The return of the “German question” has been one of the most dramatic features of the last decade of crisis. It is a question about German power. It is, inevitably, a question about a German special path.
On the one hand this question takes a positive form. How do we explain Germany’s apparently positive trajectory of economic success and its high-functioning democratic governance? What does it mean for a country repeatedly to choose a figure such as Angela Merkel as its political leader? With its labour markets humming, exports booming and budget in surplus, Germany is, once more, a model and its is unafraid to say so.
On the other hand there are persistent worries about German domination and nagging questions about the logic of German economic strategy. Why is Germany strangling the Eurozone?
Inside Germany the election of 2017 has revealed some of the resistance to Merkel’s regiment. Support for the two leading parties of the old Federal Republic – the CDU/CSU and the SPD – the bearers of her Grand Coalitions, has fallen to all time lows. German analysts talk about a society divided around the question of modernization.
And these questions are all the more pressing given the far from reassuring dynamic of the three powers that flanked Germany and the European state system throughout the twentieth century – Russia, the United States and Britain.
In writing the forthcoming book about the 2008 crisis and its aftermath I was constantly forced up against the German question and have sketched there a basic set of answers. There wasn’t the space in that book – now retitled as Crashed: How a decade of financial crisis changed the world – to develop the argument at length. Furthermore, Crashed, ends by pointing to the need to completely reORIENT our understanding of twenty-first century economic history. Overcoming cultural and linguistic limitations as best we can, we are going to have to make the intellectual effort to understand a global capitalist dynamic driven fundamentally by Asian growth.
Of course, there is no Western economy for which that is more true than Germany. And, in any case, the German question will not let go of me. I realized looking back that it has been gnawing away at me in various forms for a while. It is, after all, my intellectual home, in more ways than one. So, I am going to use this blog to bring together scattered pieces in which I’ve begun to outline an answer to the German question. This may or may not add up to a book.
As has happened before, as I finish one project, the outline of a new book comes into view. What I worry about is that it is a Fata Morgana, produced by my overheated and exhausted condition. So another function of the blog posts will be to test how robust this is.
Right now the chapter outline would go like this.
Part I Troubled Unity
Chapter 1 Kohl’s reunification and its price
Chapter 2 Blockierte Gesellschaft (Blocked society)
Chapter 3 Red-Green
Chapter 4 Germany the sick man of the Euro
Chapter 5 The West divided: Germany and the travails of the unipolar order from Mexico to Iraq
Part II Agenda 2010
Chapter 6 Hartz IV
Chapter 7 2005: Merkel’s botched turn to the right
Chapter 8 Demographic anxiety and childcare after Communism
Chapter 9 Consolidation state: The birth of austerity out of the spirit of sustainability
Chapter 10 Saving but limiting Europe: The fiasco of the European constitution and the Lisbon Treaty
Part III Germany’s crisis
Chapter 11 Exportweltmeister: Germany’s uneven economic globalization
Chapter 12 2008: a crisis denied
Chapter 13 The debt brake and global austerity politics
Chapter 14 The right returns: 2009 election
Chapter 15 Greece and the nightmares of German history
Chapter 16 The Euro crisis: Does Europe’s hegemon not understand economics?
Part IV Hegemon?
Chapter 17 The sources of Germany’s economic strength and weakness
Chapter 18 AfD: the Euro crisis and the rise of German Euroscepticism
Chapter 19 Putinversteher: Germany in a dangerous world
Chapter 20 2015 annus horribilis
Chapter 21 Wir schaffen das! The refugee crisis.
Chapter 22 2017 the end of the “postwar” Germany?