Turning To the Atlantic: The Federal Republic's Ideological Reorientation, 1945-1970

Anselm Doering-Manteuffel

In the fall of 1998 Germany went to the polls. The September 27 parliamentary election will perhaps be described by future historians as a pivotal event in post-1945 German history. Coming not quite ten years after the collapse of East Germany and the unification of the two postwar German states, this was the election - it will presumably be said - that effected the transition from the "Bonn Republic" to the "Berlin Republic." At any event, in the weeks following the election there was a widespread public feeling that now - and only now - had the erstwhile West Germany's history come to an end and that from this point on the new, united Germany would begin to assume its sociopolitical contours.1 This feeling may well have been linked to the fact that, even before the vote, most people had wanted to terminate the era of Chancellor Helmut Kohl.

On a subliminal level, however, other key factors were at work. Over the last few years a change in ideological orientation has occurred within German society, in its political parties and its associations. This change has taken place not so much among the antagonists of the old Cold War camps - the communists on the East German side and the anticommunists in West Germany - but rather in the political center and left-of-center in western German society. Here I speak of Christian Democrats on one side and various Social Democratic and trade unionist groups on the other. All had adopted the Atlantic-oriented model for structuring society, economy, and the state in the 1950s and 1960s and, in so doing, had taken leave of certain traditional orientations reaching back to the era that began with the founding of the German Empire.2

The current shift in ideological orientation involves a critical examination of this "turning to the Atlantic." The latter had been furthered by certain sections in West German society since the 1950s and was eventually adopted by the majority of the population. For the people of the former German Democratic Republic (GDR), the "Atlantic Turn" remained a foreign concept. The Soviet bloc formed a powerful barrier against Western ideas and influences. The sharp contrast between "West" and "East" in contemporary Germany leads back to this historical development.

The domestic problems confronting present-day Germany do not exclusively concern prosperity and employment opportunities but rather the perception of the sociopolitical order of the old Federal Republic. Is freedom synonymous with the right to private property? And must the free-market economy therefore be the foundation upon which economic and social order is based? Is democracy tied to the self-determination of the individual citizen? And is this, along with the rule of law, the fundamental principle on which the order of society and of the state is predicated? Over the coming years we may expect a thorough intertwining of the ideological foundations of western and eastern Germany. Whereas, as a consequence of European unification and the existence of the European-Atlantic alliance, the Western orientation of the German state has not been called into question, the "Westernness" of German society is currently undergoing revision in the face of a different type of ideological self-perception. There is no lack of voices cautioning against the formation of a new German "special identity" that desires to distance itself from the West, which would inevitably cause Germany to redefine its role within the societies of the European-Atlantic alliance.3 In my view such a scenario, although it seems somewhat exaggerated, cannot be entirely dismissed. It is against the background of the present context that I now turn to my subject. I intend here is to present the most significant characteristics of the process of ideological transformation that took place within postwar West German society. This transformation did not - this is my thesis - result primarily from American occupation policy but rather from contacts and cooperation among elite circles of American, West European, and German intellectuals. These circles did not operate on the government level. Perhaps this is why, until now, one has heard so little of them and why their activities have gone relatively unnoticed by historical research. What has so far escaped attention is the extent of their influence. This is most likely because the period during which their effects were greatest was not the occupation years (1945-9) but rather the decade thereafter. Thus, their impact could really only be assessed later during the 1960s.4

One could even say that the historical profile of the old Federal Republic was largely shaped by this transformation (and the concomitant change in political and social values). This profile was distinctly different from that of the Weimar Republic and the former East Germany.

There is one important aspect of German postwar history that I intentionally ignore. We are all aware that the history of West Germany must be considered on two levels. On the one hand, there is the problem of the nation-state: more specifically, the division of Germany and its reunification. In the international parlance of the years between 1949 and 1989, the common word for this was "the German Question."5 On the other hand, there is the problem of Germany's integration into the West, which was effected in the economic, military, political, and ideological spheres. Here, I shall concentrate only on the latter. My specific intention is to draw a one-dimensional picture, namely, from the perspective of "Westernization," in order to explain more clearly the complicated process of ideological reorientation.

It is important to grasp the coherence between the various aspects of this development. I therefore begin by sketching the most important areas in which, after both 1945 and 1949, there was a revival of older German traditions - a revival achieved despite various confrontations with the interests and wishes of the Western Allies. In the second part of this essay I describe the activities and impact of these elite groups, whose importance in the Westernization of West German society has been great.


In the years between 1945 and 1949 the foundations of the democratic state and the social market economy were laid by the Germans themselves. This took place in agreement with the Western Allies, especially the Americans. Although the Allies had a clearly recognizable influence on the framework of Germany's constitution and economic system, they left the politicians much leeway with regard to the terms of reconstruction.6 Cooperation between the Western Allies and the Germans intensified as the conflict with the Soviet Union heated up and the division of Germany became a reality. This explains the emergence of a bourgeois and liberal social order, and not a socialist order, in the Western occupation zones.7 Here, anticommunism functioned as a catalyst.

