In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section German Politics and Government

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Textbooks
  • Academic Journals
  • Political Elites
  • Interest Groups
  • Public Policies
  • Economic Policy

Political Science German Politics and Government
Louise K. Davidson-Schmich
  • LAST REVIEWED: 28 October 2020
  • LAST MODIFIED: 28 October 2020
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199756223-0321


Due to Germany’s prior history of foreign aggression, its important role in the contemporary global economy, and its unique social market economy, the post–World War II German political system has been widely studied by both German- and English-speaking scholars. This article begins by outlining some general overviews of German politics and history as well as textbooks and academic journals covering the subject. It also includes links to leading German-language news sources. It then turns its attention to German political institutions and depicts treatments of the executive, legislative, and judicial branches of government followed by studies of multilevel governance at the European, state, and local levels. The subsequent section delves into the important role played by political parties in Germany; this section also explores treatments of individual parties. Then the bibliography covers the German electoral system, voting behavior, and specific national elections. It then covers scholarly treatments of the political elites. The discussion then turns away from formal political institutions and leaders toward the societal influences on them. This portion of the article begins by examining literature on political culture, immigration, and social movements in Germany. The final portion of the bibliography focuses on interest groups and policy making in a number of areas, including economic and foreign policy.

General Overviews

A good place to start in situating the Federal Republic of Germany’s current politics it to familiarize one’s self with the German past. The past manifests itself in a myriad of ways today, often as attempts to overcome previous authoritarian forms of government, including the 1933–1945 Nazi regime and the German Democratic Republic’s communist regime, which fell in 1989. Fulbrook 2019 provides just such a brief overview of German history, including a chapter summarizing the country’s contemporary, democratic, political system. Katzenstein 1987, a foundational work, depicts then West Germany as a “semisovereign” state; this description fits the post-unification German government as well. McAdams 2001 focuses on post-unification attempts to deal with injustices committed under communism. Edited volumes, Anderson and Langenbacher 2010 and Jarausch 2013 take stock of united Germany two decades after the communist regime fell and unified with the western portion of the country, a stable democracy and economic powerhouse. Lang, et al. 2017, a special issue of the journal German Politics, revisits developments in German politics a quarter century after unification, considering which of the changes to the system were driven by domestic factors and which came about because of international influences.

  • Anderson, Jeffrey, and Eric Langenbacher, eds. From the Bonn to the Berlin Republic: Germany at the Twentieth Anniversary of Unification. New York: Berghahn, 2010.

    This edited volume contains chapters written by leading scholars of German politics and paints a vivid portrait of German culture, politics, and economics twenty years after German unification. Also published as a special issue of German Politics and Society 28.1, available online, and German Politics and Society 28.2, available online by subscription or purchase.

  • Fulbrook, Mary. A Concise History of Germany. 3d ed. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2019.

    This brief history of Germany contains a chapter summarizing Germany’s post-unification political system.

  • Jarausch, Konrad H., ed. United Germany: Debating Processes and Prospects. New York: Berghahn, 2013.

    This edited volume traces key aspects of united Germany’s politics, including the political process of unification and the newly enlarged country’s economic, social, cultural, and foreign policies. Contributors include many leading German scholars writing in English.

  • Katzenstein, Peter J. Policy and Politics in West Germany: The Growth of a Semisovereign State. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1987.

    This seminal work demonstrates how postwar West Germany was structured with an absence of central authority and the presence of institutions forcing cooperation among different societal actors. These structures include coalition governments, federalism, para-public institutions, and the state bureaucracy. Katzenstein examines how these institutions have shaped policymaking in six areas, including economic management, industrial relations, social welfare, migrant workers, administrative reform, and university reform.

  • Lang, Sabine, Joyce Marie Mushaben, and Frank Wendler. “German Unification as a Catalyst for Change: Linking Political Transformation at the Domestic and International Levels.” In Special Issue: German Unification as a Catalyst for Change: Linking Political Transformation at the Domestic and International Levels. German Politics 26.4 (2017): 443–456.

    This article introduces a special issue of the journal German Politics written on the twenty-fifth anniversary of German unification. The special issue links the Federal Republic’s post-unification transformation to supranational and global developments, highlighting unification’s impact on the political party system, migration and asylum reforms, gender roles, and German foreign and security policy.

  • McAdams, A. James. Judging the Past in Unified Germany. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2001.

    Examines the attempts by united Germany to deal with injustices committed in the German Democratic Republic. Topics include shootings at the Berlin Wall, parliamentary truth telling commissions, lustration policies for civil servants, and the return of nationalized private property.

back to top

Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content on this page. Please subscribe or login.

How to Subscribe

Oxford Bibliographies Online is available by subscription and perpetual access to institutions. For more information or to contact an Oxford Sales Representative click here.