Why is Germany a Civilian Power?

Part of the New Perspectives in German Studies book series (NPG)


The purpose of this chapter is to explain why Germany can be categorized as a Civilian Power. This will be no comprehensive history of German foreign policy. All we can offer is a set of brief sketches, emphasizing only the most important elements of continuity and change. We will start with a few observations about German foreign policy after the establishment of the empire in 1871, and link these to the tentative democratization of foreign policy in the Weimar Republic. Identifying 1945 as the key rupture in German history, we will see that before 1945 the exercise of Civilian Power was difficult, if not impossible, because no functioning democracy had come into being. Although German foreign policy before 1945 also contained non-military elements, these lacked the normative basis required of a Civilian Power and were subjected to aggression and military power at the critical junctures of German history. The failure of a civilian foreign policy is thus connected to a much larger failure in German political history, namely that of liberalism and democracy. German society never established the preconditions for the exercise of a Civilian Power foreign policy because it had not established civilianized politics at home. The emergence of Civilian Power in the Federal Republic after 1945 was made possible by the emancipation of civil society from the state, and by the practices of Western integration and Ostpolitik.


Foreign Policy Federal Republic Role Conflict Normative Commitment Military Power 
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Copyright information

© Henning Tewes 2002

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Konrad-Adenauer FoundationWarsawPoland

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