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Parliamentarization and the Question of German Exceptionalism: 1867–1918

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  16 December 2008

Marcus Kreuzer
Affiliation:
Villanova University

Extract

In a contribution to this journal, Volker Berghahn regretted the fragmentation and lack of focus in the recent research on the German Empire. While he may have overstated his case, his criticism certainly applies to the historiography of Germany's parliamentarization. The dearth of research, especially of recent vintage, has left the debate about the exceptionalism of Germany's governing institutions indeed “fragmented and decentered.” Since Manfred Rauh's two volumes in the 1970s, little has been published. His thesis about Germany's silent parliamentarization has been attacked, it seems, more for the haughtiness of its footnotes than the substance of its argument. As a result, Rauh's provocative interpretation coexists far too quietly with other accounts, and thereby preempts the sort of dialogue and scholarly integration Berghahn so misses. In her response to Berghahn, Margaret Anderson points out that such a dialogue can be found in, without being confined to, the new work of Germany's electoral politics, that looked anew and more skeptically at the exceptional political development of Imperial Germany. Its findings indirectly raise questions about why the development of Germany's governing institutions — the Reichstag, the Bundersat, and the chancellor — continue to be interpreted in much more exceptionalist terms than the evolution of electoral politics.

Type
Articles
Copyright
Copyright © Conference Group for Central European History of the American Historical Association 2003

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References

An earlier and shorter version of this paper, “Und sie parlamentarisiert sich doch: Die Enrwicklung der kaiserlichen Verfassungsordnung in vergleichender Perspektive” has been published in Parlamentarismus in Europa im 19. und 20. Jahrhundert, ed. Recker, Marie-Luise (Munich, forthcoming 2003)Google Scholar. I would like to thank Marie-Luise Recker, Gerhard A. Ritter, and Christoph Schönberger for their comments. As usual, Margaret L. Anderson's copious and thoughtful suggestions helped vastly to improve my argument.

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39. To some readers Table 3 seems to make the common sense-defying assertion that the Reichstag was more powerful than the current Bundestag. This assertion holds only for strictly formal agenda-setting powers. Once the formal powers of government formation and noninstitutional factors like party cohesion, parliamentary norms, or societal polarization are factored in, the Bundestag clearly becomes the more powerful legislature. The Bundestag's limited agenda-setting powers are stressed, however, in various studies. von Beyme, Klaus, “The Role of Deputies in West Germany”, in Parliaments and Parliamentarians in Democratic Politics, ed. Suleiman, Ezra (New York, 1986)Google Scholar; Saalfeld, Thomas, “The West German Bundestag after 40 Years: The Role of Parliament in a ‘Party Democracy’”, West European Politics 13, no. 3 (1990)CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Schüttemeyer, Suzanne, “Hierarchy and Efficiency in the Bundestag: The German Answer for Institutionalizing Parliament”, in Parliaments and the Modern World, ed. Copeland, Gary and Patterson, Samuel (Ann Arbor, 1994)Google Scholar.

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77. I would like to thank Christoph Schönberger and Margaret Anderson for insisting that I address this point more clearly.

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