National, Post-National and European Identities in Germany

Master's Thesis, 2006

104 Pages, Grade: 1,5



I. Introduction: Nation, State, Nationalism, and Identity
I.1 Why Study (German) Post-National Identities?
I.2 State of the Art

II. Theoretical Framework
II.1 Guiding Theoretical and Empirical Conceptions
II.2 Operationalization

III. Method of Analysis
III.1 Interview Technique
III.2 Group Formation
III.3 Interview Surroundings
III.4 Structure of the Interview
III.5 Problems

IV. The Findings - German Post-National Identities
IV.1 Perception of World War II and Awareness of EU-Citizenship
IV.2 How is the EU Pictured?
IV.3 The Emergence of a Constitutional Patriotism
IV.3.1 Cultural Values
IV.3.2 Democratic Values
IV.4 Priority of the Nation
IV.4.1 The EU as ‘Substitute Love’? – Attachment to the EU in Contrast to Germany
IV.4.2 Who may have Decision-Making Power?

V. Conclusion of the First Results

VI. A European Collective Identity
VI.1 We-Feeling
VI.2 What is the EU and what is it not? – In-Groups and Out-Groups
VI.3 A Common Memory

VII. Conclusion

VIII. Bibliography

Annex – The Interviews
Interviews with the Young
Interviews with the Elders

I. Introduction: Nation, State, Nationalism, and Identity

Globalization and in particular Europeanization have brought about several significant changes in the anarchical system of nation states. More and more non-state actors are entering the international arena and are influencing political outcomes in ways that were unthinkable a few years ago. Consequently the state has to cope with a rapid dissolution of its powers. The rules of state sovereignty, which went basically unchallenged from the 17th until the 20th century, are now put under great pressure. Traditional concepts of statehood and state sovereignty –that is, the final right of decision[1] – are called into question. Telecommunication and media have long crossed borders, financial markets are globalized, and non-governmental organizations are influencing political agendas. Viewing states as the single most important actors in an anarchical international system today, as has been done in the field of International Relations by neorealists like Waltz in the 1970s and 1980s[2], ignores the changes taking place all around us today.

As state sovereignty in Europe is increasingly challenged it is perfectly legiti-mate to wonder about another phenomenon tightly connected to and almost as old as the nation state itself, that is nationalism. The end of nationalism has often been proclaimed alongside with the rise of globalization, transnational activities, multi-culturalism and cosmopolitan ways of life. In the years following the demise of the Nazi regime and then again after the breakup of the Soviet Union, nationalism was even considered a hazard to be avoided.[3] Later, when the former Yugoslavia started to fall apart, this anti-nationalist discourse gained vehemence. Already in 1955 Erich Fromm said with regards to nationalism:

This incestuous fixation not only poinsons the relationship of the individual to the stranger, but to the members of his own clan and to himself. The person who has not freed himself from the ties to blood and soil is not yet fully born as a human being…Nationalism is our form of incest [and] insanity…[4]

Nonetheless, some scholars maintain that nationalism is still the most potent discourse of collective identity.[5] It has been in the name of nationalism that wars were fought and ethnic cleansing was justified. Yet it was also nationalism from which the oppressed derived their identity and that gave them the power to rebel against the oppressor. Nationalism has always been a political rhetoric that has had the power to glue people together that otherwise would not have a sense of belonging together. Only by creating nationalistic feelings were sovereigns able to recruit men to die for their country and thus defend their state’s sovereignty, albeit this being a highly abstract cause to die for. But as Connor points out, “[The nation] is the largest group that can command a person’s loyalty because of the felt kinship ties; it is, from this perspective, the fully extended family.”[6]

Nationalism draws its strength from the elevation of the own and the demotion of other nations. Within the European Union, however, we can observe the reverse development. Here, states voluntarily leave their nationalist past behind and cede the one thing they have always sought to defend: the exclusive right to control its people and territories. After two devastating wars on the European continent several European states agreed in the 1950s upon close cooperation and created the European Coal and Steel Community in order to eradicate and bury the possibility of waging war against each other again. Now, after more than fifty years of integration this initial idea is nothing more than a reminiscence of the bloody European history. The current intensity of co-operation in all political, economic and cultural areas it has long surpassed the dream of the founding fathers of a peaceful Europe. The European Union is by now a quite impressive edifice that permeates every sovereign realm of the member states and constrains their power.[7] Nowadays, academics, politicians and laypeople alike are al-ready discussing the emergence of a European identity that connects people across the borders of their nation states. Since the Treaty of Maastricht all citizens of the member states now are citizens of the European Union.[8] This is a phenomenal development, considering that the continent was in perpetual war for over three centuries.

Taking these considerations of fading sovereignty a bit further, the profound institutional changes on European soil carry important implications for the national identities. The final right to distinguish the inside from the outside, that is, to write the nation, is challenged.[9] As nation state borders are crossed in so many ways nowadays, especially in Europe, territorial borders begin losing their function as identity frames.[10] The erosion of the political borders provokes an erosion of the psychological boundaries that delineated the European identities.

It is supposed that the European integration process will evoke (or already has evoked) a new concept of identity in European citizens. What Jürgen Habermas calls post-national is the attempt to capture the on-going developments in Europe and define the kind of identities that co-evolve alongside with these developments.[11] According to Habermas post-national identities do not require primordial identification. Ethnicity and culture are not necessary for a sense of community, but only the recognition and appre-ciation of basic democratic values and norms.[12] Nationalistic ways of life – so he puts forward – will be limited by universal postulates of human rights and democracy.[13]

Thomas Risse has pointed out that in some countries, including Germany, Europe has come to signify the respective national identity. He states that: “…’Europe’ and European integration resonate in different ways with historically and culturally embedded understandings of the nation-state and of national sovereignty. In the German … political and intellectual discourses, including the media, Europe has become part and parcel of what it means to be German … these days.”[14] The first question that springs to mind is why German people obviously more readily include Europe into their individual identity concept than other nations do such as the British, who still define their national identity separately from Europe.[15]

