Becoming Party Politicians
East German State Legislators in the Decade following Democratization
232 pages, 6.00 x 9.00 , 22 tables
Paperback | 9780268025854 | March 2006
After the Berlin Wall fell, scholars flocked to eastern Europe to conduct extensive opinion research on citizens' political attitudes and values. In eastern Germany, post-communist political elites were found to differ from western German politicians, exhibiting greater distrust of both political parties and party discipline, more political intolerance, a preference for economic equality over political freedom, and support for direct rather than representative democracy. These attitudes were expected to be hurdles to democratization.
Yet only limited research has been done to determine whether eastern German politicians' attitudes and values actually influenced their actions. Becoming Party Politicians fills this empirical void by comparing eastern and western German state legislators in the decade following unification. While the two groups hold contrasting attitudes, they serve in virtually identical political institutions. The book finds little evidence to suggest that the political attitudes and values of eastern parliamentarians have hindered their adaptation to united Germany's political system.
Instead, Germany's parliamentary and electoral institutions—together known as the party state—have created disciplined eastern parliamentarians. Placed in these identical parliamentary institutions, both eastern and western German legislators have responded similarly. Legislative voting on issues surrounding political tolerance, direct democracy, and economic equality can now be predicted on the basis of parliamentarians' partisan affiliation rather than their eastern or western origin.
Davidson-Schmich's conclusions, based on personal interviews with state legislators and analysis of parliamentary debates between 1990 and 2002, not only shed light on German politics and the sources of legislator behavior; they also contribute to broader debates involving both the ability of western European political institutions to survive societal change and the influence of political institutions on the consolidation of democracy in post-communist settings.
Louise K. Davidson-Schmich is assistant professor of political science at the University of Miami.
"A volume in the series Contemporary European Politics and Society compares the political attitudes and values of east and west German state legislators after German reunification. Implications for successful democratization and institutional resilience are discussed." —Worldwide Political Science Abstracts
"Contrasts the political attitudes and behavior of the state legislators in eastern and western Germany during the decade following the unification; finds little evidence that the easterners' values have hindered their adaptation to the new system." —The Chronicle of Higher Education
"The emphasis on 'becoming' provides a unique perspective on when and how successful post-communist politicians of eastern Germany learn to function in a new democratic political system. This examination of state-level legislators concentrates on a discrete decade, shared by all post-communist countries, but under the unique circumstances of sudden absorption into west Germany. Using a wide range of materials, Becoming Party Politicians shows how legislators unlearn the anti-party attitudes and habits of the one-party state to become 'party politicians' in a multi-party nation." —David M. Olson, Professor Emeritus, University of North Carolina at Greensboro
"This study builds on earlier research on the implications of the German model of post-communist transition; it asks important questions about the effects of transferring western German political institutions on eastern German legislators' behaviors. In its examination of the integration of two culturally distinct groups, Becoming Party Politicians has relevance well beyond the German case. Davidson-Schmich's analysis is sharp, tightly organized and accessible to undergraduates as well as advanced scholars." —Jennifer A. Yoder, Colby College
"Becoming Party Politicians addresses an intriguing issue that in one form or another faces all new democracies: how, and how successfully, do such regimes acquire and socialize the political elites they need to lead them? In her exploration of that issue, and in her choice of members of east German state parliaments, Davidson-Schmich has written an interesting, well-researched, and well-executed study." —Thomas A. Baylis, University of Wisconsin