Germany, Cool?

Not long ago The Economist’s published a lead story entitled, ‘Germany is becoming more open and diverse. With the right leadership, it could be a model for the West.’ The lead commentary argued that ‘(m)any of the country’s defining traits – its ethnic and cultural homogeneity, conformist and conservative society, and unwillingness to punch its weight in international diplomacy – are suddenly in flux’ (April 14, 2018, p.9). Spanning 12 pages, the special report on Germany considers issues such as open and closed politics, the concept of ‘Heimat’, identity, social cleavages, and the advance of AI. The evolution of Germany into a reluctant and kind-of benign hegemon, and the state’s reconciliation with its history are also addressed, mostly in a sympathetic way.

This article forms the starting point for this week’s questions:

History never disappears. But are the horrors of the Holocaust and World War 2 becoming more distant, no longer immediately shaping current German policies? Is Germany becoming a ‘normal’ country, keeping its specific features but increasingly influential, with a clear liberal identity and taking over more responsibilities? And, if so, what does this signal to Germany’s neighbors? Ms Thatcher famously quipped after the collapse of the Berlin Wall:  “We’ve beaten the Germans twice. Now they’re back!” Giulio Andretti added “I love Germany so much that I prefer to see two of them”. Are these times gone for good? Is it acceptable for today’s Germany to define its political roadmap as pragmatically as most other countries are shaping theirs? Moreover, is there reason to assume that Germany may even belong to the few societies (maybe like Canada and the Scandinavian countries) serving as liberal role models, as the “West’s Last Stalwart of Enlightened Liberalism” (Haaretz, 11, 2017)?

 

Klaus Segbers

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  1. Alexei Voskressenski 2 weeks ago

    Germany suxeeded in becoming more open and diverse and also to position itself as a benign hegemon in Europe. However it’s ‘normalcy’ and ‘pragmatism’ may be further scrutenized. A ‘benign’ pragmatism does not contradict to an idea of enlightened liberalism, however in a changing Europe with a sharper French competition and uncertain role of Britain much more political skill is needed to sustain such type of leadership.

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  2. Justas Paleckis 2 weeks ago

    Countries that are big and strong (especially militarily) have always had and, most likely, will have great sins. Germany’s sins are specific. Moreover, this country was defeated and occupied, which increased the weight of those sins. But 73 years after the war showed that Germany has become not only a “normal” country, not only an increasingly influential. Most important that compared to other big powers – and it has become like that again – Germany has behaved responsibly and sensibly on the international scene. And according to its Soziale Marktwirschaft model, Germany has come very close to small, “ideal” Scandinavian countries. So, it’s really time to use what has been accumulated in the post-war years and to take more responsibilities in the world.

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  3. Stephanie von Kanel 2 weeks ago

    As someone who has not spent extended periods of time in Germany, I am reluctant to comment in absolutes about the country’s history, politics and social climate; mostly because I recognise such external opinions are sometimes detached from domestic perspectives. But the time I have spent in Germany has left a profoundly positive image. It is perhaps the country which takes the most blatant and necessary stance in recognising history and acknowledging its past. This I think has very important ramifications within Germany and for its global image. It is also a hugely diverse nation, which extends beyond multiculturalism to cultural pluralism in many respects. From an IR perspective, I have noticed the gradual shift of Germany (and indeed Chancellor Merkel’s role) from the periphery to the centre stage in recent years. I particularly agree with the introduction to this question presenting the German state as a benign-hegemon. This seems incredibly appropriate. However, the rising hegemonic status of Germany in IR differs from existing great powers in that it seems to centralise diplomatic communications and EU cooperation as opposed to publicly instating its agenda and awaiting global responses/agreeance/disagreement. The modern German state displays considerable balance and pragmatism on the international stage, and indeed presents attributes of a liberal role-model.

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  4. Mina Sumaadii 2 weeks ago

    In Rating World Leaders 2018 report issued by Gallup, Germany’s leadership approval rating in 134 countries became the highest among the world leaders: the U.S., China, Russia. This new position while mostly due to the significant decline of the U.S. has been a result of a stable and good ranking over the years. At times when there is a rise in right-wing sentiment in its neighborhood, Germany took in over a million refugees. This act considerably enhanced its image abroad even if domestically it had significant political and economic costs. Thus, at this point ‘Germany is cool’ in many places. I hope that it maintains this position since the next decade is going to be very challenging. Germany has relatively sound economic footing and political stability that should allow it to shoulder more responsibility. Karl Polanyi had a hypothesis challenging Karl Marx that after an economic collapse in capitalism there is higher likelihood not of a revolution, but fascism. The events in Central and Eastern Europe in recent years are bringing attention back to this issue. If the solidarity gives way to self-interest, I would only note that in the poll the next contender with the highest approval rating is China. Thus, would such a self-interest pay off if in the long-term you will end up being an island of democracy?

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