How does conflict hold society together?

Social context

Volker Kronenberg

To person

Prof. Dr. phil., M.A., born 1971; Dean of Studies of the Philosophical Faculty of the University of Bonn and Academic Director at the Institute for Political Science and Sociology, Lennéstraße 25, 53113 Bonn. [email protected]

No, political orientation myths for the stabilization and cohesion of free societies cannot be decreed, and certainly not enforced by the state. [1] That's a good thing. And yet a political community, including the "successful democracy" (Edgar Wolfrum) of the Federal Republic of Germany, needs a "common sense" (Max Weber) and a sense of community that motivates, gives and provides orientation in the face of virulent political and social challenges to collective and individual action the question of the future of res publica answered. For it is the paradox of modern republics, which are based on law and the common good, [2] that the latter does not exist per se, but is part of those prerequisites that the free rule of law and constitutional state cannot guarantee and enforce, even if it can demand and promote. [3]

The political and social challenges that Germany is confronted with today are great. While the number of citizens who are considered poor has risen over the years, a small percentage of the population of ten percent now has two thirds of private wealth in Germany. In view of this gap, the question inevitably arises as to the internal cohesion of a community to which the label of "leveled medium-sized society" was once attached. The "demographic crisis" is also becoming more and more of a focus. There is a threat of a state of demographic imbalance with immense consequential social costs. Against the background of an influx of migrants from southern Europe that has not been seen for decades, the question of meaningful integration measures, of a concrete idea of ​​how we want to live together in the future, is becoming more and more urgent. Ultimately, the need for social cohesion goes beyond national borders; questions of common identity, solidarity and solidity must be discussed, especially with a view to the future of the European Union.

Be it the relationship between "rich and poor", between "old and young", between "locals" and "migrants" (unwilling to integrate), between European "solidarity" and national "egoism": this "scissors" - be there objectively Whether it is perceived subjectively - closing each time and thus making a contribution to ensuring social cohesion in the Federal Republic in the future as well can be understood as a current as well as a central task for politics, economy and citizenship in the second decade of the 21st century . The fact that substantial financial resources are required to solve these tasks is as undisputed as it is tricky - one thinks of the burdensome national debt ratio, the constitutional debt brake, European obligations and the question of intergenerational equity. But what is required is not only monetary benefits and possibly legal, administrative and procedural modifications, but more fundamentally an understanding of the "where to", the "why" and the "how". There needs to be a consensus across society or a renewed understanding under changed framework conditions, which unites society in spite of and beyond existing conflicts. [4]

It is therefore about the foundation of values, which at the same time stabilizes and transcends the principles of the state-citizen relationship laid down in the constitution. That foundation, the design of which was devoted to Cicero in antiquity, Thomas Aquinas, among others, and in modern times Émile Durkheim, Talcott Parsons, Friedrich August von Hayek, Jürgen Habermas and Robert Bellah, each with different accents. The question of how things will come together is therefore - explicitly or implicitly - at the beginning of every preoccupation with the four indicated crisis phenomena, which are each differently positioned and yet - on a fundamental level - are closely linked. Because it is about the relationship of the individual to the community, of the "I" to the "we", and, more fundamentally, the question of who belongs to the "we" and why. Last but not least, what distinguishes the "we" as its own identity from the "other" and what in turn, beyond treaties and procedures, is what unites the individual identities - and in the European context the nations under one "roof" brings together.

Change of perception

An understanding of what the res publica Today, what the common good consists of and how this can be generated and guaranteed has been undertaken in Germany for several years along the lines of the concept of "patriotism", which at the time of the Bonn Republic still seemed almost unsuitable for this. [5] It was too much, keyword "Historikerstreit", politically and scientifically controversial, problematic under constitutional law in view of the inner-German border, in the light of its fateful abuse in the world war of the 20th century supposedly historically disavowed and at best with the prefix of the "constitution" as a form of identification à la Dolf Sternberger, or even better imagined à la Jürgen Habermas. But the concept and ethos of "patriotism" were experienced against the background of the "turning point in 1989/90" - "We are one people! Germany, one fatherland!" - and the red-green years of government from 1998 to 2005 a significant increase in importance, even without a prefix. [6]

Why and why at this point in time? Simply because the state ran out of money and the 2010 reform agenda required a rhetorical and symbolic superstructure. To this end, John F. Kennedy's patriotic phrase "don't ask what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country" seemed well suited. Even if other political and social factors played a role, it was no coincidence that Gerhard Schröder, in the context of his agenda policy, which was controversial within the party as well as society as a whole, brought about, as he called it, "responsibility for our country", a political and social change warned that "should not be exhausted in legislative resolutions", but rather, in order to preserve social coherence, it should be about "changing reality in Germany". In doing so, the Chancellor of the first red-green federal government set in motion a process that was barely imaginable just a few years earlier, which essentially had more to do with a "spiritual and moral turnaround" than what Schröder's predecessor in office Helmut Kohl rhetorically did in the early 1980s postulated, but never seriously pursued - and because of the vehement resistance from the left, it could not have operated at all at the time.