The framework of state and economy was erected by people who had distanced themselves from National Socialism. Some of them had been members of the resistance. After the catastrophe of the Third Reich, their concern was to build a better Germany than the one that had existed after World War I: The Weimar Republic served as a point of reference during the period of reconstruction, yet it also was considered a negative model because its instability paved the way for the Nazi takeover. Given the contemporary example of what was believed to be a totalitarian dictatorship in the Eastern Zone, the framers of the constitution pursued what seemed to be the only right path for West Germany: a strengthening of the liberal and humane elements.8

In 1948 the military governors instructed the Germans to draft a constitution. During consultations the Parliamentary Council sought to secure the agreement of the Allies. However, the constitution itself was basically the work of Germans. It represented the breaks and burdens extant within German democracy. The Parliamentary Council carried out an intensive examination of the national past. Waystations included not only the abortive constitution of the 1848 National Assembly; naturally, too, the deficiencies and frailties of the Weimar constitution, the experience of National Socialism, and the threat posed by the dictatorial system in the Soviet occupation zone also were examined.9 As a result, the Basic Law (Grundgesetz) established a constitutional order intended to systematically guard the state against antidemocratic or dictatorial threats. In the 1950s the constitutional character of the Federal Republic was marked by these realities. Democracy was practiced as a principle of government and administration; steps taken against potential opponents were normally referred to as the need to protect institutions. That is why, in the 1950s, a democratic consciousness had not yet taken root across all of German society.10 Thus, it is no surprise that even at the beginning of the 1960s the population had a formal and passive attitude toward democracy.

The economic system and the organization of the social state also were not imposed by the Western Allies on the Germans. Instead, they were devised by Germans, who in some cases consulted with the occupation authorities and in other cases even worked against the authorities' intentions. The social market economy was a specifically German variant of the market economy, assigning to the state the task of determining the framework within which the economy could operate. Nevertheless, the actual economic process had to remain unfettered by state interference. In this way the German social market economy sharply distinguished itself at once from laissez-faire capitalism and from socialist or communist state monopoly while still managing to differ from Keynesianism. It was put into operation by Ludwig Erhard (later to become federal minister for economic affairs) after the currency reform of 1948.11

In West Germany the social market economy was linked to the reconstruction of the welfare state. Originally, the Western Allies in the Control Council had intended to introduce a unified system of social security throughout Germany according to the model of the Beveridge Report. The German experts successfully rebuffed these plans; they not only found the German system of social security to be superior, but they also saw the tradition of the German welfare state (in place, after all, since the 1880s) as a model for all other industrial nations. During the process of state reorganization in the aftermath of National Socialism, this was one of the very few homegrown traditions Germans could point to with a certain pride. Indeed, this also tells us why Germans across the board - trade unionists, employers, representatives of state administrations - tenaciously defended this plank against the intentions of the Western Allies, thus preserving the tradition of the German welfare system for the Federal Republic.12

Why is it important to point out that reconstruction in Germany was predominantly the work of Germans? It is important because losing sight of this would cast doubt on the results of research into the "Westernization" of West German society. Historians and scholars working in the fields of jurisprudence and economics are indeed skeptical that the basic structure of the state, of the economic and social constitution of the Federal Republic, was extensively marked by Western influences.13 Their point is justified only if one focuses on the initial period of the late forties and early fifties. It is not justified, however, if one considers the longer period spanning from the 1940s to the late 1960s. But it was only then that the historical profile of the Federal Republic began to take shape. In many respects the 1950s showed more similarities with the 1920s and 1930s than with the late 1960s.14 (Consider the monarchical leanings of about 20 percent of the population or writers such as Thomas Mann who were popular after the war but represented a prewar outlook and mentality.)15

On this basis, our assumption is that it was not only the realities of everyday life that visibly changed but also the structures of the Federal Republic from the "German beginnings" between 1945 and 1949 until approximately 1970. From where did these influences derive that had such an effect?


To illustrate the changes beginning in the early 1950s and leading up to the late 1960s, I focus on the development of the two largest parties, the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and, particularly, the Social Democratic Party (SPD) from 1953 until the Grand Coalition (1966-9). Within this fifteen-year period both parties changed both their programmatic and their political self-understanding to a considerable extent. At the outset there existed a sharp contrast between the bourgeois "middle classes" on the one hand and the supporters of "socialism" on the other. At the end of this period, curiously, the two sides were prepared to (and indeed were able to) reach a pragmatic consensus. Not only did this consensus affect daily politics, it also affected structural decisions of general principle: In this respect, the Grand Coalition achieved a great deal.

Initially, this change from ideological confrontation to pragmatic consensus was - this must be emphasized - an expression of the dynamics of reconstruction itself and the socioeconomic process of modernization after the founding of the Federal Republic. It was under these conditions that strong internal driving forces molded West German society in the first two postwar decades.16 This change, to be sure, also ran parallel to the Western orientation in foreign politics, as exemplified by the incorporation of the Federal Republic into the Western Alliance (NATO and the European Economic Community, or EEC).17 In addition, many cultural changes were taking place in everyday life that came under the banner of "Americanism."18 All of this had an influence on the development of the parties and demanded that they remain open to new influences. In this way the ideological elements of a Western orientation, although derived from outside the national context, were able to acquire validity as external driving forces. Thus, older national traditions, which had formed part of the political profiles of the respective parties, gradually receded from view.

