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Russell J. Dalton and Willy Jou

Few aspects of politics have been as variable as partisan politics in the two decades since German unification. In the East, citizens had to learn about democratic electoral politics and the party system from an almost completely fresh start. In the West, voters experienced a changing partisan landscape and the shifting policy positions of the established parties as they confronted the challenges of unification. This article raises the question of whether there is one party system or two in the Federal Republic. We first describe the voting results since 1990, and examine the evolving links between social milieu and the parties. Then we consider whether citizens are developing affective party ties that reflect the institutionalization of a party system and voter choice. Although there are broad similarities between electoral politics in West and East, the differences have not substantially narrowed in the past two decades.

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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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Jennifer A. Yoder

In the decade since German unification, there has been a tendency by scholars and politicians alike to frame discussions of this event in terms of west-east or old states-new states, treating the five new states of Germany as one homogeneous entity. Moreover, the underlying assumption of many such studies is that the goal of political development is convergence, whereby the east catches up to or emulates the west in terms of economic prosperity, values, and levels of political participation. Unification, in other words, should lead to uniformity in institutional as well as political-cultural terms. Indeed, in its stated goal of striving for “Einheitlichkeit der Lebensverhältnisse” (uniformity of living conditions), the Grundgesetz provides some basis for expecting relative uniformity. Although a decade is not a long time, it is enough time to move beyond assumptions of uniformity and consider that unification has resulted in greater diversity in German politics and society.

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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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What Stories Are Being Told?

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.

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Ullrich Kockel

With this issue, AJEC returns to its original format as a journal with, for the time being, two issues per year. When the first issue was published in 1990 by the European Centre for Traditional and Regional Cultures (ECTARC), Europe was a different place. As the director of ECTARC, Franz-Josef Stummann (1990: 7), explained in his introduction to that issue, the ‘magical date of 1992’, heralding the Single European Market as a significant step towards European integration, had ‘a substantial bearing’ on the foundation of the journal. Moreover, the Berlin Wall, symbol of the political divide that cut right through Cold War Europe, had crumbled the previous year. German unification was imminent, but very little else seemed predictable. Eighteen years and two Gulf Wars later, not only has the European Union acquired fifteen new member states, ten of them former Communist countries, but we have also been told to perceive a new divide – between a ‘new’ Europe and an ‘old’ one.

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Richard Deeg

Since German unification there have been dramatic and highly visible changes in the German financial system and relations between banks and firms in Germany. The traditional Hausbank system has weakened, as securities markets have become more important for both borrowers and savers. The demands of financial investors on how German firms manage themselves have—for better or worse—become increasingly influential in this time. In this article, I advance the thesis that bank-industry relations in Germany became increasingly differentiated, with one set of firms moving into an institutional environment readily characterized as market-based finance. Meanwhile, most German firms remain in a bank-based environment that, while not quite the same as the Hausbank model that prevailed at the time of unification, is still easily recognized as such. These changes in the financial system have had numerous consequences for the German economy, including increased pressure on firms to make greater profits and increased pressure on labor to limit wage gains and make concessions in the interest of corporate competitiveness.

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Tereza Novotna

Explanations for the roots and cures of the continuous divergence between East and West German political cultures tend to fall into two camps: socialization and situation. The former emphasizes the impact of socialization before and during the GDR era and ongoing (post-communist) legacies derived from Eastern Germans' previous experience, whereas the latter focuses primarily on economic difficulties after the unification that caused dissatisfaction among the population in the Eastern parts of Germany. The article argues that in order to explain the persistence and reinvigoration of an autonomous political culture during the last two decades in the new Länder, we need to synthesize the two approaches and to add a third aspect: the unification hypothesis. Although the communist period brought about a specific political culture in the GDR, the German unification process—based rather on transplantation than on adaptation—has caused it neither to diminish nor to wither away. On the contrary, the separate (post)-communist political culture was reaffirmed and reinstalled under novel circumstances.

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Joanne Sayner, Isabelle Hertner and Sarah Colvin

Anniversaries provide moments for taking stock. In the wake of the so-called Supergedenkjahr of 2014—the year of numerous significant commemorative events for Germany, including the fall of the Berlin Wall and of German unification—it seems particularly timely to engage with debates about what it means to be German. Such retrospection is now an established and widespread part of the German habitus, and the number of organized moments of contemplation—moments that say as much about the present as the past—has multiplied since unification. Within Germany and beyond, the question of what it means to be German is frequently being asked by those who want to define local, national and international agendas for the future and to redefine agendas of the past. Representing an individual, a community or a nation involves the construction of narratives and identities, a process now often informed by sophisticated understandings of image and audience, of beliefs and branding. In fact, the numerous facets that make up an image of “Germany” have, for the most part, been perceived affirmatively; in recent international polls Germany has been the country seen as most likely to have an overwhelmingly positive influence on the world.

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Jost Dülffer

The years of Adenauer's chancellorship 1949-1963 were an extremely violent and anxiety laden period in recent history. Adenauer himself tried to combine as basic aims Western integration and German unification, but the latter more and more became a matter of lip-service for the time being for domestic reasons. The article focused on his Potsdam complex which meant the fear that the Western allies and the Soviet Union might find a solution of the German question without unification or in a kind of neutralism. In the course of the 1950ies and especially during the Berlin Wall crisis 1958-1962, Adenauer's course became more and more isolated because he tried to prevent all talks on relaxation of tensions, but also on the German question: both might lead to a status minor and the FRG especially. The author demonstrates how this process of isolation in the domestic as well as in the international field diminished the authority of the first chancellor of the FRG. He nevertheless continued to adhere to the necessary dichotomy of the Cold War camps with being able to formulate a diverging line. It is suggested that these questions of alternatives to the Cold War, given the mutual anxiety of the two camps should be used as a starting point for further research.