Learning Democracy: Democratic and Economic Values in Unified Germany

Learning Democracy: Democratic and Economic Values in Unified Germany

Learning Democracy: Democratic and Economic Values in Unified Germany

Learning Democracy: Democratic and Economic Values in Unified Germany

Synopsis

The fall of the Berlin wall raised many questions about Germany and post-socialist countries. Given East Germany's authoritarian history, how democratic are its citizens now? What kind of democracy do they want a liberal or socialist democracy? What economic system do they prefer? How have they reacted to democratic and market systems since 1989? The book shows how individual institutional learning may be offset by the diffusion of democratic values. The author uses public opinion surveys to compare attitudes of MPs and the general public, and in-depth interviews with parliamentarians in east, and west Berlin to show the persistence of socialist views in the east as well as lower levels of political tolerance. Moreover, the book argues, these values have changed fairly littlesince unification. The author presents evidence and develops implications for other post-socialist nations, arguing that while post-socialist citizens do not yearn for the old socialist order, their socialist values frequently lower enthusiasm for new democratic and market institutions. The implications being that ideological values are primarily shaped by individual exposure to institutions and that democratic and market values are diffused only in specific conditions. More than just an analysis of German political culture, the book offers conpelling conclusions about the future of democracy in all post-socialist states. Robert Rohrschneider won the Stein Rokkan Prize for best book in comparative politics by a young scholar awarded by the International Social Science Committee of UNESCO.

Excerpt

When the Berlin Wall fell in autumn 1989, the timing could not have been better for me. As a young assistant professor searching for a new research project after completing my dissertation, the collapse of socialism raised important questions about its legacy and the viability of democracies in eastern Germany and elsewhere in East-Central Europe. While there are several legitimate approaches to examining this subject, I was especially attracted to the question of how citizens' experience in a socialist state shaped their democratic values. I therefore designed a research project in the spring of 1990 exploring how the political experience of eastern and western Germany's political elites affected their democratic views.

Anybody who has conducted field research appreciates the surprises one encounters. Nothing illustrates this enticing quality more than my first conversation with a parliamentarian from eastern Berlin whom I phoned to set up an interview. Upon mentioning my name, the MP appeared very pleased to hear from me which I, naturally, took as a sign that he appreciated the significance of social science research. It turned out, however, that he had rented a small apartment from one of my distant cousins (who shares my last name) in eastern Germany during the 1980s--a branch of my family I vaguely remembered from conversations at the dinner table. The MPs enthusiasm about my call waned quickly when I explained the reason for it. This personal anecdote symbolizes Germany's tumultuous history--and illustrates the 'quasi-laboratory' context of Germany's post-1945 developments. Families sharing the same heritage, traditions, and customs were separated and exposed to two fundamentally opposed regimes. For a social scientist interested in the formation of democratic values, Germany's division and subsequent unification offers a unique opportunity to examine how political institutions affect democratic values. This book exploits this rare occasion by comparing mass and political elites' democratic values after 1989.

The MP mentioned above did grant me an interview, both in 1992 and 1995. I am indebted to him and all the other parliamentarians who . . .

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