CIAO DATE: 10/07
In December 1995, the Center for German and European Studies at the University of California at Berkeley hosted the conference, "The Postwar Transformation of Germany: Prosperity, Democracy, and Nationhood." During the proceedings and in the edited volume that resulted, conference contributors explored the reasons for Germany's success in making the transition to a liberal democratic polity supported by a rationalized national identity and a modern, dynamic capitalist economy. In charting postwar Germany's success, the contributors weighed the relative contribution institutional, cultural, and international variables made to the country's transformation.
Marcel Reich-Ranicki, the German literary critic, recalls in his recent memoirs that at age ten, when he set out from his small town in Poland, his teacher said with tears in her eyes, "Mein Sohn, Du fährst in das Land der Kultur." Elias Canetti recalled in the first volume of his memoir-The Tongue Set Free-how when he was age eight, his mother, recently widowed, found fulfillment at the Burgtheater and left Manchester to take up residence in Vienna. Was it just the magic of the German language that transported these Jews and made literary overachievers of their children? A vision of metropolitan culture and assimilation? Culture was "the way 'in,'" as Louis Spitzer puts it in his book on marginality, Lives in Between.
The future political culture of eastern Germany and, with it, the relationship between unified Germany's once divided populations will depend heavily upon how all Germans respond to a distinctive fact about the east. The region experienced not one but, counting the German Democratic Republic (GDR), to separate eras of dictator-ship. This fact can be, and has been, understood in two different ways, with significantly different implications in each case. The first is the perspective of the victim. . . . [T]he other way of viewing the GDR's citizenry has been to treat it as at least partly responsible for its fate.
After ten years of research on Germany's postunification political culture, there is no scholarly consensus on the critical questions of east-west differences, the impact of unification on western German culture, and developmental trends in the two regions. These questions have become more acute in the light of decreased eastern economic growth, high unemployment, and growing evidence of a radical right-wing subculture in the new states.
In the past century, Germany, for better and for worse, offered itself as a natural laboratory for political science. Indeed, Germany's excesses of political violence and its dramatic regime changes largely motivated the development of postwar American political science, much of it the work of German émigrés and German-Jewish refugees, of course. The continuing vicissitudes of the German experience have, however, posed a particular challenge to the concept of political culture as elaborated in the 1950s and 1960s,1 at least in part to explain lingering authoritarianism in formally democratic West Germany. Generally associated with political continuity or only incremental change,2 the concept of political culture has been ill-equipped to deal with historical ruptures such as Germany's "break with civilization" of 1933-1945 and the East German popular revolution of 1989. As well, even less dramatic but still important and relatively rapid cultural changes such as the rise of a liberal democratic Verfassungspatriotismus sometime around the late 1970s in West Germany 3 and the emergence of a postmodern, consumer capitalist culture in eastern Germany since 1994 4 do not conform to mainstream political culture theory's expectations of gradual, only generational change. To be sure, continuity, if not inertia, characterizes much of politics, even in Germany. Still, to be of theoretical value, the concept of political culture must be able not only to admit but to account for change.
In 1995, as a Fulbright professor, I taught a seminar on "culture and international order" at Humboldt University in Berlin. There I reached the conclusion that, in order to analyze Kultur in Germany, one also had to take into consideration the work of Schweinerei. In the five years between the opening of the wall and my seminar, there had been an explosion of interest in the concept "Kultur"-defined quite concretely in public discourse as an element that united (or divided) East and West Berliners, or as a substance that had been damaged during the cold war and now needed restoration. Irrespective of the speaker, Kultur was always something good, a positive ordering. One never needed less Kultur. Either one argued, as a proponent of Multi-kulti, for more of them, more cultures, or, as a monoculturalist, for merely better (more refined, more pure) Kultur and the value of a distinct German culture.
Many observers of the German scene have argued that the long-term non-German resident populations have become de facto permanent members of German society. Beginning in the 1980s, the term Heimkehrillusion, the "illusion of returning home," gained prominence in accounts of the guest workers' trajectories, as many social scientists and policy makers came to dismiss the continued assertions of some migrant populations of their intention to eventually return "home." The increasingly accepted view was that "even though many [migrants] have the goal to return sometime, this goal becomes increasingly unlikely the longer they stay in Germany. For many families who have established themselves here, there are no possibilities left in the country of origin" (Institut für Zukunftsforschung, 15). The evidence that "most of the 'guest-workers' would not return to their home countries" continues to be pointedly cited in more recent efforts to push the German state into reforming citizenship laws and taking responsibility for the multicultural reality of German society (Hagedorn 2000, 4).
Contemporary interstate relations in Europe are proclaimed by Europeans to be little short of ideal. Every nation and every state is told to behave toward others as do the states of the European Union. Inter- European relations, we are told, illustrate the norms to which everyone should aspire. Moreover, the same civilized rules of political behavior apply within each country. What are these norms?