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Unit information: Centre of Attraction: Mitte and Mainstream in Germany's Political Culture in 2016/17

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Unit name Centre of Attraction: Mitte and Mainstream in Germany's Political Culture
Unit code GERM30059
Credit points 20
Level of study H/6
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 2 (weeks 13 - 24)
Unit director Dr. Davies
Open unit status Not open




School/department Department of German
Faculty Faculty of Arts


The unit is taught by Dr Christophe Fricker.

The Federal Republic of Germany’s post-war and post-Wende histories are marked by a desire among the elites to define and enforce a notion of the centre ground (‘die Mitte’) designed to serve as the focal point for a resilient democratic public sphere. The ideas and institutions of the German mainstream command considerable traction: they have been seen as a defence against the repetition of mid-century catastrophes, as a bridge between the distinct institutions of community and society (Gemeinschaft and Gesellschaft), and as representing values that must be defended when under threat. The unit explores how these ideas developed into full-scale visions of what Germany is about, and how strong, stable institutions (media, parties, corporations, lobby groups) have deliberately positioned themselves as protagonists of this ever-innovative, increasingly inclusive German mainstream.

The first part of the unit will be dedicated to theories of, and research into, concepts of the political and societal centre ground, while the second part will look at how they are enacted in political and social debates. We will examine critical moments in federal German history when the stability of the ‘centre’ seemed under threat: reactions to surprising election results, controversies around polemical book publications, and the emergence of social media as a venue of political debate. Contemporary media reports and op-ed pieces as well as video and audio documents will be analysed to understand the dynamics of each of these situations.

Aims: In terms of the unit contents, students will gain a nuanced understanding of the Germany of the majority: of a political culture that is not expressed in terms of its extremes. With regard to skills, they will learn how to analyse the validity of concepts from political science and social theory and to apply them to developments that have defined the mindset of Germany today. Participation in debate in a format that allows for short, prepared statements and unhurried response to questions will develop students’ presentation skills, with particular emphasis on engagement in live discussion.

Intended learning outcomes

Successful students will be able to:

a) articulate critical knowledge and systematic understanding of a key
notion in political culture and its significance in German
contemporary history,

b) demonstrate advanced understanding of theories and techniques of
political analysis, and applied them accurately to the period studied,

c) select and synthesise relevant source and secondary material, at a
standard appropriate to level H,

d) evaluate this material critically, applying high-level skills of
independent research and analysis and thus demonstrate a clear grasp
of nuanced political positions,

e) communicate ideas, problems and solutions persuasively in speech,
in the complex context of a live debate,

f) respond to questions or problems by presenting independent
arguments in an appropriate written style and at a high level of
complexity, appropriate to level H.

Teaching details

1x2-hour seminar, weekly.

Assessment Details

1 x oral presentations (ILOs (a)-(e), 25%)

1 x 4,500-word essay. (ILOs (a)-(d) and (f), 75%)

Reading and References

Colvin, Sarah (ed.). Routledge handbook of German politics & culture. New York, NY: Routledge, 2014.

Dörner, Andreas (ed.). Unterhaltungsrepublik Deutschland: Medien, Politik und Entertainment. Bonn: Bundeszentrale für Politische Bildung, 2012.

Forner, Sean A. German intellectuals and the challenge of democratic renewal: Culture and politics after 1945. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2014.

Gebhardt, Jürgen (ed.). Political cultures and the culture of politics: A transatlantic perspective. Heidelberg: Winter, 2010.

Kneuer, Marianne (ed.). Standortbestimmung Deutschlands: Innere Verfasstheit und internationale Verantwortung. Baden-Baden: Nomos, 2015.

Müller, Jan-Werner (ed.). German ideologies since 1945: Studies in the political thought and culture of the Bonn Republic. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2003.

Parkes, Stuart (ed.). Writers and politics in Germany, 1945-2008. Rochester, N.Y.: Camden House, 2009.