EESE 10/1995 - 203

Karlfried Knapp (Erfurt)

What's German? Remarks on German Identity

The following paper is intended as a very brief sketch of some basic characteristics of what, from the past to the present, constitutes German identity. For this purpose, I shall, firstly, outline some of the major historical factors that are part of the determinative substrate of this identity; secondly, point out some of the more concrete consequences resulting from these factors and, finally, touch upon problems Germans themselves have with their cultural identity - or identities, after the unification of the two Germanies, West and East, in 1989 - and the potential consequences these problems might have for Germany's role in the process of European union.

Some fundamental determinants

According to present currents in anthropology, a culture can best be described as a system of knowledge shared by its members (Keesing 1974). Such a system is broadly determined by the global views and values rooted in the history of ideas of the respective community. One important area of this history is the development of the prevailing ideology. This is true, of course, also of the German culture, and in fact it can be said that religion is

EESE 10/1995 - 204
historically the first and by far the most influential factor in shaping German identity. However, it is not Christian Occident that matters here; an origin it shares with all other Western cultures. Rather, it is the impact of the Reformation, particularly of Lutheran protestantism.

The Reformation exerted an important influence on many European cultures. However, its results were different according to whether it was the Lutheran or the Calvinist version. There are fundamental differences between these two, differences that explain many cultural distinctions, especially between Anglo-Saxon and the German culture (Weber 1920/1972; Troeltsch 1925).

In Calvinist Protestantism, the individual is expected to participate in the shaping of the social world around him or her. By contrast, in Lutheran Protestantism there is a separation of public administration and the church from the individual's private inwardness and spirituality. This contrast can be traced back to the biographies of these two religious founders. While Calvin, as a free citizen of Geneva exerted an active influence on the development of his community, the monk Luther sought refuge with his sovereign against persecution by the Pope. Luther's version of Protestantism did not spread because of the individual's conviction, but as a result of the protection of the respective sovereign on the basis of the principle "cuius regio, eius religio", a principle founded in the Treaty of Westphalia, 1648, at the end of the thirty year war. Where Calvinist communities put up religious freedom as part of political rule, Luther legitimised political rule as God-given and therefore not to be questioned by any subject.

EESE 10/1995 - 205
Luther made a distinction between the two dominions ("die zwei Königreiche") which an individual is subjected to: the political, which is a matter of the state; and the spiritual, which is reserved for God. For Luther, the political dominion, the rule of the sovereign, was set up by God to control and overcome human imperfection by the force of the state. Therefore, subjects owed gratitude and obedience to the sovereign. Only where worldly authority obviously offended against God's commandments, were subjects allowed to withdraw their allegiance. This could never lead to open restistance, since this might destroy God-given political rule altogether. The only form of worldly disobedience permitted was either to point out to the sovereign his offences, or to flee from him. For Luther, the freedom of a Christian was a spiritual, inner freedom, a belief in God, not a set of civil rights. This freedom required a being to follow the Lord's commandments and to abide by worldy laws. As a consequence, and different from Calvinism, the ideas of an independent citizen, acting on his or her own responsibility, as well as of a political community as a union of free individuals, could never develop. Under this line of reasoning, political legislation has always remained the task of the feudal sovereign or of the state only.

Luther's concept of job or profession had the same effect. To him, having work was not an obligation to change and form the material and social world according to the divine commandments,

EESE 10/1995 - 206
but the calling for a place in a given corporative structure predetermined by tradition. In this case, it was performance of one's duty and obedience to the existing norms of the professional environment and to the laws of the state only that mattered. Quite obviously, it is a very small step from here to what later became known as Prussian discipline and subservience.

This view of work as duty is in line with Luther's conception of private inwardness or spirituality, a conception of equal importance to the shaping of the German identity. To Luther, an individual does not realize him- or herself in external doings, by acting in the social sphere, but rather by an inner attitude that directs his or her way to God. It is not so much that acting properly leads to the Lord, but rather trust and belief in God. This attitude, this spiritual identity, has to have priority over mundane achievements. Personal identity is thus separated from society and the individual is neither responsible for society at large nor for his or her position in the social context. Against this background, it is does not come as a surprise that even today political participation in Germany is more a matter of duty than of personal involvement.