The irony of the story: with Schröder, of all people, one of the most vehement critics of Kohl's supposedly neoconservative tendency to change, set in motion a comprehensive political and social process under changed framework conditions and under the self-confident label of the patriot, the results of which are still not fully foreseeable years later, even if years later can be seen in the first contours. [7] It may be that Schröder was more driven by practical constraints, looking for a rhetorical figure to unleash civic potential or to win over bourgeois milieus for his politics. It may be that actually those "sons and daughters of sixty-eight" who now bore government responsibility with red-green, began to identify with their country, with their republic more than just functionally (and there is much to be said for it).

It is crucial that the tone and tenor in the political and social debate about the self-image of the Federal Republic and the question of what holds it together beyond institutions, procedures, contributions and quotas have changed. In this way, terms such as the content, attitudes and behavior of the orientation towards the common good were freed from political labeling - in some cases also stigmatization - which could only be useful and helpful for the sake of the cause. [8] So the debate about "leading culture" versus "multiculturalism" is moving in a constructive way today, because under the heading of a positive understanding of patriotism that is linked to the achievements of the second German democracy, a minimal consensus of values ​​has emerged, which forms the basis for future integration efforts serves and is now recognized by all established parties. The result was or is a largely fruitful debate beyond the "right-left" returnees about multi- and / or "leading culture", about integration challenges, but also about the common good and citizenship or the self-image of the Bundeswehr ("We. Serve. Germany."). It is about a patriotism of the Berlin republic that is firmly anchored in Europe, which has to constantly adjust and check plausibility of the relationship between freedom and solidarity, in a national and transnational context.


In perspective - and out of concern of the parties about their own election results, at best spelled out politically up to now - the realignment of the relationship between state and civil society, which in turn by no means and under no patriotic "cloak" is a departure from the fundamental principles of the welfare state, let alone which may mean dismantling to a night watchman state. Certainly, it is about answering the difficult question of which service to what extent and with which costs the state (alone or in a transnational network) can, should or must provide in the future and which tasks to what extent and with which public recognition possibly just as well, if not better, can be achieved in civic self-responsibility. A shrinking and aging society cannot avoid answering these questions in the long run and must for its part try to find convincing reasons why the path is taken in the chosen direction. The answer will not only - albeit essentially - take place under monetary or even utilitarian aspects, but also under aspects that elude the arithmetic of financial gain and loss.

Amazing, encouraging and at the same time in need of explanation: Why is the Federal Voluntary Service under the motto "Nothing fulfills more than being needed" just one year after its introduction? Why are new social community foundations emerging (also beyond tax breaks for the donors)? Why do neighborhood self-help groups or church social institutions experience such an influx, as has been recorded for some time? This is without charity, without solidarity, public spirit and common good action, without patriotism of well-understood self-interest, as Alexis de Tocqueville observed and analyzed in his book "About Democracy in America" ​​[9] in the first half of the 19th century not to understand. Much of what Tocqueville analyzed as the cause for the liveliness and diversity, for the integrative power of a modern democracy (the importance of associations, communitarian civil culture, religion) is still relevant in the 21st century ]

The liberal constitutional state of the present can take this into account (which it has been doing for years by means of increased "engagement policy") by creating and maintaining appropriate framework conditions for the development of these civic resources and adapting them to the respective changes and challenges. Knowing full well that he cannot substitute this culture of voluntariness as humus for the development and perpetuation of elementary values. Nevertheless, in order to promote a contemporary sense of community, he can, for example, upgrade the symbolic design of the holidays and memorial days (October 3rd / November 9th), even pay more attention to them with greater involvement of the citizens than is currently the case.

Likewise, in the given federalism of education policy, history and social studies lessons should be accorded that important role that they have especially in times of globalization. Years ago, in the light of the swelling globalization and glocalization debate, Ralf Dahrendorf formulated the right, important sentence that patriotism is the prerequisite for cosmopolitanism [11] - an only apparent paradox that is both worthwhile and necessary to think about today. It is less about terms than about content.

Regardless of whether "patriotism", "constitutional patriotism" à la Habermas, [12] whether "cosmopolitan", "rational patriotism" or "patriotism 2.0" [13] - the descriptions vary, the central idea of ​​a contemporary connotation of freedom and commitment from Freedom and solidarity on the horizon of universalism and particularism are the same. An appropriate, historically based understanding of enlightened, liberal patriotism takes German responsibility in and for Europe into account for the political integration project "Europe", also in the target perspective of politically more far-reaching united states of a "core EU-27 + X", which for its part, however, always exists on the basis of and out of the socio-moral substance of the nations.

It also takes account of the necessity and the challenge of shaping the precarious relationship between freedom and commitment, between freedom and solidarity, between insurance and trust, in a humane way within the horizon of universalism and particularism. It's about the latter, about design, participation, participation. Change should result from understanding, responsibility from freedom, action should follow from insight. On a large and small scale, in both political and pre-political areas. To close those "scissors" or to prevent their further opening that endanger the cohesion of every modern society. Also the one in Germany.