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.
Despite its highly visible physical reunification, Berlin has social fault lines that seriously challenge the city?s integration. This article reviews the multiple cleavages that crisscross Berlin?s social fabric and assesses whether and how these divides are being bridged. East-West, neighborhood, religious, national/ethnic, and socioeconomic fractures remain wide. Even the social construction of the city?s history and the embedding of collective memory in the built environment are occasions for division. Hopeful signs of increasing social integration, however, are found in the new memorials, creative multicultural forms, vibrant and diverse immigrant neighborhoods, ethnic intermarriage, and other indicators. Under conditions of severe fiscal crisis, policies such as housing renovation, the Social City Program, local nonprofit labor market initiatives, and expanded language instruction are among the deliberate attempts to promote social integration in the "New" Berlin.
Wolfgang Kil and Hilary Silver
Ethnic enclaves in West Berlin and now, East Berlin are located in denigrated areas of high unemployment, poverty, and devalued or high-rise public housing, but they are also places where immigrants are slowly integrating into the larger city and German society. Despite different national origins and different conditions and periods in which they arrived, socially excluded Vietnamese, Russian, and other migrants to East Berlin are following local incorporation paths surprisingly similar to those of the Turks in West Berlin. In both Kreuzberg and Marzahn, the rise of multicultural forms and events, economic niches, and ethnic associations make local life attractive and ultimately, contribute to immigrant incorporation and neighborhood revitalization.
Hilary Silver and et al.
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Marcel Fratzscher, The Germany Illusion: Between Economic Euphoria and Despair (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2018). Reviewed by Stephen J. Silvia, International Relations, American University