Understanding Contemporary Germany by Stuart Parkes

By Stuart Parkes

This article is an introductory survey of German society concentrating on the post-unification state of affairs. It increases questions on the subject of German identification and adopts an built-in strategy, contemplating society, tradition, politics, economics and historical past. the steadiness and normality of the Federal Republic and its place in international affairs is classed. The ebook goals to supply the historical past to modern Germany required for college kids of recent languages, or these classes containing a component of German stories.

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By virtue of their office, Walter Ulbricht until 1971 and thereafter Erich Honecker, along with the roughly twenty members of the Politbüro, exercised close to absolute power in the GDR, albeit under the watchful eye of the Soviet Union. The task of the ordinary party member was not to seek to influence the way that power was used, but to represent the views the leadership of the party expressed on any given issue. From the adoption of the 1968 constitution, and de facto from the foundation of the state in 1949, the supreme power of the SED was enshrined in the political system of the GDR.

Nevertheless significant differences from the other German state must be noted. Female participation in all areas of society was encouraged, rather than being merely accepted, in many cases after long struggles. That this occurred partly because of economic necessity rather than simply as a result of idealism does not alter the fact that it happened. The only proviso that has to made is that emancipation was restricted by the limits placed on individuals by the overall political and economic system of the GDR.

Neither its political system nor its economic performance provided enough to counterbalance the sense that this was an artificial creation under the tutelage of a foreign power. It is the political sphere that merits most attention because political considerations were always paramount in the GDR. The influence of politics was all-pervasive, dominating all areas of society, including the economy, education and culture. Only the church, which in the GDR meant largely the Lutheran Church, had some degree of autonomy since it could hardly be ‘nationalised’, given that it represented a set of beliefs at odds with communist ideology.

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