextualizes these articles in terms of their thematic content and

methodological approaches.

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Robert Gerald Livingston

Robert L. Hutchings, American Diplomacy and the End of the Cold War: An Insider’s Account of U.S. Policy in Europe, 1989-1992 (Washington, D.C. and Baltimore: The Woodrow Wilson Center Press and The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1997)

Charles S. Maier, Dissolution: The Crisis of Communism and The End of East Germany (Princeton, New Jersey, Princeton University Press, 1997)

Peter E. Quint, The Imperfect Union: Constitutional Structures of German Unification (Princeton, New Jersey, Princeton University Press, 1997)

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Jennifer Ruth Hosek

The years following the fall of the Berlin Wall saw a wave of interest in a far away nation now largely independent of Soviet influence: Cuba. The three documentary fims that this article treats are a part of this "Cuba wave." Yet, as I argue here, more than simply tales of the Caribbean, Buena Vista Social Club by Wim Wenders and Havanna mi amor and Heirate mich! by Uli Gaulke and Jeannette Eggert are ciphers for competing and unpopular discourses surrounding German (re)unification. As sanctioned narratives of the Germanies increasingly ossify, these films articulate obscured and agonistic visions of national identity in the Berlin Republic.

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Geneviève Giroux

This article analyzes references to history and, a fortiori, to memory in official French discourse during and after German unification. It shows that the understanding of the past complies, in every sense of the word, with France's European policy. Entirely oriented towards the promotion and justification of the European future, official memory distorts some historical facts in order to exorcise the present of a cumbersome past. Because it serves as a means of deferring to the national interest rather than as an end in itself, this representation of the past shows the limits of the official memory.

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Eva Kolinsky

In the political and economic history of Germany, Leipzig already

held a special place long before unification. Since the middle ages, it

has hosted one of the most important trade fairs in Europe. When

industrialization turned Germany in the late nineteenth century into

a leading European power, outpacing France and closely rivaling

Britain, Leipzig added to its established and internationally acclaimed

fur and book trade a mighty industrial sector in lignite-based chemicals

and vehicle production. At the turn of the century, Leipzig was

one of the largest and most affluent cities of Germany and indeed

Europe. A rich stock of Gründerzeit houses remains to testify to this

illustrious past.