Some scholars argue that the answer to this question lies in the unglamorous state’s past. The process of Europeanization set out as a peace project whose aim it was to control the aggressors by strongly integrating them. Germany was once the European aggressor state, its membership in the European agreements after World War II (WWII) was first of all a means to keep it down. Hence, Germany’s post-war history is heavily intertwined with the history of the European Union and this inter-connectedness of developments has left its traces on German identities. Ulrich Schlie for example speaks of the Germans’ “love of Europe”. He argues that Germany was never able to handle nationalism light-heartedly after World War II. The enormous guilt acquired through WWII, the following partition in four sectors, the loss of sovereignty, and the separation of east and west exacerbated national identity construction or re-construction for the generation born before and after WWII.[16] He maintains, “…the German catastrophe of 1945 consisted also in the knowledge that the nation as a definite fact was lost.”[17] Because overt national identification, like showing flags, singing the anthem or national pride, was always stifled by voices reminding of the historicalguilt or even prohibited in the beginning of the Federal Republic, European integration came as an identity substitute. Only through assenting to integration, that is cession of sovereignty, was it possible for Germany to re-enter the international state community and recuperate reputation. These circumstances have attributed the Germans a post-national identity.

Rüdiger Bubner argues in a similar fashion when he speaks of Europe as being the “substitute love”[18] of the Germans. Their post-national attitude, he relates to the ineffaceable guilt, which is still an active force today, which in turn brought about a general lack of self-confidence in being German.[19]

Last but not least, Jürgen Habermas identifies post-nationality not as a solely German characteristic but still as something that developed faster in Germany than in other nations. He, too, refers German post-nationality back to the traumatic experience with the Nazi-regime in World War II and to the following loss of authority. The fearful repudiation of every nationalistic pledge in whatever form, present in a majority of Germans, helped post-nationalism to gain ground in the German society.[20]

Spelled out in a schematic way, these academics claim that the historical experience of WW II causes Germans to feel guilty still even today, which creates the need to make up for their nation’s former deviant behaviour, which in turn they can do by consenting to give up their sovereignty and refuse to have nationalist sentiments, which then turns Germans into ‘post-nationalists’. Europe, the only approved political object safe to identify with, comes in as that substitute love, earlier spoken of. All Germans, regardless of their age, should, following this line of argument, have left the idea of a strong German nation state behind and identify with the EU.

In the up-coming chapters this causality chain will be challenged, which leads to the following research questions: Did the historical experience of World War II and its repercussions facilitate the construction of a post-national, European identity in Germany? As I understand a post-national European identity to be the result of an integration process that only now becomes really perceivable, I doubt the existence of a post-national identity in all generations and pose the second question: Did the social circumstances and ideological legacy in Germany after the war not rather provoke or maintain a nationalist/protectionist attitude?

This thesis will analyze the existence of a post-national, European identity in German citizens of two age groups. One group will be comprised of WWII survivors, the other will consist of Germans that were born two generations after the war. By means of qualitative interviews the questions will be investigated. Opposing to Habermas et al. I will suggest that German WWII survivors have not developed a post-national identity but that their focus is still very much on the German nation state. They perceive ceding sovereignty to the EU as a threat to the state’s integrity and they do not want to grant authority to the EU. In contrast to that the younger group is expected to show traits of a post-national attitude. Ceding sovereignty to the EU is not a threat for them and they show an overall willingness to grant the EU authority. The focus on sovereignty is owed to the fact that integration ultimately means cession of sovereignty. If people are willing to grant sovereignty to the EU they are in favour of further inte-gration, which is an expression of a post-national attitude.

In chapter II the theoretic and empirical conceptions that led to these hypotheses will be laid out. After clarifying methodological aspects and tools in the third chapter the findings of the analysis will be presented in chapter IV. In chapter V these findings will be explained with regards to the hypotheses. The last chapter will be dedicated to a continuative aspect of post-national identities with high relevance for the European integration process. The forming of a collective identity on the European level is considered essential for furthering European integration and democracy with the EU.

I.1 Why Study (German) Post-National Identities?

The developments in Europe of the past sixty years compel us to look more closely at the relation of nation, state, sovereignty and national identity, which have been considered indispensable ‘ingredients for the same cake’ for roughly 300 years. In this context Germany is of particular interest, since it is only sixteen years ago that Germans gained, for the first time in their history, “state unity with freedom and sovereignty”.[21] Moreover, this historical change took place in a time when the nation state as such was already in the process of losing its significance.[22] Germany’s turbulent past must have impacted German identity construction considerably, even more so as the state’s recent past is inseparably connected to the development of the EU.

With the increasing power and salience of the EU-institutions, one of the most pressing and most discussed problems today is democratic legitimacy within the European Union. Democratic legitimacy is achieved by politically active public involvement in the political processes of the EU. Insofar as democracy is understood as the rule of the people, the EU is void of the very thing it wants to promote. Even though everyone living in an EU-member state is legally a citizen of the Union, this legal status is not filled with life, so far. For many citizens of Europe the EU is merely another administrative unit in addition to the state, not something to identify with emotionally, probably precisely because one has to be a citizen of a member state to qualify for EU citizenship.