However, the influence of Lutheran protestantism would not have been that pervasive had it not been secularized by the German intellectual reaction to the enlightenment, especially in the form of German idealism. Idealism therefore has to be regarded as the second most important shaping force of the German identity.

EESE 10/1995 - 207
This becomes especially obvious in the idealist view of the relation between the individual and the state (Krieger 1957). Thinkers like Kant and Hegel justified the state as being an institution of a higher moral status than a mere collective of individual beings. According to them and to their followers, the state had to grant freedom to the individual. Echoing Luther's ideas, in Kant's philosophy this freedom, however, was viewed first an foremost as an abstract inner freedom which in concrete dealings in the social sphere had to be realized by an adherence to the laws of the state. This inner freedom was equated to orienting oneself to the moral law from true practical reason which is universally valid and independent of sensual desires or the desire to achieve material advantages. But where an individual in his or her concrete actions deviates from true practical reason, he or she is forced to follow this reason by obeying the laws of the state. For Kant, this was more of a help on the way to moral perfection than a restriction of individual rights, because for him, the legislation of the state had itself to be based on the general principles of practical reason. Hence the laws of the state had to be most general and not geared towards individual cases; the state had an outstanding moral status, and, different from Anglo-Saxon thinking, the freedom of the individual did not need to be protected against any encroachments by the state, because it was implied in the general legislation.

The special position attributed to the state is also evident in the views idealist thinkers had on education. In 1772, in his book "On the Origin of Language" ("Über den Ursprung der

EESE 10/1995 - 208
Sprache"), the philosopher Johann Gottfried Herder exposed the idea that a language expresses the collective experiences of the group of its speakers, thus breaking the way for German romantic linguistic nationalism. He also claimed that in analogy to naturalistic language acquisition and its concomitant acculturation, the creation of a national identity is a project of education. The foundation of the University in Berlin early in the 19th century, which was set up according to the ideas of idealistic reformers like Fichte, Schelling and von Humboldt, reflected the conviction that this education should be organized by the state. Being the prototype of the self-image of German universities until the sixties of this century, it was intended as a place of true education and culture for an elite, independent of practical needs of society, and from its beginning reflected the high preference among German intellectuals for philosophy and the humanities and their disdain for technical and more mundane subjects - an attitude which still is prevails today.

As a secular variant of Lutheran inwardness and spirituality, idealism lead to the search for universal and eternal truths, separated from the profane necessities and contingencies of everyday life and the rest of society. Again this can be demonstrated by the works of Kant and Hegel. They are typical in that they exhibit the highest level of abstraction possible, but that their theories - particularly in contrast to that of Anglo- Saxon philosphers of their time, e.g. Hobbes - are more or less empirically void. Due to his closer affinity to an empirical

EESE 10/1995 - 209
reality, it is true that Hobbes in his writings on the social contract can be caught in empirical contradictions. This could hardly happen to German idealist philosophers, because it is hard to imagine how their theories could ever be put into empirical practice. For example, it is hard to conceive that any human being, and even more a society, could live up to the moral standards set by the universal principles of true practical reason. To the German idealist, however, it is only the internal consistency of his theory that matters.

The neglect of empirical contingencies together with the rigorism of thinking could therefore lead to the fact that an abstract humanistic universalism found to be theoretically true can - in its practical consequences, which are outside the idealist's consideration - be accompanied by a concrete inhumanity. A case in point here is Communism, which can be regarded as a continuation of Hegel's philosophy by Marx.