In 1953 German voters were called on to cast their votes for or against the Adenauer government - a middle-class coalition of conservative, liberal, and Catholic forces. As in 1949 the elections concerned the state and social profile of the Federal Republic. In 1953 things were still in a state of flux: Integration into the Western Alliance was still inchoate, and the population had as yet seen little of an enduring economic upturn and the widespread prosperity that was promised. Back in 1949 both parties had received approximately 30 percent so that, arithmetically, they were equally placed at the outset.19 The Social Democrats now pitched their electoral campaign at achieving a governing majority, their goal being to introduce a change of course toward a socialistically oriented democratic system. The Christian Democrats campaigned for the consolidation of the social market economy and for the principle of middle-class order they had been attempting to stabilize since 1949. Both parties employed the language of class struggle: The SPD referred to the Adenauer coalition as a "middle-class bloc" (Bürgerblock) bent on capitalistic restoration;20 the Christian Democrats described the SPD as the homegrown political counterpart to the Soviet Union, critically focusing on the call for a state-directed economy in the SPD program. In this way democracy, socialism, and communism were practically identified; by implication, reference was made to a "socialistic bloc" that threatened the social and political order of the Federal Republic. The anticommunism rife in public opinion was thus mobilized against the SPD.21

In this election campaign political arguments of exclusion, together with opposing alignments in a manner reminiscent of the Weimar period, dominated. Although the outcome of the 1953 election was a clear Christian Democratic victory (they increased their vote totals from 30 percent to 45 percent, whereas the Social Democrats remained at 30 percent), the confrontation was repeated in 1957, when the Christian Democrats again picked up additional votes, bringing them to 50 percent, while the Social Democrats stagnated.22 From this point on, a process of transformation within the SPD began. There had already been signs of this as early as 1953, but only from 1957 onward (but then within the space of a few years) did the party undergo far-reaching changes.23 The SPD became a dynamic force with the potential for internal reforms, so much so that the CDU, by contrast, took on an antiquated appearance, both programmatically and in practice. With the Godesberg programmatic reform of November 1959 the Social Democrats divested themselves of whatever remnants of Marxist tradition still remained - in particular, the concept of class society and the perception of themselves as constituting a class party.24 They accepted the market economy, thus clearly embracing the Keynesian concept of state regulation. They also accepted the bourgeois order of the Federal Republic, as established after 1948-9, in that they expressly adopted a positive position toward the churches, among other things. Finally, they embraced both the constitutional reality of the Federal Republic and its integration into the Western Alliance by consenting to the establishment of the Bundeswehr.

Objections to reform came from the left wing of the party, especially from the student union of the SPD. Such groups were unwilling to abandon the Marxist-based planks of the party platform. Later, out of opposition to the Godesberg Program, the "New Left" established itself within the Federal Republic.25

During the transition from the 1950s to the 1960s there also were attempts by the Christian Democrats to undertake party reforms and so stay abreast of the stormy economic upturn and the emerging affluent society. Yet this did not yield any expedient results. After 1945 the party's conception of Christian Democratic policy had been based on a relatively exclusive Catholic doctrine of Natural Law. By 1960, to be sure, the language of this hoary doctrine no longer was in use; yet it could not be overlooked that, confronted with the highly differentiated and pluralistic German society of the 1960s, the party was programmatically and politically outdated.26 In 1965 Chancellor Ludwig Erhard attempted to propagate an alternative to social pluralism, which he called the "Aligned Society" (formierte Gesellschaft). But no one understood precisely what he meant by this term, and it became increasingly obvious - indeed from the beginning of the 1960s - that the CDU had lost its ideological bearings. The period of reconstruction, with its primary appeal to national tradition within the parties and society, was over.27

Until now I have focused on the development of the Federal Republic and the attendant internal dynamic - which in 1959 caused the Social Democrats to reform their party program but which, in the case of the Christian Democrats, led to more confusion and uncertainty with regard to future policy. This internal dynamic was the result of West Germany's stabilization within the Western Alliance; of the economic boom during the period of reconstruction; of social change brought about by the integration of expellees from the east; and of pluralization as well as emerging affluence. However, to explain the changes that took place within the Federal Republic during the 1960s merely by pointing to these internal factors would be to oversimplify. My thesis is that the direction these changes took was essentially determined by external factors.