The profound unification process is not accompanied by an equally strong process of identification with the political entity called EU. The EU with its common jurisdiction, currency and administration is not inhabited by a European demos; the European edifice is not supported from below. Most academics believe that this democratic deficit can only be resolved if and when the EU-citizens start identifying with the political institutions already in place. This is, however, difficult because so far there is no European public space or sphere where the EU could be discussed, of which a weak European parliament is its expression.[23] Erik Eriksen names the most important factors that could bring about a collective identity but that the EU lacks:

There is no agreement on common interests; different languages and disparate national cultures make opinion formation and common action unlikely. The intermediate structures of civil society in the shape of Europeanized party systems, European organizations, social movements and European media are lacking as well as a common language making possible a transnational binding debate. A common public debate – which enables the citizens to take a stand on the same issues, at the same time and under the same premises – is, thus, not achievable.[24]

A cohesive people of Europe, is indispensable for the future of the European Union. Michael Bruter points out that “without identity, it seems that there can be no true, durable, legitimacy attached to a political entity, no conscious acceptance of the power of the state and of its monopolistic right to use legitimate coercion.”[25] But how can there be cohesiveness in political deliberation and action when the peoples of Europe are so heterogeneous as they are? Most conceptions of political identity and unity set homogeneity in culture, language, and tradition at their basis.[26] This cannot be the way for the European Union for a few reasons. It is one of the Union’s first prin-ciples to protect its cultural diversity.[27] Although this homogeneity was “invented at the desks” of rulers and statesmen, who fabricated a common heritage and thus identity, which was empirically not existent, as Max Weber said, they still succeeded in creating a sense of solidarity.[28] Solidarity is the most important ingredient for the cohesiveness of large groups such as nations and ultimately for the success of the state. David Miller put it this way:

Nationality answers one of the most pressing needs of the modern world, namely how to maintain solidarity among the population of states that are large and anonymous, such that their citizens cannot possibly enjoy the kind of community that relies on kinship or face-to-face interaction … In societies … where each person looks out for the interests of herself … there is a strong tendency towards social atomisation … These problems can be avoided only where there exists large-scale solidarity, such that people feel themselves to be members of an over-arching community, and to have social duties to act for the common good.[29]

Several actions have been taken to generate identification. The EU now has a flag, an anthem, a common currency and passports identifying their holders as European citizens. Despite this, very few EU-citizens would be able to name important EU-politicians nor would they recognize “Ode to Joy” as the European anthem.

The European integration process has doubtlessly left its marks on European citizens. It would probably be hard to find someone living in the EU who does not at all have Europe ‘on her/his radar’. Yet, in 2000 still 45% of the EU- population only and exclusively identified with their home country.[30] Another problem in this context is that many citizens perceive the European Union as a further level of action for the nation states and not as an independent decision making body, which is often due to the way the European Union is presented in the respective nation states.[31] Achieving a consensus within the Union is most of the time not an easy task and how fast the alliances can fall apart showed the debacle during the war on Iraq or the tense discussions after the failed referenda of France and The Netherlands over the European Constitution in 2005. National interest is often heavily contested in European decision making when politi-cians feel the attention of the national public, for example during national elections. How can identification and cohesiveness be accomplished at European citizen’s level if not even the heads of states present themselves as a solid unit? Overcoming nationalism and entering into the post-national era of Europe is therefore often not hampered by an unwilling nationalist public, but by the insistence on national independence and disparity displayed by the chief of state.[32]

Post-national identities are work in progress. No one exactly knows what European post-nationality will ultimately look like and how much nationalism may remain in the post-national identity constructs of European citizens for the EU to be-come a success. This uncertainty is also owed to the unresolved question of what the EU wants to be. While some scholars even fathom the possibility of a Europe without nation states, or a United States of Europe[33], others would like to see the EU remain a loose network that forms alliances ad hoc, depending on the situation[34]. The EU is still an open category which can be filled with meaning according to personal preferences.[35] Hence, an active promotion of identification with the EU proves to be difficult because the object of identification has not been totally settled.

As nation states cope with their powers being compromised in the era of globalization, national identities lose their exclusive character. Multiple national identities are an every-day reality in times of cosmopolitanism, inter-racial marriages, and multi-cultural societies. This has been a broadly-discussed issue in Germany since the end of the 20th century as well as the beginning of the 21st century. Nationality in Germany is based on the idea of ius sanguis, which means one has to have German parents to be eligible for a German passport. Even if born and brought up on German soil, the concept of ius solis, one does not automatically receive German nationality. Holders of foreign passports may even be compelled to renounce their initial nationality when applying for a German one. From a German perspective it is impossible to have two hearts pounding in one breast, and even if it is like that, one has to decide for only one to keep. In Germany nationality is bound to the idea of constituting one Volk, one people with a common origin, “that manifests itself in a particular set of great men, a distinct language, a folklore, artistic creations and so forth. It hardly matters that such an idea is nonsense from a scientific point of view.”[36] The axiomatic basis for the German state was always the unity of nation and state. From a German perspective, states that host several ethnic groups, like Belgium, do not constitute a nation and cannot expe-rience oneness.[37] As Europe is in some respects heading towards becoming a state with many and completely distinct nations, it will be especially interesting to learn about German views on European identity formation.

It was the idea of the purity and superiority of the German people, initially pronounced by philosophers such as Fichte and Schleiermacher, in combination with national statism through which National-Socialism found its strong institutionalisation in Germany.[38] It is beyond the scope of this work to analyze a possible legacy of the nationalist school of thought in Germany. Nonetheless it should be taken into account that it has been only roughly half a century that these ideas of political organisation went out of fashion. Current legislative practices concerning immigration, fugitives, and foreigner’s right to vote mirror the still existing tension between a cosmopolite German reality and the constitutive norms for the maintenance of national purity.