For German idealism, the search for universal and eternal truths is not a collective project. They can be found by an individual thinker only, concentrating on himself and his subject matter in seclusion and - as it was called - "heroic loneliness" of his study. A loneliness, in which the points of reference for the scholar were quite naturally the established great works of the titans of thinking of past millenia rather than the immature and incomplete thought of contemporary colleagues. This explains why the humanities in Germany are that much more oriented towards history than e.g. in Anglo-Saxon countries. Truths are not

EESE 10/1995 - 210
hypotheses you could discuss, let alone in public discourse. Truths have to be maintained with rigour. It is not intersubjectivity and critical evaluation by others that counts, but the conscience - convincingly and impressively presented - of being right. Therefore, the concept of a competition of ideas - instead of conflict of ideas - has long remained foreign to Germans, and a discussion culture did not develop. Also, this neglect of a public discourse has led to the well known lack of comprehensibility of German academic discourse, which makes the ideas presented accessible to a small group of initiated experts only, but at the same time increases the prestige of the expert in the rest of the society.

All this is also a reflection of the idealist assumption that a more advanced knowledge is accessible to a small, chosen elite only. From the beginning of the 19th century, this was the educated bourgeoisie, the "Bildungsbürgertum", which separated itself from other groups of society not so much on the basis of its economic position but rather on the basis of its education. This education, mirroring the idealistic ideas that led to the foundation of Berlin University, was humanistic, with an emphasis on philosophy, history and the classical languages. Humanistic training was offered at an elitist institution of secondary education: the "Gymnasium". Other, more practical forms of knowledge were taught at less prestigious types of schools. The status attributed to humanistic education becomes apparent, too, in that science and technology were not included into the idealist concept of culture and that - on the tertiary level of education - they were up to the middle of this century not taught at universities but at "Technische Hochschulen" or "Ingenieurschulen" - the very designations indicating their inferior reputation.

The most typical representative of the "Bildungsbürgertum" was the university professor. Apart from his education and his subject area in the humanities he was typical, too, in that he was a civil servant, since in Germany - with very few exceptions today - universities are run by the state. The bond of idealism and the

EESE 10/1995 - 211
Prussian state made the university professor the most important and most influential personification of the intellectual, with the consequence that intellectuals were acceptable in German society as civil servants only (even today most theatres, museums and other places of intellectual activity other than universities and institutions of higher education in Germany are run by the state). Being supported by the state, in the comfortable position of a public office the German professor did not need to care for his material subsistence, and was thus largely relieved from running the risk of being confronted with the empirical realities that might question the validity of his universal truths. On a lower social stratum, the same is true for the parson and the teacher, whose role it was - as more public opinion leaders - to transport the ideas of inwardness and obedience to the idealised state to the less educated classes.

Both through the ideology that resulted and by the persons it brought into important functions in society, idealism was affirmative for the state and the ruling castes. It is no surprise that quite independent from Prussian influence on German history the values and behaviours associated with it were adopted also in the non-protestant areas of Germany. The outstanding position attributed to the state and its justification by idealism suggests to regard the role of the state in the 19th century as the third important determining factor in the development of the German identity.

EESE 10/1995 - 212
As a result of the Napoleonic wars and in reaction to French imperialism - quite in agreement with the Lutheran world view and idealism - early in the 19th century the idea of a "strong state" developed. German intellectuals felt that in the competition among the emerging European nations a strong Germany was necessary. The practical consequences of this idea were the militarization of the state and the enhancement of governmental effectiveness by introducing codified laws, rules and objective procedures for the functioning of an efficient, pervasive bureaucracy. For these laws and rules to be effective, they had to cover all possible bureaucratic decisions. Under the influence of idealism, this meant that they had to be numerous, general in their coverage, and neither favour nor discriminate against anybody. A corollary of this modernization, then, was equality before the general law. It is worth mentioning here that different from, e.g., France or the Anglo-Saxon countries, it was not an emancipated bourgeoisie who took the lead in this development, but the ruling caste. It is particularly the Prussian noble Freiherr von Stein who was influential in this reform. The development of the German bureaucracy, certainly the first step towards modernization and one that has been so important for what even today is regarded as typically German, thus was introduced top down, as it were.