Throughout the 1950s and early 1960s it was not only in West Germany but in all of Western Europe that belief systems emerged at large advocating the restructuring of state, economy, and society. These belief systems appeared in Europe at the time of the Marshall Plan and were discussed among intellectuals on the liberal left and the left, but chiefly within the unions and social democratic groups. From the beginning of the 1960s, and for almost a decade thereafter, these ideas influenced habits of political argumentation and behavior. At stake was the system of "consensus liberalism," whose origins lay in the global economic crisis of the 1930s and the New Deal.28 As it stood at the end of World War II, consensus liberalism called for state planning within the framework of a social system predicated on political and economic freedom.29 The reason for its enormous impact on the Europe of the 1950s and 1960s was that it combined different ideological elements. On the economic plane, deep-seated liberal convictions of Anglo-American origin were linked to the Keynesian concept of partnership among workers, business owners, and the state (with a clear bias against socialism). Private property, market economy, the state as partner in economic life, and social and economic planning - these were fused into a single ideology directed, on the one hand, at prying Western European socialists and social democratic parties away from their Marxist traditions and immunizing them against communism during the Cold War; on the other hand, it was also directed at overcoming the traditional notion of class society still widespread among Europeans of the period. The idea of class struggle was transformed into a consensus among social groups on the basis of such fundamental values as freedom, law, private property, and the "pursuit of happiness," with a clear commitment to continuous social progress. The various elements of the theory of liberal consensus - with reference here to West Germany - helped overcome communist propaganda filtering in from East Germany and the Soviet Union, plus older national traditions left over from Wilhelmine Germany and the Weimar Republic, by offering a clear model for purposes of ideological orientation. These traditions not only included the continued relevance of certain modes of argumentation and attitudes derived from confrontation within class society, as could be observed during the election campaigns of 1953 and 1957, but also the national consciousness of the Germans, who found themselves in many ways culturally opposed to the West. Although this Sonderbewußtsein had reached its peak in the so-called ideas of 1914, it was to continue to exert ideological influence into the 1960s. It was only with the Fischer controversy of 1961, which centered on Germany's responsibility for the outbreak of World War I, that these ideas were rejected.30

Two of the most important forums for the dissemination of the ideas of liberal consensus were the Congress for Cultural Freedom (CCF) and the Labor Network in Europe, where AFL and CIO unionists cooperated with the Association of German Unions as well as the unions of other West European countries. The CCF and its German members are my primary concern here.31

The communication centers of the CCF comprised intellectual circles of journalists, writers, and artists, as well as functionaries of the union associations and leftist politicians. From the 1950s onward they congregated at the offices of this organization. The headquarters were located in Paris; the principal German office was located in Berlin; and there were others in Cologne, Frankfurt, and Hamburg. The intellectual circles were centered on the editorial staff of the congress journals: Preuves (France), Tempo Presente (Italy), Forum (Austria), Encounter (England), and Der Monat (Germany).32 Among the network of personalities important in Germany were such American and European intellectuals as Daniel Bell, John Dewey, Sidney Hook, Melvin Lasky, Edward Shils, and Shepard Stone on the American side; and Franz Borkenau, Arthur Koestler, and Ignazio Silone - early "fellow travelers" who, during the Cold War, were the fiercest anticommunists - as well as Raymond Aron and Bertrand de Jouvenel on the European side. In particular, many German personalities were met who had survived the Third Reich in exile and then had returned to Germany after 1945 with the intent to assist the process of renewal and change. None contemplated reviving the conceptual framework of the Weimar Republic, and none desired to pick up where they had been forced to leave off in 1933. They were in search of a state and social order in Germany quite different from that of the Weimar Republic. The network of personalities on the German side included Willy Brandt, mayor of Berlin; Max Brauer, the mayor of Hamburg; Fritz Reuter, former mayor of Berlin (Brandt's predecessor); and Ludwig Rosenberg, a member of the Federal Committee of the German Association of Unions. All were Social Democrats. In addition there were numerous artists: architects such as Georg Meistermann; musicians such as Nicolai Nabokov; writers such as Theodor Plievier and Siegfried Lenz; and - of special importance - some professors from the recently founded Free University of Berlin, such as Ernst Fraenkel, Richard Löwenthal, Franz Neumann, Edwin Redslob, and Otto Suhr. As a result of the intellectual exchange among these men, their journalistic activities, and especially their personal politics, singular ideas from within the context of consensus liberalism could be brought into circulation and flexibly aligned with the German realities of the time. But there was never a systematic adoption in the sense of American constitutional ideas being directly taken over. For that reason this process ran its course fairly inconspicuously. Naturally, ideas deriving from the context of consensus liberalism increasingly corresponded to the realities of the day - among these were the fact of dynamic economic development, which, for this reason appeared to require state regulation; then, too, the emergence of a more or less broad-based, middle-class society, thereby rendering meaningless ideological recourse within domestic policy to a bloc confrontation between socialist and bourgeois principles.33

The more the SPD came under pressure to adapt after the lost elections of 1953 and 1957 - it had plainly fallen out of step with the realities created by the Adenauer government - the more arguments from within the context of this "Western" or "Atlantic" conceptual framework began to carry weight. This was particularly so in the case of Willy Brandt, but also in that of numerous other functionaries within and outside the SPD, and it applies to the manner in which they influenced public opinion at the beginning of the 1960s. To be sure, the programmatic reform of the SPD in 1959 clearly was not the immediate result of these influences because reform involved, first and foremost, effecting a concrete realignment to the new conditions of the Federal Republic.34 Yet, as I have already indicated, the direction in which the program was headed - renunciation of Marxist positions, acceptance of the market economy and a middle-class social order - was visibly influenced by the body of thought based on Atlantic consensus liberalism. In 1960 Brandt became the SPD candidate in the federal elections of 1961. His slogan for this election and for the succeeding years was novel and unusual: "Community of interest," which indicated a readiness to cooperate with the bourgeois parties and, more concretely, with the Christian Democrats. At the 1960 party convention, he said: "The younger generation do in fact want community of interest."35 This signaled a willingness to renounce ideological confrontation with the other political parties. It therefore is hardly surprising that the beginning of the 1960s saw a lively interest in Daniel Bell's book, The End of Ideology, particularly among intellectual circles of the liberal left within the Federal Republic.36 Under the banner of "community of interest," the SPD had renounced "ideology" and instead pleaded for pragmatic social reform.