The opposite to this nationalist claim of state organisation is that of “common citizenship in a specific state”.[39] Habermas created the notions of Staatsbürgernation and Verfassungspatriotismus, nation of citizens and constitutional patriotism, by which he means that citizens can form a durable community on the basis of democratic values and practices without the belief of sharing the same cultural and ethnic heritage.[40] Habermas’ definition of post-national consciousness negates the priority of the nation (understood as ethnic and cultural community) as focus of identification. An identity that spans cultural diversity as Habermas imagines it, is based upon and highlights a common political culture and practice. Identification is derived from the common recogni-tion and appreciation of liberal values such as democracy, equality, freedom, and the rule of law. It remains yet to be seen if these values are sufficient in encouraging solidarity and loyalty within European citizens, so that the existence of the EU be con-firmed by “an everyday plebiscite”, that is, by the desire of the people to be together.[41] Detlef Bald spells out what Habermas has called constitutional patriotism:

The constitution, its values and symbols constitute the basis for national and societal unity and identity. The founding of the state is legitimated by the constitution itself…The basis of the republic is the identification of the citizens with the legal system and the politico-social order of the republic.[42]

As pointed out earlier, renunciation of sovereignty was without alternatives for Germany after the war since it was the only way to regain a favourable reputation. Nothing was worse than attracting negative attention amongst the other members of the European community. Where Great Britain and France could overtly fall back on a nationalist attitude, as Margaret Thatcher did by pointing to her purse and saying she wanted her money back, Germany renounced all selfish requests and behaved as a Euro-pean model student.[43] According to Habermas, Bubner, and Schlie this behaviour ultimately triggered a general identity change in the German public towards post-nationality. Even if this were true, it is questionable if political attitudes and action in Germany nowadays are still oriented at the historical guilt. The overt display of German national symbols, an unprecedented behaviour in German society, during the recent football World Cup in 2006 gives reason to believe that nationalist sentiments are in deed existent in the German public.

There exist several studies and works about Germany concerning post-nationality or the formation of a European identity but most of them have been conducted or refer to conditions of over ten years ago. Conditions in Europe and in Germany have changed considerably since then. Therefore, analyzing German post-nationalism is a highly valuable research topic. It is hoped that the findings of this research will contribute to a better understanding of social processes in a unified Europe.

I.2 State of the Art

Works by Habermas such as Die postnationale Konstellation[44], Die Einbeziehung des Anderen[45] and Staatsbürgerschaft und nationale Identität[46] have given useful and clarifying insights into the transition from national to post-national identities which is taking place today. Habermas’ works are always written from a German perspective and he frequently addresses the topic of the German national-socialism, which provided good overviews of the relation of past occurrences and present ways of thinking.

As aforementioned, the works of Habermas, Bubner, and Schlie contributed to the building of the research question. Several other authors have contributed to clari-fying the term sovereignty as such and from a constructivist perspective and under the premises of globalization. Among them are Thomas Hobbes, James Madison, Jean Jacques Rousseau as the pioneers of thoughts on sovereignty, and Stephen D. Krasner, Thomas Biersteker, Neil MacCormick, Anna Leander and Adrian Kuah as the modern thinkers of sovereignty in view of the demise of the state.

Bruter’s work Citizens of Europe? was useful from an empirical point of view, as he conducted a whole study on the emergence of a European citizenry.[47] His article “Civic and Cultural Components of a European Identity” can also be listed in this con-text.[48]

Furthermore, the analysis makes use of social-psychological and sociological understandings. Conceptions about ‘othering’ are derived from George Herbert Mead’s theory of the Generalized Other and consensus-conflict relations which are constitutive for social group formation.[49] Conceptions about the mechanism at work in the construc-tion and change of social identities were found in Emanuele Castano, Glynis Breakwell, and Dominic Abrams and Michael Hogg. Thomas Risse’s conclusion to the com-pendium Transnational Identities listed several different ways or possibilities of identification with the EU.[50] Through Almond and Verba’s study The Civic Culture[51] and Bettina Westle’s “Traditionalismus, Verfassungspatriotismus und Postnatio-nalismus im vereinigten Deutschland”[52] it was possible to categorize these different ways of identification with political objects.

A considerable amount of this work is about nationalist feelings and nationalism in general. Karl Scheibe’s chapter “The Psychology of National Identity” was valuable for understanding psychological mechanisms of national consciousness and its more radical form nationalism and its socio-political history.[53] Several other authors from the field of social-psychology provided understandings about the specifics of German nationalism found in a compendium about psychology and multicultural societies.[54] Empirical data from Westle's study was used to reinforce my findings about German nationalism.

The problem of creating a European identity or a sense of attachment in EU-citizens is addressed by many scholars today. Insight into the multi-faceted problems gave Lepsius’ article “Prozesse der europäischen Identitätsstiftung”[55], Eriksen’s “An Emerging European Public Sphere”[56] and Cathleen Kantner’s book Kein Modernes Babel[57]. All of them point to the lack of public communication within the EU as the fundamental problem. Rainer Lepsius argues from an institutional viewpoint when he maintains that the absence of visible political action on EU level and that EU-law is still nationally implemented hampers a general identification. He speaks of “quiet Euro-peanisation”[58] in this context. Marc Leonard holds the same viewpoint when he says that “Europe’s invisible hand … has left national institutions outwardly intact…”.[59]

Breakwell provided insights into the idea of the openness or emptiness of Europe as a category, which obstructs identity building.[60] Konrad Jarausch has expressed the idea that the development or the creation of a common European history and memory is indispensable for the coalescence of the European peoples.[61] A profound comprehension of the methods of qualitative interviews was acquired by consulting William Gamson.[62]

The best source for empirical data is, of course, the European Commission itself. The European Commission regularly publishes reports on public opinions concerning the EU, its institutions, and current issues. The newest report about Germany was pub-lished in autumn 2005 and illustrates the German attitude towards the EU in a detailed way.[63] The findings of this report and others such as a qualitative study on attitudes and expectations of EU citizens[64], young people in Europe[65], and opinion surveys and field work on the future of the EU rounded up my personal findings empirically.[66]

II. Theoretical Framework

This work will make use of a deductive approach as the hypotheses establish causal connections that are based on a theory of the underlying processes. The piece of research at hand follows constructivist theory making, which regards reality as a project under construction that can only be understood out of specific social contexts.[67] There are several different strands of constructivism, of which I will follow a pragmatist approach. This strand is called critical constructivism. Critical Constructivism or pragmatic realism, a term introduced by Hilary Putnam, does not deny the existence of a material world outside of human interpretations, as radical strands of constructivism or post-structuralism and post-modernism do.[68] Social facts emerge from the attachment of collective meaning to a previously existing material reality.[69] Hence, the aim of this work is not to prove that one social fact causes another, but that certain social facts or experiences cause an observable collective interpretation. Since different experiences bring about different understandings of the world, the hypotheses of this work can therefore not claim generalizability outside of the social context in which they are tested.