Quite in line with this "top down" approach to modernization, it was the state itself that was the most important driving force, the largest entrepreneur, behind the industrialization of Germany during the 19th century, supported by major banks and huge industrial trusts. Part of the leading role of the state was the

EESE 10/1995 - 213
fact that laws introducing social security and the protection of women and children against dangerous work and exploitation were not that much introduced as a result of class struggle, than by a paternalistic Bismarck.

The German welfare state thus had its origin to a large extent in this caring attitude of the state and its leaders. That it was - at least in the 19th century - not the working class or the bourgeoisie that pushed this social achievement through, can be seen as a consequence of the Lutheran worldview: the active shaping of the world is a task of those put into the position of political leadership - subjects should not participate in such public affairs, but obey. This holds for all the other areas of modernization mentioned.

However, modernization and industrialization more and more dissolved the traditional corporate structure of German society, where every individual had his or her predetermined place, knew how to act in social life and could concentrate on his or her inner religious or moral perfection. Industrializiation caused an enormous migration of population within the borders of the state thereby changing the normal surroundings not just because of large technological plants such as coalmines and steel works, but also by a reshaping of the social structure. Social groups such as the workforce and/or the craftsmen - it was also from this latter group that some developed into an affluent section of a productive middle class - still had to find their place in society. The development of a new social order required individuals to have to

EESE 10/1995 - 214
see to their own social welfare and to the practical details for their lives much more than ever before and so, they had to take a public stance for this issues. The educated middle class in particular felt to be alienated by these effects of modernisation. This led to a tension between the Protestant inwardness and idealism on the one hand, and the perspective based on a modern, social and technical rationalism on the other hand. This tension between the religious and philosophical ideals and between the consequences of social and technical progress are characteristic features of a fourth and undoubtedly very important determining factor of German identity.

This continued to grow in the second half of the 19th century. In the cultural sphere, it had its culmination in the glorification of the past first as a nostalgic and then as a reactionary movement. This attitude is expressed in late Romanticism and particularly in the works of Richard Wagner. In the social sphere, there was an increasing preference for a particular form of social organisation i.e. for "community" (Gemeinschaft).

This concept can be traced back to Ferdinand Tönnies (Tönnies 1887; Dahrendorf 1965). In 1887 Tönnies made the distinction which still holds in present-day sociology between "society" (Gesellschaft) and "community" (Gemeinschaft). To put it simply, "society" refers to the free organisation of individuals at the level of a state based on a social contract whereas "community" refers to the organisation of individual in a manageable social

EESE 10/1995 - 215
unity based on primordial bondings and affiliations. In a "community", trust, intimacy, agreement and shared moral values are dominant, all the social actions are honest involving the whole personality of the individual. In a "society", however, anonymity pre-dominates and social actions are motivated by changeable, arbitary goals and by taking into consideration what is merely useful so that dishonesty and hypocrisy can be used as means to attain these ends and the participation factor can be a case of sheer vanity. In short, "community" is warm and personal, but "society" is cold and impersonal. Both an hostility to technology under the guise of idelism and a preference for community are still very common in present-day society.

In conclusion, another determining factor should be mentioned if the contemporary manifestations of German identity are to be adequately covered. This refers to the consequences of the Third Reich after 1945. The defeat of Nazi barbarism cast doubts upon an uninterrupted continuation of the traditional, cultural ways of thinking and behaving and opened up Germany to other cultural influences.

A by no means unimportant factor was the influence of American culture working through the "re-education" programme carried out by the Anglo-Saxon victors and also through the present social and cultural internationalism (Dahrendorf 1965). This is obvious not only (in the sense of George Ritzer) that, since that time, German society has become "McDonaldised" (Ritzer 1993). The external consequences of social rationalisation of people's life-styles are accompanied by a widespread acceptance of values oriented more towards "society".

