The Path to Christian Democracy : German Catholics and the Party System from Windthorst to Adenauer

Biographical note: CaryNoel: Noel D. Cary is Associate Professor of History, College of the Holy Cross.

Bibliographic Details
Main Author: Cary, Noel D. (Author)
Format: eBook
Published: s.l. : Harvard University Press 1996
Physical Description:Online-Ressource (XI, 355 S.)
QR Code: Show QR Code
  • Biographical note: CaryNoel: Noel D. Cary is Associate Professor of History, College of the Holy Cross.
  • Challenging those who seek continuity in German history primarily in terms of its long march toward Nazism, this book searches for the indigenous origins of postwar German democracy. By exploring the links between earlier abortive Catholic initiatives and the range of competing postwar visions of the new party system, this book moves Catholic Germany from the periphery to the heart of the issue of continuity in modern German history.
  • From the time of Bismarck's great rival Ludwig Windthorst to that of the first post-World War II Chancellor, Konrad Adenauer, the Catholic community in Germany took a distinctive historical path. Although it was by no means free of authoritarian components, it was at times the most democratic pathway taken by organized political Catholicism anywhere in Europe. Challenging those who seek continuity in German history primarily in terms of its long march toward Nazism, this book crosses all the usual historical turning points from mid-nineteenth- to late-twentieth-century German history in search of the indigenous origins of postwar German democracy. Complementing recent studies of German Social Democracy, it links the postwar party system to the partisan traditions this new system transcended by documenting the attempts by reform-minded members of the old Catholic Center party to break out of the constraints of minority-group politics and form a democratic political party. The failure of those efforts before 1933 helped clear the way for Nazism, but their success after 1945 in founding the interdenominational Christian Democratic Union (CDU) helped tame political conservatism and allowed the emergence of the most stable democracy in contemporary Europe. Integrating those who needed to be integrated--the cultural and political conservatives--into a durable liberal order, this conservative yet democratic and interdenominational "catch-all" party broadened democratic sensibilities and softened the effect of religious tensions on the German polity and party system. By crossing traditional chronological divides and exploring the links between earlier abortive Catholic initiatives and the range of competing postwar visions of the new party system, this book moves Catholic Germany from the periphery to the heart of the issue of continuity in modern German history.
  • Review text: There is no question that the subject-matter of this book is timely and well worthy of publication. The role of political Catholicism in modern German history has been neglected until recently, in Germany as well as the United States. The Path to Christian Democracy is based upon extensive archival research. It is well-written, with a literary style better than that of many academic writers.Shrewdly argued, full of pithy, quotable generalizations, The Path to Christian Democracy should be required reading for specialists on the Federal Republic, political scientists as well as historians.Cary has written a solid and spirited work that, as he intends, brings political Catholicism in from the periphery.Cary offers an elegant, readable, and intellectually coherent account.Despite its significance, Christian Democracy receives far less attention from scholars than parties of the Left. Cary helps right the balance: his is the best historical analysis yet written about the most important political movement in the most powerful country of Europe. Cary persuasively argues that the Catholic center, however mixed its motives, formed a mainstay of liberal democratic opposition to Bismarck's reactionary empire...[Cary] has skillfully blended the distillation of archival material with careful political analysis and clear, graceful prose, making familiarity with this book both necessary and sufficient for anyone interested in understanding this important topic.Noel Cary's study examines an oft-neglected thread of continuity in the development of the German party system, namely, the efforts by prominent German Catholics from the Second Empire to the Federal Republic to overcome the social and confessional barriers that had become so deeply embedded in German political culture through the creation of an interconfessional Christian party...Cary reminds us that there are other continuities in modern German history than those that culminated in the creation of the Third Reich and the atrocities of the Holocaust. Although Cary's well-written and carefully crafted book covers the entire period from 1871 to 1957 and deals with such topics as the so-called Zentrumsstreit of the early twentieth century, its real strength lies in its discussion of the fate of Catholic proposals for a