Democracy in Germany

Topics: Germany, German Empire, Prussia Pages: 7 (2445 words) Published: June 16, 2005
What is "The German Question"?
What is "The German Question"? This is a question that has been posed by many analysts over the years, each having their own views on what fulfills this question. However, each agrees that it is a question of high complexity. According to Constantin Frantz, "The German Question is the most obscure, most involved and most comprehensive problem in the whole of modern history". What makes Germanys' question so difficult to pinpoint is the fact that for all of its existence, until 1871 and again in 1990, it has struggled to unify a nation into a single state. As history shows, the German nation has struggled to create its own nation-state. Unlike France and Britain, Germany was a nation before it was a state. That is, its people had a strong sense of nationalism and common identity as a social entity but they were lacking a strong state, or a form of political organization that claims the exclusive right to govern a specific piece of territory. As Dahrendorf states; "We want to find out what it is in German society that may account for Germany's persistent failure to give a home to democracy in its liberal sense". But can we really analyze the problem in this way? It has not always been the same "persistent failure" hindering Germany from giving a home for democracy, but rather the problems faced by Germany throughout history. To truly understand the German situation and its multiple struggles for unification, it is important to know the history of the present day Germany. This history is a very unique one, one very different from other European nations such as France and Britain. Therefore one can draw sharp contrasts between the process of national unification in Germany as compared to France or Britain. However, once established; "Compared with its historical precursors in England and France, industrialization in Germany occurred late, quickly, and thoroughly". Early German history can be traced back to the House of the Hohenzollern. A family of German rulers, originating as a family of counts in Swabia in the 11th or 12th century. The Hohenzollerns ruled Prussia and eventually united and ruled Germany until the end of World War I. Their strong, rigidly disciplined armies gave Prussia a reputation for military excellence. During the 16th and 17th centuries, territorial rulers and city councils in Germany expanded their authority, often in conjunction with religious changes stemming from the Reformation. At the same time, capitalism expanded and the population grew, resulting in widespread inflation throughout the period and a greater polarization of wealth within German society. The trouble began in Protestant Bohemia, which is now the Czech Republic. In 1619 the Czechs refused to accept the Catholic Ferdinand II as king or future emperor. In 1618 they had set up their own government, supported by several Protestant states. This also marks the beginning of the Thirty Years' War. The long war ended in a draw, finalized by the Peace of Westphalia in 1648. By the terms of the treaty, the sovereignty and independence of each of the almost 300 states of the Holy Roman Empire were fully recognized, leaving the emperor virtually powerless. The war had several devastating effects on Germany. Economically and socially, Germany lost about one-third of its people to war, famine, and emigration as well as much of its livestock, capital, and trade. Many towns, especially in the north, were destroyed or bankrupt, and manufacturing and middle-class investment was extremely low. The Hohenzollern family, which had been granted Brandenburg in the 15th century, also held a number of other territories in the west. Outside the empire to the east, the Hohenzollerns had inherited Prussia as a Polish duchy in 1618 and converted it into an independent kingdom in 1701. Gradually, all the Hohenzollern lands came to be known as the kingdom of Prussia. This was one of the first steps of progress toward the...

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