EESE 10/1995 - 216
The willingness to participate in the political process has increased so that even forms of civil disobedience of the protest movements are now very common. The developments described by Inglehart as the change in values of the modern age have not left Germany untouched (1977). In education, for example, today's German parents place even more value than twenty years ago on the development of their children to become self-motivated, independently minded individuals with the result that values such as order, obedience and a sense of duty quite clearly no longer have the importance that was previously the case. In contrast to the traditional German stereotype, a large part of the younger generation is disconcertingly hedonistic; they no longer see the state as a community to which they are bound by their membership, but instead, it is for them more a service organisation offering its services (Klages 1984). Individualism for most of today's Germans is no longer primarily rooted in an inward looking religious outlook, but is more a case of an individualistic, totally self-centred participation in public life. One positive consequence, however, of this orientation toward "society" is Germany's firmly based democracy in the country.

EESE 10/1995 - 217
2. Some consequences of German culture

These basic factors determining the history of ideas produced numerous features of German culture and behaviour which, in the intercultural comparisons, can be described as "typically German" (Hofstede 1980; Mole 1990; Loewenthal 1990). Thus Protestant inward looking attitudes, for example, can be seen as the basis for the German attitude to work in regarding it as a duty rather than a means to self-fulfilment. Similarly, the attitude of being serious at work, of giving an impression of "gravitas" and the separation of work and private life are all connected with the effects of Lutheranism. Another characteristic influence of Protestantism in producing attitudes led people to accept established authorities and to prefer clear rules and guidelines - attitudes which are part of what Hofstede describes as the uncertainty avoidence. The longing for avoiding any uncertainty is also influenced by idealism which encouraged the tendency always to find general and basic solutions to problems and to rely on experts rather than on trusting in common sense.

This preference for general rules is also reflected in the significant role the state plays in German culture in which all the areas of life are permeated with its laws. A by no means insignificant reason for this is that the citizens themselves demand rules and regulations as, for example, in the field of ecology and these rules must be implemented with the full seal of authority of the state itself rather than trusting in people to negotiate a mutual agreement among the parties directly concerned.

EESE 10/1995 - 218
This idealistic scepticism towards modernism has contributed to producing the "two cultures" conflict as described by the British physicist and philosopher C. P. Snow in a more extreme form in Germany than in other countries (1967). This conflict - arts versus sciences - exists, however, in all highly developed western societies. Despite the indisputable dominance of the scientific and technological culture in everyday life and despite its contribution to the welfare of everyone in Germany, the vocal intellectual leaders of public opinion together with the others in the media, schools and churches, have cast doubt not only on the consequences of science and technology, but also on the legitimacy of the scientific world view itself. This explains, for example, the importance of the ecology lobby in Germany.

The second consequence of anti-modernism, i.e. the sense of preference for community has led to the popularity of the numerous clubs and associations in Germany which are so important to everyday life particularly in the localities. The sharp social distinctions so prevalent in other areas of German life such as for example between the boss and the worker almost completely disappear amongst club members. This helps, of course, to lessen the existing class distinctions in society.

It was particularly in the social and economic areas that the basic principles derived from the history of ideas proved to be very positive for Germany's development. For instance, the Protestant work ethic explains why German workers and employees are able to get on with their work in a very independent and self-motivated way within clearly demarcated areas of responsibility. The Protestant attitude of

EESE 10/1995 - 219
handing over political negotiations of interests to the relevant and responsible people and institutions also explains why work relations in Germany have always been relatively harmonious. Negotiations for wages and conditions take place less by direct confrontation between management and workers, and far more by negotiations with the union representatives responsible for large sectors in the economy and their counterparts in the corresponding employers' associations representing their commmon interests. Whatever is agreed upon by the "responsible" representatives of a particular economic sector is generally accepted by the members who usually have played no part in the decision process. Compared with other countries, this results in relatively stable and calm industrial relations.

Another consequence of the basic attitudes arising from the history of ideas is German thoroughness. This is the practical aspect from the profundity of German philosophy and from the uncertainty-uncertainty. Much of Germany's industrial success can be explained by the high quality of its products and in turn, much of this quality is due to a systematic approach in construction and production and also to allowing wide safety margins to ensure nothing goes wrong. The same applies to the German cultural standard embedded of sticking to rules - whether established or agreed upon. The reputation of Germans in business of constantly fulfilling the "terms of contract" has proven to be advantageous for international competition.

