From East Germans to Germans?

The New Postcommunist Elites

From East Germans to Germans?

Book Pages: 304 Illustrations: 21 tables Published: September 1999

European Studies > History of Europe, Politics > Political Science

In 1990 Germany launched an experiment to transplant democracy into a formerly communist country, effectively dismantling the system of the German Democratic Republic and rebuilding it in the likeness of the democratic Federal Republic of Germany. From East Germans to Germans? examines the role of the first generation of democratically elected political elites in the former GDR’s transition to democracy.
Although the quick transplant of a ready-made democratic system supported by West German financial backing and expertise provided benefits, problems arose for the development of postcommunist political leadership and for the growth of mass support for the democratic system. Jennifer A. Yoder analyzes the implications of the transition process for democratic legitimation and integration. Based on field research in East Germany that included interviews with parliamentarians, her study addresses issues such as culture, identity, and the lack of continuity between the old and new political elites. Although the availability of West German role models, together with pressure to conform, allowed the process of decommunization to occur much faster than elsewhere in Eastern Europe, the cultural differences between east and west are more extensive and complex than previously assumed. Unification has also been followed by a reinvigoration of regional interests. Yoder shows how some political elites have adopted western German patterns, while others openly criticize many of the practices and policies originating in Bonn and present themselves as democratic alternatives and advocates for East German interests in the new Germany. Indeed, for many East Germans, these new regional elites are regarded as the only representatives of their interests in the western-dominated political system.
Providing insight into elite-building at a time of transition and a valuable alternative to the “institutions versus culture” debate found in traditional analyses of political change, this book will interest political scientists and students and scholars of European politics and German studies.


From East Germans to Germans? is essential reading for those interested in the German transition. It is well-organized and lucidly written.” — Thomas Banchoff , European Community Studies Association Review

“[P]rovide[s] unique insight into democratization and marketization in eastern Germany . . . . [It] will be of benefit to those examining institutional and societal development in postcommunist countries or those who have a specific interest in the German experience.” — Thomas C. Davis , Governance

“[T]he best analysis of the east German case that we have in English, one that eschews jargon and offers an accessible and comprehensive treatment for students and others embarking on the study of German and east European politics.” — John Higley , Slavic Review

“This book is a superb example of how to dissect what ‘democratization’ means institutionally. Highly recommended.” — J. Bendix , Choice

"Yoder has many insightful observations about the experience, motivation, action and views of the East German Landtag members and others. . . ." — Jonathan Osmond , German History

“An impressive and important piece of work. This book will significantly enhance the literature on the subject of postcommunist transition and facilitate the understanding of a process that is often misunderstood, especially in the very unique circumstance of the former GDR. To my knowledge there is no analogous study in the English language.” — Ilya Prizel, Johns Hopkins University

“Much of the recent literature on postcommunist ‘transitions to democracy’ simply ignores the East German experience, apparently assuming that reunification provided East Germans with an easy and ready-made route to democratic capitalism and that little may be learned about transitions from the German experience. Yoder rejects this simplistic notion, filling a serious gap in the transition literature and doing so with intelligence, insight, and style.” — Jane Dawson, University of Oregon


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Jennifer A. Yoder is Assistant Professor of Government at Colby College in Maine.

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Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-2372-3 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-2351-8
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