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Deutschland-Dialog - New Generation Talks on German Policy Issues

Research Group on German Affairs

13.09.2004 · C·A·P

The "New Generation Talks on German Policy Issues" are interdisciplinary conferences of the Research Group on German Affairs at which young experts in science, journalism, politics and economics discuss German politics in an innovative way. So far five rounds of talks have taken place.

1996: The future of Politics. Where will Germany go?

1997: Basic Values and Load limits of German European politics

1998: Politics and Media

At the third round of talks the conclusion was widely accepted that there is no simple hierachical relation between politics and media. The media lead the politicians by determining the principle criteria that create the news value of a political message. Politicians lead media by staging events and wrapping up their message as marketable products. Media and politics are of good use to each other.

By comparing the political styles of Kohl and Schröder, Karl-Rudolf Korte (Research Group on German Affairs, University of Duisburg) showed that politicians are becoming more and more alike, because of the growing importance of the media. Michael Jochum (Bundespräsidialamt / office of the Bundespräsident) pointed out, that a politician never cares about content unless the lack of content threatens to destroy his perfectly arranged show. With his statement from a perspective of communication science, Patrick Rössler (Department of Communication Science, University of Munich) had the idea of a segmented audience replacing the former mass audience. The individual user will increasingly design his own agenda. Referring to his own experiences Martin Runge (member of the Landtag in Bavaria, Green Party) explained the greater influence of regional newspapers compared to national papers during times of election. Eckart Gaddum (ZDF television, news section) faced the topic from his practice-oriented perspective.. As to his experience, the question "who leads whom" does not turn up. Gaddum admitted that there is a mutual relationship between journalists and politicians. But this relationship, he said, does not influence his journalistic work.

2000: "Third Way" and the "New Middle": The Production of Politics

The fourth round of the New Generation talks was marked by the terms "third way" and its German variation, the "new middle". As Karl-Rudolf Korte (Research Group on German Affairs, University of Duisburg) pointed out, the common basis of all "third way" concepts worldwide is the conviction that a reform of the welfare state is unavoidable. Therefore, its advocates break with former unimpeachable social-democratic principles. Using this strategy, the German social-democratic party won over the "new middle" of citizens, who couldn't identify themselves with a party in the election year of 1998 (Ulrich Eith, University Freiburg). However, the term "new middle" did not convince the citizens by virtue of its contents, but of a certain expectation it created (Andreas Kießling, Research Group on German Affairs). Thus the "third way" is not a political concept, but a concept of making politics, in which the state is a social investor providing help for self-help (Manuel Fröhlich, University Jena). Charlie Jeffery (University Birmingham) illustrated the problem of this strategy by referring to the example of Great Britain: it is not suitable for creating long-term party identities.

2002: Trends and options of party democracy

At the fifth round of the New Generation talks the participants discussed the fact that a rising number of people - not only in Germany - do not feel represented by the parties. Elmar Wiesendahl (University of the Bundeswehr Munich) pointed out that the German party system no longer matches the electorate. His statement of the apathetic society was rejected by Andreas Kießling (Research Group on German Affairs), who rather criticized the parties for not giving enough incentives for participation to the people. As Lars Colschen (Research Group on German Affairs) summed up, the parties block possibilities and chances of innovation; Werner Sesselmeier indicated the "schizophrenia" of the voters, who want to be led by parties on the one hand but do not vote for politicians acting against their will on the other hand. An alternative to parties are the "New Social Movements" (NSB), who comply with the people's wish for political commitment on certain subjects only and for only a limited amount of time. They avoid the encrusted structures of parties by drawing the public's attention directly to political and public attention (Ansgar Klein, Network for the support of social commitment). As the NSB understand their work transnationally, crisis symptoms in party democracy like the success of extreme right-wing parties are likewise apparent in nearly all states of the western world (Ulrich Eith, University Freiburg). In contrast, the much younger party systems in Eastern Europe are still characterized by strong parties and the poor political commitment of its population (Johanna Schmidt, Research Group on German Affairs).

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