The underlying theoretical basis for this work is new institutionalism. New institutionalism considers institutions to be the central component of political life.[70] Institutions are understood as societal rules that help govern action and encompass norms, conventions and the morality of a community.[71] These institutions shape collective as well as individual behavior, they influence the value system of a community and the way of thinking and interpreting of the community’s members. According to new institutionalism, political outcomes and decisions, including pre-ferences, beliefs, and culture, can best be explained and predicted by looking at the institutional framework in which people act.

New institutionalism was originally introduced into political science by March and Olsen in 1984[72]. The weakness of their theory is that they have held a very deter-ministic view on institutions that assigns institutions themselves a role as decision makers. From my point of view, the individual agents cannot be eliminated from po-litical life because people act purposefully through the institutions that create their environment. Furthermore, institutions are the result of purposive human action, which opens up the paradox of institutions being formed by human agents, who then are con-strained by those same institutions. Nevertheless, it is people who choose to be con-strained by institutions, and it is people who sometimes decide to change or defy the conventions they have created.[73] Institutions are moreover influenced by external developments; they disappear, evolve and change alongside with changing and new environments, technologies and circumstances.

II.1 Guiding Theoretical and Empirical Conception

The point of interest for this work of analysis is the formation of a German post-national identity directed towards the EU. As articulated above this work tries to dissolve the causality between war and post-war experiences and a supposed general post-national attitude in Germany. The aim is to show that a post-national attitude is not generally in place in Germany but that it depends highly on the factor age if people feel attached to the EU and have left the idea of nationalism behind. The assumption is that the different experiences with and in Germany that elders and young people made led to different identity constructions. The above established counter-hypotheses to Habermas’ et al. line of argument are grounded on theoretic as well as empirical conceptions, which will be explained on the following pages.

New institutionalism has been previously mentioned as the guiding theory of this work. The influence of political institutions on social identities is widely known, and it has been studied and used exhaustively for propagandistic measures.[74] Within this school of thought there are different strands that can be followed. Herrmann and Brewer have provided a model of how institutions shape identities. They call this the socialization model:

As individuals interact with the institution or its representatives or feel its effects in their daily experience, they are more likely to perceive it as a “real” entity that provides meaning and structure for their own lives. They may even come to believe it is part of the natural order and indispensable. Institutions, and their rules and regulations, also provide for shared experience and shared social norms that enhance group identity and a sense of community. The broader the scope of the institution and the group of people directly effected by it, the more inclusive is the corresponding social identity… The more aspects of daily life impacted by the institution, the more likely that corresponding social identities will develop around that institution and those who are included in its sphere.[75]

That means, a post-national, European identity evolves out of the contact with European institutions. Thus, for post-nationality to become a psychological reality it needs to first be a political fact. Men and women are members of nation states and this is so although we live in a globalized world.[76] It is a political as well as a psychological reality for most human beings. Nationalism as an institution was suppressed in Germany, but a post-nationalism that reified the status of not being in charge of oneself in a positive way was still not in place. There was nothing so powerful in creating cohesiveness that could have replaced nationalism, so that people would not have minded lacking substantial self-control. State sovereignty is the building block of those social identities that have political consequences. Social groups that imagine themselves to be independent and distinct from others, who live next to or among them, by race, colour, religion, ethnicity, etc., most often strive for sovereignty, that is, independent decision-making power. Sovereignty, therefore, is the basis for politically motivated identities. There was no supra-national political community at that time to identify with. Even now identification remains difficult because political action on EU level is most of the time not visible, the institutional framework of the EU is hidden behind national implementations, and most of the important decisions concerning external or security policies are made on the national level. As Leonard explains:

Although the House of Commons can hold Margaret Beckett [minister of agriculture, UK] to account, the key decisions are not made by her alone. Instead they are made in negotiations with her counterparts in gatherings of European agriculture ministers…But for the …British farmer nothing has changed because the policies are not implemented or ratified at the European level.[77]

As Habermas, Bubner, and Schlie put it, Germans took Europe as a their substitute love simply because there was no alternative. This is not logical. Human beings do not start loving something else because the original is not available or one has a guilty conscience, and even less so if that something is itself not yet fully perceivable as a reality. No one falls in love with political treaties, economic agreements or a common market.[78] They might feel respect, loyalty, and acceptance for that ‘being’, but certainly not love. Even if Germans wanted to take Europe as their substitute love for their banned nationality there was just not enough ‘Europe in Europe’ to fall in love with.

The younger generation grew up under completely different premises, which were presumably better conditions for the development of a post-national identity. Young Germans had the advantage of having grown up in a time where European integration became more and more institutionalised and an everyday practice. They grew up in a Germany in which the EU came to be a political reality. In this context the cultural exchange between countries on the high school level and the school curricula directed at increasing European awareness are of particular relevance. It was not until the mid-1980s that it dawned upon the European Commission that a furthering of Europeanization must include culture and education. This led countries to promote the study of foreign languages in schools and universities in order to encourage the development of a European culture.[79] Europe has always been a salient institution for most of their lives and can therefore be a real alternative to the national identification. Only now that the EU has gained prominence in all public areas and becomes per-ceivable as a political object are people able to identify with it. All of the above can be boiled down to the following statement: the institutions necessary for the development of a European identity were not in place during the political socialization of the elder generation. Europe itself was not sufficiently institutionalized to bring about identi-fication or, more generally speaking, to fuel a change of identity.

A post-national, European identity is marked by the willingness to cede sovereignty. As aforementioned I doubt that this willingness exists in the elders because ideological legacy and the social circumstances in post-war Germany prevented the building of a post-national identity. The following paragraphs will throw light on this line of argument.