EESE 10/1995 - 220
History also shows, however, that the consequences of the fundamental determining factors in German culture can also be very negative. This is illustrated, for example, by the effects Protestantism and idealism had on individual ethical responsibility. In complete conformity with this way of thinking, the sociologist Max Weber took the division between religious and philosophical subjectivism on the one hand, and the objectivism necessary in modern society on the other hand, to the conclusion that ethics are ultimately a private matter (Weber 1971:377-379; 549-560). This released for example the Prussian officials or officers from having to justify their behaviour in their professional life as long as they acted within the law and obeyed the orders of their superiors. In fact, they only had to bear responsibility if they, in any way, deviated from this course of action. Thus a type of person emerged from those who were active in the political and social sphere whom Max Weber designated as the "moralist of conviction" (Gesinnungsethiker): a person who sticks to his convictions quite independently of the practical consequences of his ideological motivation and moreover, quite independently of the consequences for other people.

From this ideological background, the characteristics such as servility, blind obedience, dogmatism, inflexibility and discrimination against others originated. These were the very same characteristics the Nazi ideology exploited to the most horrifying extreme. The shocking success of this ideology resulted in their extremely subtle use of the anti-modern feeling in the German population by appealing to romantic sentiments with the idea of

EESE 10/1995 - 221
"community" with the notion of "the people's community" instead of society. They also knew how to direct both the "community" ideal and the anti-modern and anti-progress attitudes to obedience to a totalitarian regime and to an enthusiastic acceptance of technology based on the idea of a "strong state".

The development of German history is a good example of the fact that the ideological heritage of any culture has the potential of being used by its members in the same way, be it positively or negatively. It is not an unchangeable constant, but is interpreted differently in different periods in history. Which particular form this significance assumes is influenced by the concrete, ecological, economic and (geo)- political external circumstances of the particular period in question. It is also important to note, however, that the relevant current interpretation is made by the leaders of public opinion and commentators who increasingly have to bear a particular kind of historical responsibility. What Barth defines as an ethnic group (Barth 1969) - i.e. a group which at various particular periods makes use of different means from its own store of values and modes of action in order to differentiate itself from other groups and to bind its own members to its own group - can also apply to cultures. Cultures also determine their own identity, set up boundaries against other cultures, exercise pressure on members to conform and they do this by emphasising the features of their cultural store which is decided by their leader of public opinion, but which alters in the course of history.

EESE 10/1995 - 222

3. Current trends

If the basic determining factors producing cultural identity are not a historical constant - how then can today's "German identity" be envisaged?

The first response to this obvious question can only be answered by the word: "ambivalent" - and this is not merely because the basic determining factors of any culture can have the two faces of a Janus figure in its effects. Present-day German identity is characterised by several particular kinds of ambivalence. I shall deal with only two examples in this paper. The first concerns the problem of the attitude of the Germans themselves towards their national identity and the second is: after re-unification how far is it at all possible to talk about one German identity? How these kinds of ambivalence develop and then how these ambiguities are resolved is quite clearly of crucial importance for Germany's role in the process of European unification.

It is, in fact, difficult to talk about "a" or "the" German identity because many Germans are themselves vague about how far they do have a national identity and whether they actually want to have an identity at all. The misuse caused by the Nazis rendered an uninterrupted continuation of the traditional German ways of thinking impossible after 1945. Similarly, the re-education programme of the western victors contributed to the Germans becoming alienated not only from the potential negative effects of

EESE 10/1995 - 223
their cultural determining factors but to quite a large extent to their becoming alienated from the factors themselves. It is now a completely uncontroversial fact for the post-war generation in their fifties and for most of the younger generation that any form of nationalism is bad. It can be stated even more strongly that everything national is suspect.

