Günther Schulz, ed. Geschichte der Sozialpolitik in Deutschland seit 1945: Vol. 3: Bundesrepublik 1949-1957. Bewältigung der Kriegsfolgen, Rückkehr zur sozialpolitischen Normalität. Baden-Baden: Nomos Verlag, 2006. 1,151 pp. CD-ROM. EUR 169.00 (cloth), ISBN 978-3-7890-7317-5.
Reviewed by William Smaldone (Department of History, Willamette University)
Published on H-German (June, 2009)
Commissioned by Susan R. Boettcher
The Road to the Welfare State
This outstanding handbook is part of an eleven-volume project that surveys German social policy since 1945. Consisting of several chapters providing general background information and eighteen separate essays on specific topics by leading experts in the field, the work is an indispensable starting point for anyone interested in this subject.
Günther Schulz's first two chapters provide an extensive description and analysis of the general conditions within which postwar social policy developed. In chapter 1, he examines the establishment of the new federal government, its relationship to the states, the role of the leading political parties, and the basic domestic and foreign policy goals of the Adenauer administration (for example, internal political stabilization and integration into the western alliance). He provides extensive background concerning the condition of the people, the government's responses to structural changes in the population and to the refugee problem, and the ways in which economic growth ameliorated the postwar crisis and allowed the state to develop programs in response to social needs. He also outlines some of the key ways in which shifting values and social tensions in the postwar environment framed the discussion of social policy and were reflected in the spheres of education and mass media.
In chapter 2, Schulz turns to the organized political actors in postwar Germany and lays out the sociopolitical conceptions held by the various parties, state institutions, mass organizations, and interest groups. He provides a useful analysis of the most important social and political challenges facing the country in the wake of the war (such as integration of refugees, reparations, denazification, democratization, providing for victims of the war, and economic recovery) and lays out the basic policies chosen by the government to deal with them (for instance, the social market instead of a planned economy, social security, and co-determination instead of nationalization of industry). In sum, Schulz's opening chapters represent a book-length monograph describing the framework within which the new German state developed its specific social policies.
The third section of the handbook is its core and consists of eighteen essays, each focusing on a different subject. These include such topics as workers' rights and protections in constitutional and civil law; unemployment insurance policy; old age and disability insurance; health and accident insurance; public assistance (Fürsorge); family, youth, and old age policy; educational policy; policies providing compensation for victims of war and dictatorship; and policies to promote the employment, social security, and integration of foreigners. Sections deal with the construction of social infrastructure and services, housing policy, the distribution of wealth, and the relationship of German social policies to those implemented elsewhere in Europe. In general, the level of scholarship in these essays is excellent. They are well organized, well written, and introduce readers to the most up-to-date secondary as well as key primary sources in the field. While the handbook is too encyclopedic to be read straight through, the essays themselves are succinct without sacrificing depth.
As Schulz notes in his closing section, the general conclusion toward which these essays point is that the development of social policy in the early Federal Republic did not follow any master plan but instead resulted from a combination of factors. These included the need to respond quickly to the social, economic, and political consequences of the war and occupation; the influence of ideas and traditions established in government and intellectual circles before 1933; the interests and ideological perspectives of competing political forces; and an economic and political environment that limited what could be done in the republic's early years. The country's new constitution, the Basic Law, established the framework within which the substance of future social policy could be developed. The political dominance of the CDU/CSU in the republic's early years gave that policy its basic character. Drawing on past experience and based on the economic wealth generated by the social market economy, the CDU/CSU coalition was able to put through legislation that created the foundation of the republic's social security system until 1990 and beyond. The period through 1957 witnessed the establishment of the organizational and institutional framework for the delivery of social services, it greatly expanded government protections and services to previously excluded or neglected groups (such as refugees, victims of National Socialist persecution, and female workers), it broadened the array of benefits available to the public, improved their delivery, and raised their level to a point that most people felt relatively secure in their status. These developments were often the result of acrimonious debates and frequently were subject to subsequent alterations, but they played an essential role in securing the legitimacy of the new democratic order, which was able to deliver on its promises to reconstruct the country, raise the standard of living, and provide a modicum of social security.
This work examines the development of postwar German social policy primarily at the level of "high" politics. One learns much about the perspectives of politicians, officials, and intellectuals across the political spectrum, and plenty of material describes general conditions in the country, but little of it illustrates the agency of Germans on the ground in their efforts to improve their condition. That said, the range of topics and depth of analysis in this volume are impressive. Equipped with an excellent bibliography as well as a table listing 199 documents that are provided in an accompanying CD-ROM, it represents an outstanding resource for those interested in the social politics of the Federal Republic.
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William Smaldone. Review of Schulz, Günther, ed., Geschichte der Sozialpolitik in Deutschland seit 1945: Vol. 3: Bundesrepublik 1949-1957. Bewältigung der Kriegsfolgen, Rückkehr zur sozialpolitischen Normalität.
H-German, H-Net Reviews.
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