German Politics, 1945-1995

German Politics, 1945-1995

German Politics, 1945-1995

German Politics, 1945-1995

Synopsis

With the opening of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and the unification of 1990 a new German state emerged - the fifth constitutional upheaval and the fourth change of frontiers in this century. This book aims to introduce the reader to the legacy that present-day Germany has inherited from both East and West and from the period before 1945. It looks at the way political life has evolved since the Second World War, tracing the way the political parties, the institutions of government, and social forces have shaped the Germany that we know - and frequently misunderstand - today.

Excerpt

In the fifty years since the end of the Second World War Germany has been occupied, divided among the victor powers, rehabilitated in the community of nations, and unified. The new Germany that emerged from the collapse of Communism has the world's third-largest economy and the largest in Europe. It is, as was the Federal Republic of Germany (FRG) before it, the principal motor of economic and political integration in Europe. This Germany is regarded by the rest of the world with respect and even admiration, but also with suspicion: how will it use its undoubted power? how stable are its institutions? and how cohesive is its society?

My book is aimed at all those who want to understand how Germans got from there to here. In it I try to explain, as simply as possible, how German politics works. The book cannot, in the space of some 180 pages, be either a detailed history of post-war Germany or a comprehensive text on German political institutions. As the Suggestions for Further Reading show, both needs are amply catered for. What I offer instead is a stock-taking of the state of German political life fifty years after unconditional surrender and five years after unification. I do so by paying particular attention to those components that distinguish German politics from those of other European states.

The first of these is constitutional politics. The FRG of 1949 was a new creation, based on a new set of rules: in the course of time this Basic Law, with its emphasis on civil rights and decentralized government, has helped to form a national political identity. The adaptability of the structures adopted in 1949, and widely assumed to be provisional, has been one of the major concerns of the pre- and post-unification public debate. The second special component is foreign policy. Both German states, East and West, owed their very formation to foreign-policy considerations. Both their day-to-day politics and the major decisions that have transformed them have involved dense interactions between German politicians and the victor . . .

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