They regard themselves to be more West Europeans than Germans. This attitude has been re-inforced by all the governments since the founding of the Federal Republic with their policy of Western integration and their energetic encouragement of European union. West German politics have always aimed at the Germans being "good Europeans".

One effect of this policy can be seen in the way national symbols are dealt with. Unlike the USA, for example, the German national flag is rarely seen in any official rooms. Although, for example, the approximately 100 million German speakers are the largest language community in the EU, unlike France, Germany does not persue any clear policy with the aim of implementing a proportional use of German in the European institutions (Ammon 1991). The governments and the economy in West Germany have always eschewed huge technological projects which, in other countries, would have been objects of national pride. To become involved in aviation and aeronautical projects such as the airbus and the Ariane rocket projects, Germany was pressured by France.

EESE 10/1995 - 224
Generally, most explicit German manifestations of patriotism are suspect. Any salute to the flag as for example is the case in many US schools would be regarded by most Germans of today as an attempt at nationalistic indoctrination, and the enthusiastic patriotism which the American public displayed towards the invasion of the tiny island of Grenada or in the war against Saddam-Hussein's Iraq had, to put it mildly, a very embarrassing effect on the German post-war generation. Patriotism in Germany usually takes the form of constitutional patriotism i.e. being proud of the "Basic Law" (Grundgesetz) set up by the founding fathers (and mothers) of post-war Germany to lay the foundations for modern, democratic Germany. The "Grundgesetz" is generally seen as sacrosanct in public opinion and as the arbiter for all political activities. This is reflected by the fact that it is very difficult to implement any changes in the "Grundgesetz" or even any changes in ist interpretation. By this constitutional law, the political participants in Germany have a very limited sphere of action. For example, the reluctance of the German government in the Gulf War or in the Bosnian conflict to involve German soldiers to support their western allies in any actions outside the NATO field of action can be traced back to the fact that according to the Basic Law the German armed forces can only be sent into action for the defence of Germany or the allies. Even more, any substitution of the "Grundgesetz" by another constitution is out of the question. Although in 1949 the "Grundgesetz" was envisaged merely as a provisional constitutional structure for West Germany which was to be replaced after the re-unification of the two German states by a common constitution, any attempt after re-unification in 1990 to put a new common constitution of this kind on the political agenda was doomed from the start. Thus, quite in line with the history of ideas, The German's uncertainty about their national identity is balanced to a large extent by a clearly codified set of laws.

It is, however, important to note that this uncertainty applies only to former West Germany. Whereas the Federal Republic was exposed to the cultural influences of the West after the Second World War, which triggered a change in values, East Germany was generally left untouched by foreign influences - except, of course, for the adoption of numerous external formal features and structures in the economic and social spheres taken from the Soviet Union. Many of the old

EESE 10/1995 - 225
Prussian values and virtues were, however, able to survive beneath this surface. They were kept alive by the communist regime and used to their advantage, as in for example, the distribution of awards for duty, discipline and order. The orientation towards "community" was highlighted in the socialist collectives and the welfare state structures were further developed into all areas of life almost to the point of coddling the people.

This cultural continuity became possible for the East German rulers because they ascribed the negative effects of German cultural history - such as the holocaust - to western capitalism and held capitalist West Germany to be responsible for this history and because they took over the positive aspects of German cultural history for themselves. With this background, values such as individualism, initiative and self-reliance were much less prevalent amongst adults in the East than in the West. Particularly among the members of the public state services in the former GDR, there are still many who regret the state's loss of total power and who identify with the old system.

The most interesting difference between East and West Germany concerns, however, the significance of the nation for its own cultural identity. Unlike Federal Republicans with their bias towards the West, East Germans tend more towards defining themselves as members of the German nation. This is not very surprising in view of the fact that very few international and intercultural contacts were possible for them under communist rule. In addition, there was the fact that East Germany still

EESE 10/1995 - 226
continued to be scientifically and technologically superior to all the other states in the former Eastern Block resulting in its privileged position in COMECON and giving rise to national pride among the citizens. For this reason, an inconspicuous national consciousness is more obvious in the new federal states than in West Germany. Because of re-unification, the idea of nationhood as a feature of identity is once again entering into the consciousness even of West Germans as a symbol of identity. It is, however, still unclear what significance this will have for the growth of a future "united- German" identity and for the practical policies of German governments.

