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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Michael Sutton, France and the Construction of Europe 1944–2007 (Oxford: Berghahn, 2007).
Tilo Schabert, How World Politics is Made: France and the Reunification of Germany, trans. John Tyler Tuttle (Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 2009).
Frédéric Bozo, Mitterrand, the End of the Cold War and German Unification, trans. Susan Emanuel (Oxford: Berghahn, 2009).
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.
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.
Losing its Identity?
The story of Die Linke (Left Party, or LP) over the past thirty years reflects the incomplete project of politically unifying the two halves of Germany. Over the course of its history, the LP has been transformed from a desperate holdover from the communist era, to a populist representative of eastern identity in the decade after unification, and finally to a modern, all-German radical left party. Since 2015, however, the LP has found itself threatened in its eastern German heartland by the radical right Alternative for Germany (AfD), which is attempting to supplant the LP as the voice of eastern German protest.
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.