After the war was lost many Germans were disillusioned. The history of their nation was a story of ultimate loss and disappointment. While the German nation was glorified and tremendously elevated over other nations during their childhood and early adulthood, the experience of absolute heteronomy by the four winning powers was quite a humiliation. The survivors had experienced a sovereign Germany before the war which was precisely why a loss of it was rather hard to adjust to. This was difficult also for another reason. The idea of unity of state and nation, the idea that being German does not ground on common citizenship but on common heritage, has a long history in Germany and is exceptionally strong as I have explained earlier. Even today the ‘ völkische’ nationalism is still present in legislative practices. WWII survivors have been brought up and have lived under this idea until their adulthood. A post-national, European attitude however demands a constitutional patriotism, which has no historical basis in Germany and is only now starting to emerge.

Today, unity of nation and state, although for some politicians still the only true form of national existence, is not a German reality anymore. This ideal is dissolving more and more as immigrants from all over the planet are finding a home in German society. Growing up in a multi-cultural society contradicts and weakens the idea of unity of state and nation on a practical basis. For this reason younger Germans are very much advantaged in being capable of creating a post-national identity. Constitutional patriotism now gets a real chance in Germany.

In post-war Germany sovereignty as an institution was inexistent. When in 1961 Germany was divided into east and west the hope to become one nation and one state seemed un-reachable. The call for “unity in peace and freedom”[80], which was one of the most utilized political utterances in the 1950s and 60s, remained unheard until 1989, when no one would have believed in the possibility to ever overcome separation again. Very soon, in 1990, the now bigger Federal Republic demanded full sovereignty in order to overcome the status of the “eternal interim arrangement”[81]. Economically, Germany had been powerful for a long time, but with a lack of external leverage it was still a “liege” of the United States and was rendered unable to take complete responsibility of statehood.[82] Being German in the years until reunification and recuperation of sovereignty was very much determined by the desire to regain self-esteem and a positive reputation in the world, which was partly fulfilled by happy events such as winning the football World Cup in 1958 or the German Wirtschaftswunder, the economic boom of the 1950s and 60s. National self-confidence was partly restored. Yet, the desire for sovereignty, the elementary wish of every social identity with political motivations, was in shambles upon separation and remained unsatisfied till after forty years of the republic’s existence.

German politics focused on the unresolved national question and the recuperation of status. The European agreements were consciously perceived as something that stabilized and pacified the continent but they were too embryonic at the time to have rendered any identification that would have filled the void that prohibited nationalism had left. Europe had not matured enough to have been the substitute love that above discussed scholars have spoken of. Until the mid-1980s, European integration has been perceived as first and foremost an economic project and never directly touched upon the core values of its constituent peoples.[83] Europe may have served to soothe the guilty conscience, meaning being pro-Europe showed that one was progressive, open-minded, and certainly not a Nazi. But it did not eradicate the fundamental desire for a strong nation state.

This strong and long-lived desire was displayed during the national debate in the end of the 1990s when Berlin was slated to become the German capital again. People spoke of a new beginning for the German republic and of finally burying the past forever. Berlin epitomized the strong state, the new republic. Ironically this rediscovery of the German state took place when academics all over the world had begun announcing its death.[84] Moreover, this debate was headed by politicians that had grown up in post-war Germany, who had never experienced a sovereign state till their adulthood. This gener-ation had argued endlessly with their parents about the Holocaust and by the end of it they had deemed themselves immune against nationalism.

The national question was unresolved until late in the war generation’s adulthood; it was altogether too heavy on the minds of the elder Germans in order to win them for another identity. Only for the generations that have never actively and personally experienced the loss and limitation of sovereignty is it possible to form a post-national identity. Post-national identities can only grow in states that have solved the national question for themselves. Ceding sovereignty is a voluntary act from a sovereign people and can be done only once the people conceives of itself as sovereign. The struggle for full recognition within the inter-national system or the suppression of it only intensifies national identification. Only now that Germany is free and equal is the public able to grant authority to the EU.

This argumentation is grounded on the conception that only sovereign states can give away sovereignty.[85] As Rousseau states in the Social Contract, “the individual member alienates himself totally to the whole community together with all his rights.”[86] That means that the individual gives away her personal sovereignty, which she can do because “man was born free”.[87] Hence, the will of the individual becomes the general will expressed by the sovereign. The general will “signifies the capacity to make authoritative decisions with regard to the people and resources”.[88] State sovereignty is an expression of the general will. If there is no general will there can be no decision for the cession of sovereignty. Being a member of the European Union is an act of free will, it is a voluntary decision of free and equal states. Just as members are free to enter the Union if they fulfill the Copenhagen Criteria, they are free to leave the Union as pro-claimed in Article I-60 paragraph 1 of the proposed European Constitution. Another necessary condition for sovereignty is mutual recognition. It is not possible for a state to call itself sovereign if its sovereignty is not recognized by other states.[89] As one can see, Germany was devoid of sovereignty in many ways because neither did it dispose of ultimate decision making power nor was it equal within the international community of states or within the European community. Germany was not sovereign until 1990, membership in the European Union was therefore not a decision but more or less a coercion, a decision without alternatives.

The younger generation can overcome their national fixation because they have never experienced a loss or a lack of sovereignty. For them, Germany was always a complete state, an equal member in the international community of states and an equal partner in the European community that was shaped by the Union as much as it shaped the Union itself. In their early youth their nation had gained full control over its territory. The big authority transfers like the monetary union, the opening of the borders, the unification of university degrees, or a possible European constitution took place in a time when no one spoke of the national question anymore and when much had already been done to enhance a European consciousness.

These facts taken together are expected to have caused a perceivable difference in the identity construction of the age groups. In the following chapters this work’s methods of analysis will be explained, definitions will be provided and indicators explicated, and potential problems pointed out and discussed.

II.2 Operationalization

Above named hypotheses were tested in the field by means of qualitative interviews. More will be said about the interview method later in this chapter. The up-coming paragraphs will provide definitions and indicators.