It is certain that this development will not lead to a revival of the former chauvinistic nationalism. It must be conceded, of course, that there are in Germany - as in other countries - acts of violence against foreigners and minorities and that many of these violent acts are accompanied by Nazi symbols. It is understandable that, in the context of German history, these sad events are a cause of concern particularly in other countries. As sociological studies show, however, these - apparently - extreme right wing actions and acts of violence are usually a juvenile phenomenon and are not politically motivated (Türingisches Ministerium für Justiz 1993).

These actions are generally caused by the hatred in frustrated young people with no future. Although this hatred and anger is vented on foreigners it is, however, directed not primarily against the foreigners but against the society to which the youths ascribe their frustration. The youths do not use neo-Nazi symbols because of their historical

EESE 10/1995 - 227
content - which most of them do not even understand - but because these symbols are so vehemently rejected by the adults in society. In East Germany, there is the additional factor that these kinds of actions can be seen to provoke the West Germans who pretend to be so sophisticated and who like to regard themselves as morally superior.

Only the future will show whether those areas of ambivalence will sort themselves out or how this process may take place and what effects the basic determining factors of the German cultural history will have on the further development of a German identity. It is, however, obvious that this development will have a crucial influence on Germany's role in a united Europe.


Ammon, U. (1991): Die internationale Stellung der deutschen Sprache. Berlin: Mouton-de Gruyter.
Barth, F. (1969): "Introduction", in: F. Barth (ed.): Ethnic Groups and Boundaries. Oslo: Universitetsforlaget, 9-38.
Dahrendorf, R. (1965): Gesellschaft und Demokratie in Deutschland. München: Piper.
Herder, J.G. (19772/ 1877-1913): Sämtliche Werke, 33 vols, ed. B. Sulphan. Berlin.
Hofstede, G. (1980): Culture's Consequences. International Differences in Work-Related Values. Beverley Hills, C.A.: Sage.

EESE 10/1995 - 228
Inglehart,R. (1977): The Silent Revolution. Changing Values and Political Styles among Western Publics. Princeton University Press.
Keesing, R.M. (1974): "Theories of Cultures", in: Annual Review of Anthropology 3, 73-97.
Klages, H. (1985): Werteorientierungen im Wandel. Frankfurt am Main.
Krieger, L. (1957): The German Idea of Freedom. History of a Political Tradition. Boston: Beacon Press.
Loewenthal, N. (1990): Update Federal Republic of Germany. Yarmouth, ME.: Intercultural Press.
Mole, J. (1990): Mind Your Manners. London: Industrial Society Press.
Plessner, H. (1959): Die verspätete Nation. Stuttgart: Kohlhammer.
Ritzer, G. (1993): The MacDonaldization of Society. Newbury Park: Pine Forge Press.
Snow, C.P. (1967): Die zwei Kulturen (aus dem Englischen). Stuttgart: Klett.
Thüringisches Ministerium für Justiz, ed. (1993): Jugendgewalt. Erfurt.
Tönnies, F. (1887/ 1963): Gemeinschaft und Gesellschaft.Darmstadt: Wiss. Buchgemeinschaft.
Troeltsch, E. (1925): "Calvinius und Luthertum", in: Aufsätze zur Geistesgeschichte und Religionssoziologie. Tübingen: Mohr, 254-261.
Weber, M. (1920/ 1972): Gesammelte Aufsätze zur Religionssoziologie. Tübingen: Mohr. Weber, M. (1971): Gesammelte politische Schriften. Tübingen: Mohr.

Karlfried Knapp
Institut für Anglistik/Amerikanistik
Nordhäuser Str. 63
D-99089 Erfurt