Free «German Culture» Essay Sample

German is at present the classic land of moral and cultural contrasts as stated by Francke (2009). According to Francke this is “because nowhere is the conflict between the powers cultural, temporal and spiritual, between traditional creeds and personal convictions, between autocracy and freedom being waged with greater intensity or deeper rooted bitterness” (p.9). He thus continues to say that the strife between church and state which in the seventies flamed up with more conflicts is at the present smoldering under the ashes. This means that there is much evolution and change which has occurred in the past in the German culture. Besides this, people may view German culture as one in which at present is giving signs of evolution because of the variety of opposing ideals which are struggling for supremacy in the national heart of cultural beliefs and practices (Francke, 2009).


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Thompson (2003) stated that the Nazi regime banned all forms of modernity in art and drama thus what was going on during that period was the Nazification of German culture. In this context many people have always wondered in what circumstances cultured people as the Germans could accept the Nazi rule. Thompson (2003) continues to say that the Nazis obliterated much of that culture just as they interfered with the Christian religion. At the same time Bernstein (2004) outlined that religion had ceased to play an important cultural role considering the number of times those German intellectuals had declared that God is dead. Bernstein thus found out that with all predictions not withstanding the Christian religion has remained a vital force in Germany. According to Bernstein Christianity and religion is “too deeply anchored in German culture and history” (p. 81).

In addition Bernstein (2004) established that apart from Christianity there was a small but once again growing Jewish community and a large Muslims population in Germany. Thus all religions and their role in contemporary Germany culture had key contributions to the evolution of the countries culture. Bernstein (2004) further says that “although religious freedom in Germany is guaranteed by the constitution and adherents of the major world religions as well as followers of numerous smaller religious groups, they are free to practice their faith, religious life in Germany is dominated by two Christian denominations” (p .81). These denominations include Roman Catholic and Evangelical Church of Germany (EDK), an association of Lutheran and Reformed Calvinist churches, which are also called Protestantism.

Religion in Germany and especially Christianity is deeply embedded in their culture. Bernstein (2004) thus says this is because of the well functioning synergic relationship between state and churches which goes beyond providing an indispensible service to the needy, handicapped, infirm and old and the young as well.  Religion is taught in public schools; catholic priests and protestant pastors are trained in publicly financed universities. Bernstein (2004) further established that while some individuals continue to see religion as important, they have become selective about what features of the established churches and their rituals they are prepared to integrate in into their own culture and life styles (p. 84). Hence he continues to say that though religion might still have a role to play as cultural and social institutions in German, their role as spiritual guidance has been greatly diminished (Bernstein, 2004).   

Brady, Crawford &Wiliarty (1999) outlined that there are two alternative explanations for what conditioned Germany’s success and triggered its weakness. Firstly they said that new institutions have power to transform the society hence from this perspective, institutions are constitutive of social practices and cultural beliefs (Brady, Crawford &Wiliarty, 1999). They also said that using the cultural approach claims that cultural belief in Germany has determined more than institutions and carries more weight in explaining outcomes. Cultural beliefs in Germany have made the claim that they can explain why institutions change as a result of struggles among various social actors representing divergent beliefs, values, and interpretations of reality.

Cultural beliefs

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Brady, Crawford &Wiliarty (1999) further found out that these cultural beliefs popular among Germany historians of the 1960s and 1970s attempts to explain the phenomenon of Nazism (p. 4). They also established that in this school of thought the German cultural beliefs in the nineteenth century had developed differently from the other European countries, hence as a result it developed pernicious traits that then are reflected in Germany’s political and economic institutions, making Hitler’s seizure of power almost a foregone conclusion.

Cultural developments according to Brady, Crawford &Wiliarty (1999) in the pre-fascist period of Germany history created the conditions for successful democracy and prosperous economy once fascism was destroyed and space was opened for the emergence of new core cultural beliefs (p. 5). Brady, Crawford &Wiliarty (1999)  also stated that Germanys late development with its advantage of backwardness, Bismarck’s unification and the creation of the welfare state and even certain unintended modernizing tendencies under fascism all created a set of values, norms, beliefs and social understandings that presaged a successful transformation to democracy ()p. 5.  Those cultural beliefs and features were further enhanced and promoted by new institutions throughout the post war period hence culture of liberal capitalist democracy has come to dominate Germany society today.