reform and realignment of the German party system in the periods immediately following the end of the two world wars. What Cary has to say about efforts after the end of World War I to create an interconfessional Christian people's party and the controversy these efforts ignited within Center is richly detailed and informative. By the same token, Cary's discussion of the deliberations that surrounded the decision by Adrenauer, Jakob Kaiser, and other prominent Catholics to found the CDU as an interconfessional rival to the newly reconstituted Center Party contains a wealth of new information on the efforts to establish the CDU as a genuinely new party capable of transcending the social and confessional cleavages that had doomed Germany' first experiment at democracy to failure.[Noel Cary] elucidate[s] the crucial role of the reforming elements of German Catholicism in breaking with their own limiting past and in forging an interdenominational 'catch-all' Christian Democratic Union, which produced a durable liberal and 'Europeanized' party capable of integrating the spectrum of conservative opinion into becoming the governing entity for most of Bonn's forty years of existence and beyond. Cary thereby challenges the view that the post-1949 CDU was a totally new creation, by demonstrating that in fact one section of German Catholic opinion had all along pursued the goal of an ecumenical and integrating political approach in German politics...The strength of this book lies in Cary's skilful analysis of the divergent policies advanced by the various factions and leaders throughout the Centre's history. His account is flowing and masterly.Noel Cary asserts that the Christian Democratic Union was not quite so novel as it may appear at first glance and that its post-1945 founding and remarkable success should be seen in the context of a four-decades-long effort to reform the German party system...[An] intellectually stimulating, elegantly written, and carefully researched book, the best and in many ways the only English-language treatment of the subject.This is an interesting episode in the early history of the Federal Republic, and it is described with clarity and conviction.In this impressive monograph, based on a thorough investigation of pre-1933 Centre policies and of the first years of the [Christian Democratic Union], and using concepts won from political science, Noel Cary gives a comparative account of Centre and CDU/CSU. He explains why, and how, it became necessary for German Catholics to begin again in 1945. There were, of course, many reasons for the CDU/CSU's dazzling career beyond the fresh start, of which several are discussed only in passing, but Cary's central thesis, that party change was the essential prerequisite for Christian Democracy, is exhaustively substantiated.Most analysis of modern German parties start in 1945 when trying to analyse their development from a historical perspective. One of the major advantages of Noel Cary's instructive book is to try to trace the roots of the attempts to build an inter-denominational christian-conservative party back to the era of Bismarck...Cary devotes more than half of his book to the time before 1945, which is a very prudent thing to do because even though these attempts did not do much to shape a new party with a broader basis in the Kaiserreich and especially the Weimar Republic, they laid the foundations for the formation of the new Volksparteien: the CDU and CSU...[Cary] proves to be a scholar who is extremely well informed about the developments within the leading circles of political catholicism in Germany. This makes the book a valuable contribution to research on the history of the Germany party system.[A] minutely researched and fluently written account of political Catholicism in Germany from the birth of the Centre Party in the Kulturkampf under Bismarck in the 1870s to the emergence of the Christian Democratic Union of Konrad Adenauer after the Second World War. It is an illustration of the continuity in several streams of German life which did not simply feed and disappear into the Nazi mire, but re-emerged from the swamp in healthier condition...Cary's account will repay careful study by all who are concerned for how a set of religiously-inspired values can or cannot be embodied in a particular political group within a democratic system. That is an issue going well beyond Catholicism, and well beyond Germany.This book is an original contribution to our knowledge and understanding of German political history from the time of Ludwig Windthorst, Otto von Bismarck's most formidable political opponent during the Kulturkampf of the 1870s, to that of Konrad Adenauer, West Germany's first post-World War II chancellor...With skill and insight, Cary connects Germany's present-day political arrangements to the narrowly partisan tradition that these new arrangements supplanted. He carefully documents the efforts of reform-minded politicians from the old Catholic Center Party to break free from the constraints and limitations of minority-group politics and to form a more broadly based political movement