Thus, the Christian Democrats were placed under strong and, for them, unusual pressure to realign. Since the SPD's Godesberg Program, the CDU no longer could attack the Social Democrats as a party with a Marxist identity; at the same time, the conservative Catholic identity of the Christian Democrats appeared antiquated when compared to the modern pragmatism of the SPD.37 Between 1960 and 1965 the voices in the CDU pleading for "realistic politics" and openness to "compromise" became louder: "Realistic politics" (sachliche Politik) and compromise were synonymous with "freedom from ideology" and "consensus." This faction kept its distance from both the Catholic wing of the party, which had continued to orient itself strongly to the tradition of the Center Party during the Weimar Republic, and the liberal economists around Ludwig Erhard. Although they remained a minority, they were an influential minority.38 Among them were such political figures as Kai Uwe von Hassel (later minister of defense), Gerhard Schröder (secretary of the interior under Adenauer, then secretary of state, and, lastly, minister of defense), Gerhard Stoltenberg (later minister for science and research, minister for finance, and minister of defense), and Richard von Weizsäcker (later federal president). They favored a "Grand Coalition" between the CDU and the SPD, and from 1966 onward (with the exception of Weizsäcker) took up positions within this coalition. The broad-based reform politics of this government between 1966 and 1969 were founded on the readiness in both parties to fashion a "liberal consensus."

In the driver's seat was the Keynesian concept of state regulation. The latter had already been adopted by the SPD before the Godesberg Program reform as an economic alternative to the neoliberalism of Erhard. Faced with the first economic crisis of the postwar boom, from 1965 on it was increasingly accepted by the Christian Democrats, too. In 1967, when the Grand Coalition passed the "Act for the Furtherance of Stability and Growth in the Economy" (Gesetz zur Förderung der Stabilität und des Wachstums der Wirtschaft), not only had a significant modification been made to the economic constitution of the Federal Republic, but the tradition of ideologically derived antagonism has also been consigned to the past: Pragmatic consensus based on mutually recognized fundamental social values had become possible.39 Despite opposition in the daily business of politics, this consensus between the parties on the foundation of the country's social constitution was to remain intact until the old Federal Republic ceased to exist in 1990. Parallel to this readjustment within the parties, society itself underwent profound change in the 1960s. The rigid view of democracy as a principle of government and administration, which I mentioned at the outset as having characterized the 1950s, gradually gave way to a view of democracy as the cornerstone of both state and society. Authoritarian patterns of behavior, long considered national traditions and indeed deeply rooted in the society of the German Reich, receded. They were increasingly replaced by a culture of discussion, participation, and reconciliation. When Brandt was inaugurated as chancellor of the Social Democrat-Liberal coalition in 1969, he made the famous statement: "We will dare more democracy" (Wir wollen mehr Demokratie wagen). He was not referring to a program for the future with this statement; rather, he was responding to the prevailing social trends of the 1960s.

One cannot, of course, explain the dynamic transformation of West German society during the 1960s as having stemmed solely, or even largely, from this evolution of political thought - the underlying factors were undoubtedly structural. The West European social order - wherever one looked, from northern Italy to Scandinavia, from the United Kingdom to France, from the Benelux countries to Germany - was characterized by economic prosperity and an effective social security system, as well as an unmistakable trend toward a service- and leisure-oriented society. Nevertheless, these structural factors supplied a platform for changed understandings of the kind to which I have alluded. Thus, the socioeconomic consolidation following the Marshall Plan, plus the sociocultural rapprochement between the nations of western Europe (considered as social entities), overlapped temporally in all these countries. The main challenges of the 1950s were to restore order, rebuild, and stake out clear ideological bloc allegiances. In the 1960s the tendency was to replace European traditions of class society with the new phenomenon of a consensus-oriented, more-or-less apolitical society. In Germany the latter was often referred to as Wohlstandsgesellschaft. Toward the end of the decade, however, an opposition movement formed composed of young people, chiefly at universities, who spurned obsession with economic prosperity and the scant enthusiasm shown for any political or ideological critique of society's shortcomings, much less those of the ruling "establishment." This movement called into question the prevailing ideological consensus. It assumed a neo-Marxist position implacably opposed to bourgeois society and capitalism. The establishment, they said, stood for the nexus of capitalism and the bourgeoisie; worse yet, in the establishment they included all the principal social groupings: academics, the clergy, industrialists, parliamentarians of all political parties represented in the Bundestag, schoolteachers, and trade unionists. Although the Western-based "New Left," which had originated in America at the beginning of the 1960s and then migrated to Europe, attacked bourgeois society, it no longer did so in the name of the "proletariat" because the affluent society had stripped this category of its existential relevance. This is why the unrest that came at the end of the 1960s was expressed as a revolution in lifestyle, not as a revolution against the prevailing economic and social order. The "movement of '68" therefore locked itself into a dialectical relationship with the liberal consensus as a conceptual framework for society.40