Historically, German norms have always placed a strong emphasis on marriage, women’s duties as housewives and mothers as reflected in laws regarding family rights in the country (Brady, Crawford &Wiliarty, 1999). In German the original family and marriage code enshrined a woman’s domestic role in law and even gave husbands some more control over their wives rights to work (237). They continue to say that the code explicitly stated that it was a wife’s duty to take care of the household, a task from which she could be freed only in consultation with her husband. Brady, Crawford &Wiliarty (1999) determined that in 1977 the law of marriage was reformed at which time gender neutral language was introduced. Therefore from those reforms the household division of labor was not to be gender specific but the partners are to agree on tasks of housekeeping. Government agencies have been especially restrictive in granting residence permits to spouses and children. The courts lifted many of these restrictions by appealing to the protection of marriage and family that is guaranteed in the basic law.

Bernstein (2004) also outlined that in the last 30 years there has been profound changes in the way family and marriage are viewed in Germany (p. 70). He continues to say that there are fewer marriages, fewer children, and more divorces. This is because alternative lifestyles such as unmarried couples living together, single mothers and fathers, and same sex partnerships are widely accepted (Bernstein, 2004). Bernstein (2004) stated that in talking with young Germans, one gets the impression that that marriage is not only on the decline but has disappeared completely (p. 70). On the other hand he further comments that marriage is still the most preferred form of living together. For example in the middle of the 1990s sixty one percent of all inhabitants of Germany over the age of twenty were married and for many couples the wedding is still one of the most important events in their lives.


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Death caused the first animates of intellectuals and politicians to produce universal senses of disorientation (Brady, Crawford &Wiliarty, 1999). Few Germans seemed to be vexed by the state of the earlier non-being before birth, but many of the people were bothered by the prospect of non- being after death (p. 276). It was also well known that behind the veil of ignorance concerning future life events death was inevitable. Brady, Crawford &Wiliarty (1999) established that all human beings can fall victims to accidents, illness, or the premature death. Francke (2009) also outlined that according to the Germany culture death is a transition from one existence to another and that every one ids justified in holding out the worst of criminals in their dying hour which could be the comforting assurance.

Death on the other hand is considered supernatural. Duncan (1989) says that families insisted on bringing their dead from hospitals or wherever death occurred, to the house as soon as possible. Friends visited the bereaved home as soon as news of the death reached them; members of the family seated themselves in the living room to receive condolences (Duncan, 1989). According to Duncan (1989) the mystery of death was a promise of eternal life in the German culture. He also continues to say that life was tragic and sinful; death was a welcome release from suffering and guilt (p. 148).

Gender roles

Gender roles in German culture are constituted by the society. Brady, Crawford &Wiliarty (1999) established that there are no tasks beyond the biologically given roles of childbirth and breast feeding that require a woman rather than a man. Brady, Crawford &Wiliarty further continued to say that “gender roles in Germany clearly delineate a gendered division of labor were women are seen by society as embodying the primary role of a caregiver, a role that is largely supported by legal codes and legislation” (p. 237). Whether gender equality should prevail in Germany society is rather unclear given because of the ambiguous laws regarding that issue. Brady, Crawford &Wiliarty (1999) also said that the socially implicit understanding of woman’s role and their welfare citizenship rights is that of carrying out reproductive labor, which is non paid labor of childbearing and care taking (p. 237). On the other hand men are assumed to be the employed breadwinners. These gender role distinctions are most evident in three basic sets of codified norms which include: family rights, motherhood protection and female employment.

Colvin & Davies (2008) commented that men were reduced by the controlling gender roles regime to a passive female role and hence they lost all sense of their gender identity. They further said that despite gains for women at the level of policy and ideology, women are still oppressed by an ongoing patriarchal system in the gender roles. Colvin & Davies (2008) further says that “although the concern in of feminist theory has largely been with the position of women within a system that privileges men as a group, these stories revel the dynamics of gender in a way that makes  masculinity visible and thus causes significant problems to the position of men” (p. 211). They further established that in the years following the Nazi regimeconstructions of women as losers under Germany unification formed the basis of both media and scholarly representations of women and gender and this view is only nowadays receiving proper critical examination (p. 210).  

Family organization

Family organization in the Germany Culture has evolved to level were it resembles the dominant culture of imperial Germany despite the superficial differences which may arise from one region to another. According to Evans & Lee (1981) family in the Germany culture should be as cohesive and unified as possible in its outlook on life. They further outlined that family should be bound by the same values and modes of behavior. Bernstein (2004) on the other hand illustrated that it should be possible to find a pluralization of family forms which is in addition to the traditional form of parents and their children.

Pluralization of family also means that the culture has continually changing combinations of one parent and changing partners, same sex couples and single parent fathers or mothers (Bernstein, 2004). Bernstein therefore noted that Germans culturally have attached great importance to the family organization which has also played a significant role to the analysis of German culture (2004). It is therefore important and worth noting that cultural altitudes and beliefs in German have been shaped by the educational system, gender roles and family organization. 

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