Throughout this work post-national identity shall be understood as a consciousness that does not appoint prior significance to the own nation state and/or nationality and the concept of nation states and is based upon universal democratic and human rights norms and values.[90] Furthermore, post-national identities do not require primordial identification via ethnicity or culture. This definition is oriented at Habermas’ version of post-nationality and constitutional patriotism, which have been explained earlier.[91]


[1] Gerhard, Wilfried. “The Fading of the Nation State”, in: The Quarterly Journal, no.3, September 2002, p.87.

[2] Waltz, Kenneth. Theory of International Politics. New York: McGraw Hill, 1979, p.88.

[3] Calhoun, Craig. “Nationalism and Civil Society: Democracy, Diversity and Self-Determination”, in: Craig Calhoun (ed.), Social Theory and the Politics of Identity. Oxford/Cambridge: Blackwell, 1994, p.306.

[4] cited in: Scheibe, Karl E. “The Psychology of National Identity”, in: T. Sarbin/K. Scheibe (eds.), Studies in Social Identity, New York: Praeger, 1983, pp.127-128.

[5] Calhoun, p.308.

[6] Connor, W. Ethnonationalism. Princeton: Princeton UP, 1994, p.202.

[7] The EU is an hybrid between intergovernmental and supra-state decision-making body. While the Council of the European Union is an assembly of the ministers of all member states who act as their states’ representatives and which is thus intergovernmental, the European Union disposes of genuine supra-state authority executed for example by the European Commission whose commissioners act independently of the member states and intend to represent the interests of the European citizens as a whole. That means, more clearly spoken, that on the one hand the European Union is a supra-state body which can override the respective laws of the member states and on the other hand the member states have the ultimate power to assent to or reject the legislative proposals and are moreover in charge of implementing them.

[8] Faist, Thomas. “Social Citizenship in the European Union – Residual, Post-National and Nested Membership?” In: Institut für Interkulturelle und Internationale Studien, InIIS-Arbeitspapier Nr.17/2000, Universität Bremen: 2000, p.4.

[9] Kuah, Adrian. “Sovereignty and the Politics of Identity in International Relations”, in: International Relations, vol. 17, no. 3, September 2003, pp.303-320.

[10] Driessen, Henk. “What Am I doing here? The Anthropologist, the Mole, and Border Ethnography”, in: Kokot/Drackle (eds.), Ethnologie Europas: Grenzen, Konflikte, Identitäten. Berlin: Dietrich Reimer Verlag, 1996, p.289.

[11] Habermas, Jürgen. Staatsbürgerschaft und Nationale Identität – Überlegungen zur europäischen Zukunft. St.Gallen: Erker-Verlag, 1991, p.6.

[12] Ibid. p.9.

[13] Habermas, Jürgen. “Geschichtsbewusstsein und posttraditionale Identität. Die Westorientierung der Bundesrepublik”, in: (same author) Eine Art Schadensabwicklung. Kleine Politische Schriften VI. Frankfurt/M: Suhrkamp, 1987, p.167.

[14] Risse, Thomas. “European Institutions and Identity Change – What have We Learned?”, in: Transnational Identities. Becoming European in the E.U. Richard K. Herrmann, Thomas Risse and Marilynn B. Brewer (eds.), New York: Rowman & Littlefields: 2004, p.265.

[15] Faist, p.17.

[16] Schlie, Ulrich, “‘Behausung des Menschen in einer unbehausten Welt’ – Nation und Europa in der deutschen Geschichte”, in: Aus Politik und Zeitgeschichte, B 39, 2004, p.30.

[17] Ibid. p. 30. (translation mine)

[18] (Ersatzliebe, translation mine) Bubner, Rüdiger. “Was wird aus der Verfassung Europas?” In: Klaus Beckmann/Jürgen Dieringer/Ulrich Hufeld (ed.), Eine Verfassung für Europa, Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2004, p.56.

[19] Ibid.

[20] Habermas, Jürgen. Die Einbeziehung des Anderen, p.144.

[21] Phillips, Donald G. Germany and the Transnational Building Blocks for Post-National Community. Westport: Praeger, 2000, p.1.

[22] Hofmann, Gunter. “Ein anderes Land”, in: ZeitPunkte, Zeit Verlag, no. 4, 1999, p.15. (translation mine)

[23] Eriksen, Erik O. “An Emerging European Public Sphere”, in: European Journal of Social Theory, 8(3), 2005, p. 343.

[24] Ibid.

[25] Bruter, Michael. “Civic and Cultural Components of a European Identity - A Pilot Model Measurement of Citizens’ Levels of European Identity”, in: Transnational Identities. Becoming European in the E.U. Herrmann/Risse/Brewer (eds.), New York: Rowman & Littlefields: 2004, p.186.

[26] paraphrased from a quote by Ernst-Wolfgang Böckenförde in: Habermas, Jürgen. Die Einbeziehung des Anderen – Studien zur politischen Theorie. Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp, 1996, p.158.

[27] European Constitution, article I-3, paragraph 3. Version October 2004. The Constitution has been signed but not yet ratified by all member states. It is therefore not in effect.

[28] Max Weber cited in: Nicklas, Hans. “Die Nation im Kopf – Zur Sozialpsychologie der Nationalität”, in: Alexander Thomas (ed.), Psychologie und Multikulturelle Gesellschaft – Problemanalysen und Problemlösungen. Göttingen: Hogrefe-Verlag für Psychologie, 1996, p.77.

[29] David Miller cited in: Hechter, Michael. Containing Nationalism. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2000, p.12.

[30] European Commission. “How Europeans See Themselves – Looking through the Mirror with Public Opinion Surveys”, in: European Documentation Series, Brussels 2001, p.11.

[31] Lepsius, Rainer M. “Prozesse der europäischen Identitätsstiftung”, in: Aus Politik und Zeitgeschichte, B 38, 2004, p. 25.

[32] Leonard, Marc . Why Europe will Run the 21st Century. London: Fourth Estate, 2005, p.14.