The ideological reorientation of the Federal Republic during the 1950s was a complex political and social process involving significant change over some fifteen years. These were not only due to the political influence the Western Allies exerted through re-education programs, with American Information Centers (Amerika-Häuser) playing an important role. Even more important in this regard was the fact that the Cold War gave the West Germans and western Europeans little room for independent action. In order to ward off the Soviet threat, they were obliged to align themselves with the United States. Thus, anticommunism became the prime and most effective impetus behind the gravitation toward the Atlantic in Germany and the political integration of western Europe. Moreover, at the end of World War II a more defined concept of the future world order and of America's dominant international role in it emerged in the United States. This is why the framework to which consensus liberalism belonged inevitably affected all the states in the European-Atlantic alliance. In Germany, this influence proved especially decisive because, as a result of Nazism, the war, and the country's subsequent division, people had forfeited their national identity. Whereas they still sought after 1945 to bring about reconstruction through recourse to national tradition, by the second half of the 1950s it was obvious that this tradition itself required reform if German society intended to derive its future bearings from the Western Alliance.

By 1970 this process of ideological reorientation in West Germany had essentially been completed. As of the late 1960s and early 1970s political and social changes and ideological modifications had generally been carried out in the same way as in other Western countries. This remained the case until 1990 - the year of German unification. For Germany the end of the East-West conflict created a very new situation, not only in foreign but also (and especially) in domestic policy. The "Berlin Republic" will definitely look very different from the "Bonn Republic." This also will have an impact on Germany's ideological orientation toward the West.

To conclude, I would like to point to a contemporary example I briefly mentioned at the beginning of this essay. In the course of the 1990s it has become apparent that there are in unified Germany two variants of Social Democratic identity: On the one hand, the western German SPD has been unable to establish its Western world view or its political profile in eastern Germany. On the other hand, the eastern Social Democrats began to ignore the biggest taboo of West German politics - cooperation with communists. They first broke this taboo on the local level, then on the regional/state level, and now they have broken it, to a certain degree, on the federal level as well. The Western-oriented SPD in the former West Germany simply expected similar behavior from Social Democratic easterners. Yet, many of the latter repudiated the politics of their leaders in Bonn. Instead, they sought cooperation, and later a formal coalition, with the former East German communists, the Party of Democratic Socialism (PDS). This is because eastern German democratic socialists are much more familiar with Marxism, and its antagonism to the market economy, than with Keynesianism and the politics of liberal consensus. This attitude is far more an expression of the easterners' life experience than a desire to hold on to the ideological aspects of the old system. Since 1990 the Western system - parliamentary democracy and the market economy - has been fully introduced into eastern Germany. One must therefore interpret this recourse to the remnants of "socialist realism" as an expression of resistance to a comprehensive loss of cultural identity.

One cannot rob the easterners of their history. This history is no less connected to continual ideological anti-Western propaganda than West German history is connected to anticommunism. The experience of a people cannot be subjected to taboo. Thanks to this realization, there is in western Germany a new readiness to tolerate political cooperation with the heirs of the state party of the former GDR. Earlier I mentioned Richard von Weizsäcker, who during the 1960s had been a Christian Democratic protagonist of consensus cooperation with the SPD. In his capacity as a former federal president, he appealed at the beginning of 1998 for the PDS to be accepted as a legitimate political force and to be integrated into the conceptual framework of the new Federal Republic. This was a courageous attempt to combine patriotism with ideological Westernism. At the same time, the underlying development is not devoid of irony.

Weizsäcker was, as we have seen, the product of a consensus ideology that served to strengthen the Western identity of West Germans. But the current politics of harmony is being used to bridge the gap with eastern German politics and self-understanding. One might even speak of a dialectic of consensus - first in the bulk of West German society and now between factions in the two halves of the new Germany. If this progresses further, and that should be our hope, it will make the Berlin Republic a strong force within the Western Alliance.

"Mehr Sozialgeschichte Wagen": Comment on "Turning to the Atlantic: The Federal Republic's Ideological Reorientation 1945-1970," by Anselm Doering-Manteuffel

Charles S. Maier


Anselm Doering-Manteuffel's essay poses an important question: When did the Federal Republic of Germany (FRG) become a democracy - that is, not just a formal democracy with a constitution and human rights inscribed in its Basic Law, but a democracy in spirit, with citizens who internalized democratic convictions and sentiments? It is clear that West Germany did not have much choice in the late l940s but to adopt democratic forms. The disastrous defeat of l945 and the subjection to Allied occupation (as well as the democratic convictions of many Germans hitherto forced into silence at home or by emigration abroad) meant that West Germany would at least initially adopt a liberal regime. But this institutional option could not immediately convert "hearts and minds." When they praise the Federal Republic as a democratic society today, observers mean that its citizens really believe in democracy. Doering-Manteuffel rightly understands that this inner conviction necessarily grew more slowly and proposes that it is a product of the second decade after the war, not the first. That is, he suggests that inner democratization was achieved not under the Occupation and the first five years of the FRG, but from the mid-1950s to mid-1960s. I believe he is correct. His chronology, moreover, has important historiographical implications. As he suggests, it implies that the democratic consciousness of the early 1950s had not advanced much beyond that of the late Weimar Republic. Nineteen forty-five's "Stunde Null" fades in importance as an internal German development, although, of course, it remains the precondition for later democratization. In these respects, this essay asks an important question and provides the right answer.

