German unification acted as a catalyst for the substantial transformation of the German welfare and employment regime which has taken place over the last two decades. The changes can be described as a process of a partial liberalization of the labor market within the boundaries of a coordinated industrial relations system and a conservative welfare state. This article depicts the transformation as a trend towards a more liberal welfare and employment regime by focusing on the shifting boundaries between status and income maintenance and poor relief systems.
‘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.
Jeffrey Kopstein and Daniel Ziblatt
A core lesson of Germany's federal election of September 2005 is the enduring legacy of the communist past in East Germany, a legacy that substantially shapes politics in unified Germany. Fifteen years after unification, the crucial difference in German politics still lies in the East. The 2005 election demonstrated the enduring east-west divide in German party politics. The result is that Germany today has two coherent party systems, one in the East and one in the West. Combined, however, they produce incoherent outcomes. Any party that hopes to win at the federal level must perform well in the very different circumstances in the East.
Has economic unification succeeded? Assessments differ, depending on the criteria selected, and the benchmark used. In many areas, from productivity to infrastructure and housing, dramatic economic improvements are readily apparent. Yet daunting challenges remain: the speed of productivity convergence has slowed, unemployment remains high and net emigration continues. Looking forward, demographic and fiscal trends pose serious challenges. This paper begins with a brief look back at the experience since 1989 before turning to a discussion of current and future challenges.
Stephen J. Silvia
This article investigates the progress that the eastern German economy has made since unification in two areas: unemployment and output. It finds that unemployment has remained persistently higher in eastern than in western Germany and output levels have remained extremely uniform across the eastern states. Keynesian and neoclassical economists have proposed differing explanations for the endurance of high unemployment in the East. The latter have the more convincing argument, which blames high initial wages in eastern Germany for producing a labor "trap," but this account is not without flaws. The best explanation for output uniformity is the content and volume of public investment in eastern Germany since unification. Public policy in the years immediately following unification is in large part responsible for both outcomes. Economic modeling indicates that wage subsidies targeted at low-income employment would be the most effective means to break the current high-unemployment equilibrium in eastern Germany, but the political barriers to adopting such a policy are just as formidable as they were a decade ago, when such a policy was briefly considered.
Myra Marx Ferree
This article traces four contested identity claims that carry gender meanings into politics and express the gendered tensions awakened along specific dimensions of institutional change across the past twenty years. The cultural definition of the German nation in the face of immigration, the integration of the German state in a transnational project of making a single Europe, the economic restructuring of unification and its effects on the resources and opportunities available on each side of the former wall, and political changes in the representation of women in state offices, by parties and in national policy-making all reflect continuing struggles over the institutionalized boundaries of inclusion and exclusion as a nation, an imagined community. All of these processes engage passionate feelings about gender relations and have implications for the ordinary lives of women and men as citizens and family members in the new Berlin Republic.
On 3 October 1990, the National People's Army (NVA) of the German Democratic Republic, in which about 2.5 million East German citizens served their country, was dissolved. Its personnel either was removed from military service, placed into early retirement, or integrated into the Bundeswehr after a two-year selection and examination process. Since then, the NVA has turned into an object of history with no immediate significance for contemporary German society—despite efforts of former NVA officers to change the official interpretation of 1989-1990. This article examines the processes of remembering and forgetting with regard to East Germany's military heritage since 1990, contrasting the Bundeswehr's politics of memory and “army of unity” ethos not only with the former NVA soldiers' vision of the past, but also with the East German population's general attitude towards their former armed forces.
This article addresses how recent German films depict unification, placing special emphasis on the question of cinematic time. In contrast with Germany's most internationally successful films about the East German past—including Das Versprechen (1994), which emerged in the un-reflected moments not long after the fall of the Wall, Das Leben der Anderen (2006), which portrayed daily life under the shadow of the Stasi, and even Good Bye, Lenin! (2003), which depicted the period immediately following the fall of the Wall—and with the intention of identifying an alternative mode of depicting the GDR past, this paper explores a post Wende cinema of disillusionment. It examines: the revaluation of the time of unification itself in Oskar Roehler's Die Unberührbare (1999); the time of demission subsequent to unification as portrayed in Robert Thalheim's Netto (2004); and, the forsaken time of the postunification present as depicted in Christian Petzold's Yella (2007). The article provides an overview of this cinematic tendency, and comments specifically on how these three films represent the difference between the passage of historical time and its subjective experience.
Jeffrey J. Anderson
Twenty years after all the excitement, Germans seem to be genuinely of two conflicting minds about unification. One is characterized by awe over the accomplishments of 1989-1990, the other by disappointment and even bitterness over unfulfilled ambitions and promises. These contrasting interpretations and assessments of unification are fluid, but surface repeatedly in the quality print media. This chapter examines the recurring themes, interpretations, and narratives about unification twenty years on, and seeks to trace the interconnections between the social, economic, and political dimensions of unification. As such, these contemporary printed narratives can tell us a great deal about how a people views its recent past, what its priorities are, and how it is facing the future. The analysis reveals that public discourse on unification twenty years after the fact resembles a blind spot—look straight at it, and it disappears, replaced by blank spot—a seemingly irreducible gap between East and West. Avert one's gaze, and the spot fills in, almost seamlessly.
Germany has reduced its emissions of greenhouse gases more than almost any other industrialized democracy and is exceeding its ambitious Kyoto commitment. Hence, it is commonly portrayed as a climate-policy success story, but the situation is actually much more complex. Generalizing Germany's per-capita emissions to all countries or its emissions reductions to all industrialized democracies would still very likely produce more than a two-degree rise in global temperature. Moreover, analyzing the German country-case into eleven subcases shows that it is a mixture of relative successes and failures. This analysis leads to three main conclusions. First, high relative performance and high environmental damage can coexist. Second, we should see national cases in a differentiated way and not only in terms of their aggregate performances. Third, researchers on climate policies should more often begin with outcomes, work backward to policies, and be prepared for some surprises. Ironically, the most effective government interventions may not be explicit climate policies, such as the economic transformation of eastern Germany. Moreover, the lack of policy-making in certain areas may undercut progress made elsewhere, including unregulated increases in car travel, road freight, and electricity consumption. Research on climate and environmental policies should focus on somewhat different areas of government intervention and ask different questions.