Introduction: Fifty Years of the FRG

  • Peter H. Merkl


Fifty years of historical and political development, in the life of a people or an individual, is quite a long time, long enough for the most profound transformations to take place. Both major changes and continuities are what we need to look for in such a long period, which is roughly equivalent to a person’s adult life. A nation’s identity can change dramatically from negative to positive in 50 years, for example from egotistical self-assertion to international reconciliation and cooperation. Its leadership teams and their plans will certainly be profoundly different after such a long time, as may well be the case with Germany before long as the last of the Kohl generation are replaced by 68ers in prominent positions. Germany’s carefully constructed institutional fabric, including particular concerns and policies, have undergone tremendous transformations at home and abroad. Perhaps Federal President Roman Herzog was right when, in his famous 1997 speech in Berlin, he called on his fellow citizens to overcome their ‘lack of vision’ and ‘reluctance to address the problems facing Germany’, their ‘feeling of paralysis’ in confronting the pressing need for educational, health-care, tax and pension reforms, not to mention economic renewal in an age of globalisation and a reduction of Germany’s scandalously high unemployment rate. The country needs a jolt to overcome what one politician has dubbed today’s ‘gridlock of reforms’ (Reformstau). The Federal Republic has of course tackled the tasks of renewal and reinvention before, but in the end it will be its capacity for adaptation and new beginnings — not necessarily Herzog’s prescriptions for a ‘new social contract’, ‘self-reliance’ and solidarity in attacking its common problems — that once more will demonstrate the vitality of German society and politics in the face of great challenges.1


Federal Republic European Central Bank Grand Coalition European Monetary Union State Secretary 
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Notes and References

  1. 3.
    The reference is to Daniel J. Goldhagen, Hitler’s Willing Executioners: Ordinary Germans and the Holocaust and to the public debate on this book in Germany. See also Karl D. Bredthauer and Arthur Heinrich (eds), Aus der Geschichte Lernen/How to Learn from History, Verleihung des Blätter-Demokratiepreises 1997, with speeches by Jürgen Habermas, Jan Philipp Reemtsma and Daniel Jonah Goldhagen. Bonn: Blätter Verlag, 1997.Google Scholar
  2. 4.
    See also Konrad Jarausch, ‘Die postnationale Nation: Zum Identitätswandel der Deutschen 1945–1995’, Historicum Spring 1995, pp. 30 ff. and the references to the literature there.Google Scholar
  3. 8.
    For a list, see Donald P. Kommers, ‘The Basic Law and Reunification’, in Peter H. Merkl (ed.), The Federal Republic at Forty-five (London: Macmillan, 1995), pp. 187–205. See also A. B. Gunlicks, ‘The Old and the New Federalism in Germany’, ibid., pp. 219–42.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. 9.
    See also Peter H. Merkl, ‘The Urban Challenge under the Empire’, in Jack Dukes and Joachim Remak (eds), Another Germany: A Reconsideration of the Imperial Era (Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1988), pp. 61–72, and the sources cited there.Google Scholar
  5. 10.
    See Eve Rosenhaft, Beating the Fascists: The German Communists and Political Violence 1929–1933 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1983);CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. 10.
    Peter H. Merkl, The Making of a Stormtrooper (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1980), pp. 86–100, 160–70.Google Scholar
  7. 11.
    See, for example, Lothar Albertin, ‘Local Territorial Reform in the Context of West German Social Development’ in Peter H. Merkl (ed.), New Local Centers in Centralized States (Lanham, MD: University Press of America, 1985), pp. 123–39; Patricia Gibson, ‘Local Territorial Reform in Bavaria’, ibid., pp. 3–28.Google Scholar
  8. 12.
    See also M. Donald Hancock, West Germany: The Politics of Democratic Corporatism (Chatham, NJ: Chatham House, 1989);Google Scholar
  9. 12.
    Hancock and Haruo Shimada, ‘Wage Determination in Japan and West Germany’, in Haruhiro Fukui, Peter H. Merkl, Hubertus Müller-Groeling and Akio Watanabe (eds), The Politics of Economic Change in Postwar Japan and West Germany (London and New York: Macmillan and St Martin’s Press, 1993), pp. 207–32. Also ibid., pp. 319–22 and passim.Google Scholar
  10. 13.
    See also my remarks in Peter H. Merkl, German Unification in the European Context (University Park, Penn.: Penn State Press, 1993), pp. 327–52.Google Scholar

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© Peter H. Merkl 1999

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  • Peter H. Merkl

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