To what agents does Doering-Manteuffel ascribe this democratic transformation? He focuses on two sources of change: first, on the changes within the main political parties of the FRG; second, on the interaction among key elites within German and American society, that is, to the links of intellectuals and trade unionists with such groups as the Congress for Cultural Freedom (CCF). Underlying both, however, is a growing acceptance across the German political spectrum of "consensus liberalism," that is, on the muting of ideological confrontation on behalf of a broad political tolerance.

Doering-Manteuffel's paper stresses the German contribution to this transatlantic democratic dialog, including "the revival of older German traditions," sometimes against the wishes of the Allies; it especially cites the social market economy and the tradition of welfare capitalism that it drew upon. This was less dependent on the British model adumbrated in the Beveridge Plan and more upon German initiatives from Bismarck onward. Insofar as "Westernization" played an important role, Doering-Manteuffel argues, its decisive impact made itself felt only over the long period extending into the l960s. I agree that the German traditions deserve emphasis. Federalism, after all, had as long and weighty a political tradition in Germany as in the United States: The Herrenchiemsee drafters and the American occupying authorities shared the same ideas about restoring the role of state and local government. We know that such socioeconomic concepts as the Ordoliberalismus important in Ludwig Erhard's circle drew on peculiar German roots and not Anglo-American economic traditions. Indeed, the argument could be pushed further: Insofar as American economic ideas included a reformist thrust, some of the impetus derived from the early exposure of reformers, such as Richard Ely or Charles Beard, to German welfarist and good-government concepts in the l880s and l890s.1 So too British and German reformers exerted a mutual impact in the late nineteenth century: One need recall only Eduard Bernstein's discovery of the Fabians or William Dawson's description of municipal and welfare institutions in Germany. Protestant reform and social work also was a common product. There was indeed a rich tradition of shared social reform.

Examining the political parties, Doering-Manteuffel attributes particular importance to the Grand Coalition from l966 to l969. These years of political cooperation would not have been possible unless the large parties had moved away from their early confrontational stance. In the first elections of the Federal Republic both parties employed the language of class struggle: The SPD accused the CDU of being a narrow Bürgerblock that wanted a defense of property and a simple restoration, and the CDU proposed that the members of the SPD were Marxist cousins of the communists who threatened the social order. By the late l950s the SPD was ready to adopt its Godesberg Program, bidding farewell to long enshrined notions of collectivization. A new group of pragmatic leaders - Ernst Reuter, the mayor of Berlin, and his protégé Willy Brandt, among others - were leading the party out of this obvious dead end. Within the CDU a new cadre, including Ludwig Erhard and, later, Gerhard Stoltenberg, Kai-Uwe von Hassel, and Richard von Weizsäcker, called for sachliche Politik (practical politics). This farewell to confrontation in both parties, Doering-Manteuffel suggests, culminated during the period of the Grand Coalition, which necessarily forced enough agreement on basic principles to confirm consensus liberalism.

Where did the new pragmatism originate? The author points to the growing interaction among key German and American elites, which strikes me as plausible, although I am uncertain whether the intellectuals of the CCF played so crucial a role. It is hard to believe that such sophisticated thinkers as Daniel Bell or Edward Shils and others, important though their ideas were, would have had so catalytic an effect on democratization. In any case, to cite these intellectuals' roles demonstrates how difficult it becomes to distinguish between the networks of civil society and the impact of high politics. For the ideas of CCF adherents were in many ways a by-product of the Cold War. The search for pluralism, the effort to back away from ideological thinking, reflected the Soviet-American confrontation as well as many of their earlier brushes with radicalism in the 1930s. And the public diffusion of their concepts through magazines such as Der Monat and the many conferences that took place depended on financing through the Ford Foundation, whose leadership had virtually enlisted as a government auxiliary in the Cold War, and on secret sources from the CIA.

I would suggest that from World War II through the l960s American ideological production represented a symbiotic effort on the part of public and private sources. American hegemony, in effect, conscripted the intellectuals, many of whom dropped their traditional critical stance toward the state, such that it remains difficult to distinguish between official and civic mobilization. Shepard Stone is a good example of the tireless intellectual organizer who deployed private and public resources alike to strengthen German democracy and its containment of both Left and Right. The totalitarian threat first of Nazism and then of Soviet Communism encouraged a fusion of private and public ideology in the West as well. The story thus requires us to think about the interaction of foreign policy and domestic policy, and of state and society, a bit more fluidly than Doering-Manteuffel allows.


Doering-Manteuffel's focus on parties also gives too short a shrift, I believe, to other key developments: some political or judicial, although not in the realm of party politics, and many societal. Let me cite some of the political and judicial events that I believe played a key role precisely in the decade that the author identifies as crucial. One was the 1963 Spiegel Affair, which signaled that editors and the public would not tolerate high-handed moves against the press, even in the name of national security. Others included the protracted Auschwitz and Maidanek trials, which meant that Germans themselves were seriously investigating and prosecuting war criminals. Moreover, in a rather unprecedented break, parliament did not invoke the usual statutes of limitation (Verjährung) to avoid this confrontation with the past. The inner democratization that Doering-Manteuffel seeks to describe required a serious confrontation with the past on the part of Germans themselves, and although much resistance to such scrutiny continued, the trials of the 1960s represented a major step forward.

