The book is part of the 5-volume series “German Social Policy”, a unique multidisciplinary approach to the history of German social policy written by the doyens of their respective disciplines. The volumes expound the contribution of the German tradition to the rise of social policy in the Western world in the 19th and 20th centuries. Germany pioneered modern social policy in the 19th century when Bismarck introduced social insurance. After the Second World War, Germany’s Social Market Economy became a model of social integration. The volumes cover the history of ideas (volume 1), the legal and political history before and after 1945 (volumes 2 and 3), the German Democratic Republic (1949-1990) and the impact of German reunification (1990) (volume 4). Volume 5 embeds the German case in a major comparative study of European welfare states, complemented by a study of the USA and the Soviet Union. The volumes also yield insights into general theoretical issues of social policy beyond the empirical case of Germany. Each volume has an introduction by the editor who summarizes the contribution made by the volumes and looks into the future of German social policy.
This book provides a comprehensive analysis of social policy in the German Democratic Republic (GDR, 1949-1990), followed by an analysis of the “Social Union”, the transformation of social policy in the process of German unification in 1990. Schmidt’s analysis of the GDR also depicts commonalities and differences between the welfare state in East and West Germany as well as in other East European and Western countries. He concludes that the GDR was unable to cope with the trade-off between ambitious social policy goals and a deteriorating economic performance. Ritter embeds his analysis of the Social Union in a general study of German unification, its international circumstances and its domestic repercussions (1989-1994). He argues that social policy played a pivotal role in German unification, and that there was no alternative to extending the West German welfare state to the East. Ritter, a distinguished historian, bases his contribution on an award-winning study for which he drew on archival sources and interviews with key actors. Schmidt is a distinguished political scientist.