Social and Political Cleavages in the Federal Republic, 1945–2002

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


Chapter 4 builds on the historical account of social and political cleavages provided in previous chapters and examines the extent to which these cleavages persisted in the Federal Republic of Germany. At the same time, however, we can begin to make use of more sophisticated methods of data collection and analysis — including micro-level data — in order to construct a more nuanced picture of individual voter behaviour and preferences, how this has changed over time, and how political parties have responded to this. The chapter is divided into six sections: first, an account of the re-emergence of political cleavages during the period of Allied occupation, 1945–49; second, an analysis of how these cleavages stabilised and structured the party system during the first 20 years of the Federal Republic, 1949–69; third, an examination of the period 1969–90, leading up to the unification of Germany, with an emphasis on how the impact of secularisation and economic change eroded social cleavages: leading to greater electoral instability and partisan de-alignment; fourth, an account of the social base of party politics in post-unification Germany and the effects of the ‘grafting on’ of a second party system characterised by significantly different social cleavages and patterns of partisan identification; fifth, an up-to-date analysis of the social base of German party politics, drawing on data from the 2002-Bundestag elections; and sixth, a summary of the main issues raised in the chapter.


Party Politics Federal Republic Federal State Union Membership Party System 
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Copyright information

© Charles Lees 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • Charles Lees
    • 1
  1. 1.University of SheffieldUK

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