[33] Herrmann, Richard/Brewer, Marilynn B. „Identities and Institutions: Becoming European in the EU“, in: Herrmann/Brewer/Risse (eds.), Transnational Identities – Becoming European in the EU, New York: Rowman & Littlefield, 2004, 3.

[34] Leonard, p. 32-33.

[35] Breakwell, Glynis M. “Identity Change in the Context of the Growing Influence of European Union Institutions”, in: Transnational Identities. Becoming European in the E.U. Herrmann/Risse/Brewer (eds.), New York: Rowman & Littlefields, 2004, p.38.

[36] Scheibe, p.135.

[37] Bald, Detlef. “Deutscher Nationalismus – Eine historische Erblast?”, in: Alexander Thomas (ed.) Psychologie und Multikulturelle Gesellschaft: Problemanalysen und Problemlösungen, Göttingen: Hogrefe-Verlag für Psychologie, 1996, p.60.

[38] Scheibe, p.131.

[39] Calhoun, p.305.

[40] Habermas, Jürgen. Die postnationale Konstellation – Politische Essays. Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp, 1998, p.116.

[41] Ernest Renan cited in: Hechter, p.11.

[42] Bald, p.60. (translation mine)

[43] Schlie, p.29.

[44] Habermas, Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp, 2001.

[45] Habermas, Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp, 1997.

[46] Habermas, Jürgen, St.Gallen: Erker-Verlag, 1991.

[47] Bruter, Michael. Citizens of Europe? – The Emergence of a Mass European Identity. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2005.

[48] Bruter, Michael. pp.186-213.

[49] Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy. “George Herbert Mead (1863-1931)”, <>, accessed: 11 August 2006. References to the work concerning these theories: Mind, Self and Society, Chicago UP, 1934.

[50] Risse, pp.247-271.

[51] Almond, Gabriel/Verba, Sidney. The Civic Culture: Political Attitudes and Democracy in Five Nations. London: Sage Publications, 1989.

[52] Westle, Bettina. “Traditionalismus, Verfassungspatriotismus und Postnationalismus im vereinigten Deutschland”, in: Niedermeyer/Beyme (eds.), Politische Kultur in Ost-und Westdeutschland, Berlin: Akademie Verlag, 1994, pp.43-74.

[53] Scheibe, pp.119-143.

[54] Alexander Thomas (ed.). Psychologie und Multikulturelle Gesellschaf - Problemanalysen und Problemlösungen, Göttingen: Hogrefe-Verlag für Psychologie, 1996.

[55] Lepsius, Rainer M. “Prozesse der europäischen Identitätsstiftung”, in: Aus Politik und Zeitgeschichte, B 38, 2004.

[56] Eriksen, pp.341-363.

[57] Kantner, Cathleen. Kein modernes Babel – Kommunikative Voraussetzungen europäischer Öffentlichkeit. Wiesbaden: Verlag für Sozialwissenschaft, 2004.

[58] Lepsius, p.25.

[59] Leonard, pp.9-21.

[60] Breakwell, p.38.

[61] Jarausch, Konrad. “Zeitgeschichte zwischen Nation und Europa – Eine transnationale Herausforderung” in: Aus Politik und Zeitgeschichte, B 39, 2004, pp.3-10.

[62] Gamson, William A. Talking Politics. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1992.

[63] European Commission. Eurobarometer 64 – Die öffentliche Meinung in der Europäischen Union. National Report: Germany, Autumn 2005.

[64] European Commission. Perceptions of the European Union. June 2001.

[65] European Commission. Youth takes the Floor – Young Europeans’ Concerns and Expectations as to the Development of the European Union. December 2005.

[66] European Commission. Eurobarometer: The Future of Europe. May 2006.

[67] Adler, Emanuel. “Constructivism and International Relations”, in: Walter Carlsnaes, Thomas Risse, Beth A. Simmons (eds.), Handbook of International Relations, London: Sage Publications, 2001, p.95.

[68] Putnam, Hilary. Realism with a Human Face. Cambridge: Harvard Univerity Press, 1990.

[69] Adler, p.98.

[70] Peters, Guy B. Institutional Theory in Political Science: The ‘New Institutionalism’. London: Printer, 2005, p.150

[71] Dowding, Keith. “The Compatibility of Behaviouralism, Rational Choice and ‘New Institutionalism’”, in: Journal of Theoretical Politics, vol.6, no.1, pp. 105-117, 1994, p.108.

[72] March, James G./Olsen, Johan P. Rediscovering Institutions: The organizational Basis of Politics. New York: Free Press, 1989.

[73] Dowding, p.111.

[74] Herrmann/Brewer, p.13.

[75] Herrmann/Brewer, p.14.

[76] Scheibe, p.122.

[77] Leonard, p.14.

[78] Castano, Emanuele. “European Identity – A Social-Psychological Perspective”, in: Transnational Identities – Becoming European in the EU, New York: Rowman & Littlefield, 2004, p.41.

[79] van Ham, Peter, “Identity Beyond the State: The Case of the European Union,” Columbia International Affairs Online, (accessed July 18, 2006).

[80] Schlie, p.29.

[81] Hofmann, p.15.

[82] Ibid.

[83] van Ham.

[84] Hofmann, p.16.

[85] Krasner, Stephen D. “Abiding Sovereignty”, in: International Political Science Review, vol. 22, no. 3, 2001, p.233.

[86] Rousseau, Jean Jacques. ‘The Social Contract, Book II’, chapter 4: The limits of the sovereign power. <>, (accessed 20 September 2005).

[87] Ibid.

[88] International Convention on Intervention and State Sovereignty (ICISS). The Responsibility to Protect. December 2001, pp.7-8.

[89] Biersteker, Thomas J. “State, Sovereignty and Territory”, in Walter Carlsneas, Thomas Risse and Beth A. Simmons (eds.), Handbook of International Relations. London, Sage Publications, 2005, p.157.

[90] Westle, p.63.

[91] Habermas, Staatbürgerschaft und nationale Identität, p.6.

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