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Rupture And Transformation: Local Government In East Germany

Hellmut Wollmann
Published 1996 · Political Science

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It has been convincingly argued that the transformation that former socialist countries in Central and Eastern Europe have been undergoing since the collapse of the communist regimes in 1989 and 1990 differs greatly from other system ruptures and transitions. Most transitions to democracy (such as, for instance, West Germany’s returning to democracy after 1945 or Spain’s transition from the Franco regime to democracy) encompassed the political system while maintaining the previous (capitalist) order. Contrarily the system transformation in the former socialist countries is marked not only by a transition to a democratic political system but also by the introduction of a market economy (Offe 1991). The transformation in East Germany is further marked by a number of features. First, unlike most other Central and Eastern European countries where the building of new political and administrative institutions evolved in an almost incremental and partly erratic manner, institution building in former East Germany (GDR) was shaped by a massive institution transfer in that the entire legal and administrative model of former West Germany (FRG) was ‘ready-made’ and literally overnight exported and implanted in the new eastern Lander (Lehmbruch 1993). This institutional, enforced, transfer was made possible by the political, administrative, economic and financial might and will of former West Germany. Adding to it came a significant transfer of personnel (that is, the occupation of important political and administrative positions in the ‘new’ Lander by West Germans, and the massive transfer of financial resources. These complementary processes show the degree to which the former GDR has come to be shaped and penetrated by the old FRG as an external actor and change agent (Offe 1992). In sum, these factors may add up to make the transformation in East-Germany look like a unique case in the spectrum of former socialist countries.1

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