More generally, I would have preferred greater emphasis on the contemporary social transformations within the Federal Republic. The author acknowledges that political change went apace with "structural" factors, among which he cites "economic prosperity and effective social security as well as an unmistakable trend to a service- and leisure-oriented society." I would encourage a more detailed look at some of these trends: The spread of television, of automobile ownership, vacation travel, and the expansion of higher education and student exchanges. Despite the Wirtschaftswunder, these were really developments of the 1960s, which certainly fits Doering-Manteuffel's chronology. Democratic society is mass society, and for perhaps the first time in its history Germany was becoming a mass society in the modern sense, not just a society where masses were created by political mobilization.


However, as the author recognizes, taking note of these developments requires the historian to place the Federal Republic within a broader framework. Germany had a particular democratic "deficit" to overcome, but it did so by participation in trends that gripped most Western societies. Some were political: The role of parties changed throughout the Western world. The end of ideology was not just a German phenomenon. Otto Kirchheimer discussed the decline of principled opposition on the part of the SPD within the context of the growth of catch-all parties in most advanced industrial societies.2 The accumulation of wealth in the l950s; the massive growth of university enrollments; the possibilities for individual fulfillment represented first by youth's motor scooters then by family cars and travel to vacation beaches; the profound changes in formal religious organization - above all, the revolution within Roman Catholicism that we associate with Pope John XXIII; the beginnings of a more open approach to sexuality; the conviction that society must become more representative - all these were common developments in the West. Italy, too, was undergoing a similar efflorescence, and the phrases it generated, "La dolce vita" and the "apertura a sinistra" or "opening to the Left," indicate different aspects of the transformation.

Throughout the Western world, in effect, political aspirations tended to change. It was as if the l950s had required a vast investment in collective discipline: The men and women of that decade needed to reconstruct societies physically and thus work to accumulate national capital; they needed to draw sharp political and military lines against the new threat of Soviet Russia; and they tended to reinforce traditional morality and family structure after the war had blurred gender roles as women entered the work force and headed families in difficult circumstances. Nonetheless, after a decade of such intense sociopsychical and political effort, there was a reaction to such collective effort: less discipline, a partial shift from heroic accumulation to private consumption or social spending, and less Cold War Abgrenzung and more inclusiveness. In foreign policy the shift from Hallstein Doctrine to Ostpolitik was a salient political example of such changed priorities.

These changes helped to democratize Germany, but not just Germany. In the United States they helped to advance democracy in the major area of civic life where democracy had been excluded, that is, race relations. In Italy they undermined the close connection between the Catholic Church and the Christian Democratic Party and legitimated working-class participation in government. In England they slowly began the process of weakening class hierarchies maintained by Oxbridge education and family lineage. In France they helped ensure that the new constitutional regime of the Fifth Republic did not become simply reactionary but rather a broader expression of social aspirations. Germany began its democratic transition from a different starting point, to be sure, but responded to many of the same forces that gripped all Western societies. The world transformed itself in the latter 1960s; it spun, so to speak, from a tight sociopolitical orbit into a larger one. With the subsequent impact of globalization, it is still slipping. The merit of this essay is to show us that the transitions of the 1960s may be less postwar history than a prelude to postmodern history.


In conclusion, I would like to raise a difficult question that arises from the issues that this essay so usefully discusses, namely, how do we test the democratization that Doering-Manteuffel seeks to explain, that is, "inner" democratization or the democratization of "hearts and minds"? As its essential quality, the author seems to posit a concept of reconciliation, that is, the willingness to reach across the party divide and seek common ground. This is the meaning of "consensus liberalism;" it was the change that took place, as he describes it, in both major parties during the late l950s and l960s; it was the sine qua non of the Grand Coalition. And, so he states, it remains today the prerequisite for incorporating the former East Germany into the enlarged Federal Republic. I agree with him: If democracy involves reconciliation, then anathematizing the PDS is probably counterproductive. (Of course reconciliation has its limits: I cannot imagine that the author would have wanted to tolerate a revived Nazi Party after l945.) Nevertheless, reconciliation is important.3

However, I would propose that mobilization also is important. Modern democracies are tested at times in the streets or by other major acts of participation, such as marches or fundamental electoral campaigns. Democracy does not require, and indeed cannot sustain, continuous mass demonstrations, but it does sometimes build on the willingness to confront power directly. The American civil rights movement, the German Lichterketten against neo-Nazi violence several years ago, and the East Germans' earlier demonstrations in Leipzig are testimonies of democratization. But just as reconciliation can in theory go too far, so open political contention also can become problematic: Were the student demonstrations of the late l960s always a testimony to democratization? It is true, I believe, that more democratic societies can result from uncomfortable public conflict, but so too can more intolerant ones. Indeed, mobilization and reconciliation, and contention and tolerance, can work at cross purposes in a modern democracy. Nonetheless, mature democracies probably have to experience both. At the end, Doering-Manteuffel's essay challenges us to think about what exactly constitutes democratization. This is not primarily a historical question, but we can answer it only with reference to history. This essay prods that inquiry.