Ludger Kuehnhardt. Beyond Divisions and After: Essays on Democracy, the Germans and Europe. Frankfurt am Main, New York: Peter Lang, 1996. vii + 193 pp. $38.95 (paper), ISBN 978-0-8204-3217-5.
Reviewed by Pernilla M. Neal (Dickinson College)
Published on H-German (October, 1998)
Germany remains a compelling subject of study and interest for both scholars and practitioners in the post-Cold War period. In this book, Ludger Kuehnhardt seeks to sharpen the focus on Germany. In doing so, he strives to view Germany in relationship to one, the theory and practice of democracy, and two, the movement towards greater integration in Europe. His aim is to provide a useful context for examining Germany's actions today and the policy dilemmas facing it. Purportedly he offers a uniquely German perspective directed at an international audience.
The book consists of a collection of eleven essays. Nine of them were published previously. Two were lectures delivered at institutions of higher education. While the topics of the essays are wide ranging, covering such issues as the limits of democracy, federalism, German foreign policy, European security, European politics and human rights, and European courts among others, they break no new ground. Instead they review material already familiar to good students of German and/or European politics. Where is the insightful German perspective promised by the author at the outset? As someone on the inside and able to look outside, Kuehnhardt is well-placed to provide us with a finely-nuanced and telling analysis of what drives the motivations of the Germans in setting their public policy agenda, and the constraints under which they must operate. He is, after all, a professor of political science at the University of Freiburg.
While he promises analysis of those types of key issues in the book, what he delivers is more description than analysis. >From one essay to the next, he speaks in an almost conversational tone, asserting his points, not probing or illuminating them. This is a major shortcoming of the book, all the more noticeable since Kuehnhardt is quite adept in identifying worthwhile questions to explore. In the course of his discussion, he notes critical questions related to key topics in his collection of essays. For example, in an essay on the limits of democracy, he inquires "[w]hat are the possible and appropriate means to bring politics back to the center, to the parliaments and to those issues and decisions which are really critical for the evolution of post-communist liberal democracy (p. 8)?" In an essay on "Multi-German Germany," he asks the question "[h]ow much does Germany trust itself (p. 19)?" "What can be adapted from European experiences for the building of regional cooperation in South Asia?" (p. 163) is a question he poses in an essay on "European Union, Common Market, and Global Market." These are substantive questions meriting appreciable attention from both scholars and practitioners. In providing well-developed answers to them, Kuehnhardt could have succeeded in producing a truly noteworthy addition to the literature on German and/or European politics. What's sorely lacking in this particular work is a plumbing of the depths of these and other such questions.
Compounding this situation all the more is the matter of a poorly copy-edited work. There are far too many words which are missing, misspelled and/or incorrectly used. English is probably a second language for the author. He would have done himself a great service if he had had a skilled editor go through his words before publication of this collection of essays. Smoothly flowing sentences can add immeasurably to a reader's comprehension of and appreciation for what a writer has to say.
Despite its failure to deliver on its promise, Kuehnhardt's book can be put to good use in a graduate seminar on German politics or European politics. It would be less well-suited for an undergraduate course. Although some of its information, especially as relates to NATO expansion, has been overtaken by actual events, the book can add to a graduate student's foundation of knowledge concerning Germany in today's world. Policymakers seeking basic background information on Germany could benefit from reading it as well.
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Pernilla M. Neal. Review of Kuehnhardt., Ludger, Beyond Divisions and After: Essays on Democracy, the Germans and Europe.
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