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Germany: an Autumn of Discontent - Updated

by dvx Sun Nov 5th, 2006 at 10:16:27 AM EST

By most objective measures, one might think the mood in Germany should be pretty good right now: the economy is up, unemployment is down and Germany hosted a picture-perfect World Cup, enhanced by a fairytale performance on the part of Jürgen and his Klinsmen. So what is one to make of an item such as this, which featured so prominently in the Friday news cycle?

Süddeutsche Zeitung: New Survey: Majority of Germans is Unsatisfied with Democracy

Der Wirtschaft geht es besser, doch die Zustimmung zu den politischen Abläufen im Land ist auf einen historischen Tiefstand gesunken. Die Bundesrepublik erscheint vielen als ein ungerechtes Land.

Die Deutschen sind erstmals mehrheitlich nicht mehr zufrieden damit, wie die Demokratie in der Bundesrepublik funktioniert. Das ist das Ergebnis des neuesten ARD-Deutschlandtrends, der vom WDR in Köln veröffentlicht wurde.

Trotz besserer wirtschaftlicher Rahmendaten sei die gesellschaftliche Stimmung auf dem Tiefpunkt. Zufrieden mit den demokratischen Abläufen äußerten sich nur noch 49 Prozent der Befragten. Das seien elf Prozentpunkte weniger als im September 2005 und der niedrigste je im Deutschlandtrend gemessene Wert.

Auch das Empfinden, dass es in der Gesellschaft eher ungerecht zugeht, ist der Umfrage zufolge seit dem Sommer kontinuierlich gestiegen. Nur noch 27 Prozent der Bundesbürger (minus acht Prozentpunkte im Vergleich zum September 2006) bezeichnen die Situation im Land als gerecht, 66 Prozent hingegen als ungerecht (plus vier Prozentpunkte).

The economy has improved, but approval of the nation's political processes has reached a historic low. Many perceive the Federal Republic as an unfair country.

For the first time, a majority of Germans is no longer satisfied with the way democracy functions in the Federal Republic. This is the result of the latest "Deutschlandtrend" survey of national broadcaster ARD, which was released by member broadcaster WDR in Cologne.

In spite of better economic data, the social mood has reached a low point. Only 49 percent of respondents expressed themselves satisfied with the democratic processes. This is 11 percentage points less than in September 2005 and the lowest level ever measured in Germany.

The survey also revealed that the perception that society is more unfair than otherwise has increased continuously since the summer. Only 27 percent of German citizens (eight percentage points less than in September 2006) regard the situation in the country as fair, 66 percent consider it unfair (plus four percentage points).

A brief tour of German discontents.

Excellent diary and discussion -- afew


To begin, we need to note that the headline is misleading: Germans are not dissatisfied with democracy, but with how democratic processes play out. The website of Infratest dimap, the organization that actually conducted the survey, elaborates:

[S]atisfaction with the Great Coalition has decreased to an all-time low: only 19 percent are satisfied with the Federal government's performance. Thus, the current reputation of the Great Coalition is even worse than that of the Social Democrat-Green coalition before it was voted out in September 2005. In the fields of employment policy, retirement policy, tax policy and health care policy the population's mistrust in the parties' capability to solve the existing problems continues to be particularly high. This also applies to the parties' general capability to solve Germany's future problems.

In other words, citizens have no confidence in the ability of their government to positively influence any of the social factors that affect their daily lives. (The only exception seems to be education - and this begs the question of whether the pollsters simply forgot to list this issue.)

The long, drawn-out wrangling over health insurance "reform" has done much to damage the Merkel government's standing. Since the issue was first placed on the agenda the beginning of the year, proposals and counter-proposals have sprouted, merged, morphed and died, without producing any plan that perceptibly addresses the cost and demographic issues. As Infratest notes, "In general, two thirds [of respondents] are not confident that the Government can improve the health care system (64 percent)."

Meanwhile, the Frankfurter Rundschau emphasizes a different aspect of the study: "More and more Germans see themselves as losers."





Im Herbst 2002 hatten sich 61 Prozent als Begünstigte empfunden, 2005 noch 51 Prozent. Einst wurde vor der "Zwei-Drittel-Gesellschaft" gewarnt; nun nähert sich die Quote der gefühlten Gewinner dem Drittel. Und nur noch 27 Prozent empfinden die Republik als "eher gerecht".

In Autumn 2002, 61 percent saw themselves as beneficiaries [of social trends], and in 2005 this figure was still 51 percent. Experts used to warn of the "two-thirds society"; the proportion of subjective winners is now approaching one third. And only 27 percent perceive the Republic as being "more fair than otherwise".


Fewer winners:

Do you see yourself as being on the winning side ("Gewinner") or on the losing side ("Verlierer") of social trends?

Neither/nor: 16 (2002); 26 (2006

Of course, in light of the sustained barrage of bad news, it is no surprise that people feel threatened, nor that they see a decline in fairness. Here is just a sampling from recent months:

N24: Deutsche Bank hiring in India


Die Deutsche Bank verlagert offenbar massiv Arbeitsplätze nach Indien. Bereits im laufenden Jahr steige die Mitarbeiter allein bei den drei indischen Tochtergesellschaften DNETS, DBOI und GMC in Bombay und Bangalore von 350 auf 2200, berichtet der "Spiegel". Im kommenden Jahr würden dort über 4000 Menschen arbeiten, berief sich das Magazin auf ihm vorliegende interne Unterlagen. [...]

In der vergangenen Woche hatte die Deutsche Bank in Frankfurt am Main ihre Dreimonatsbilanz vorgelegt. Demnach stieg der Überschuss um 20 Prozent auf 1,24 Milliarden Euro. [...] Die Eigenkapitalrendite vor Steuern und Sondereffekten habe unverändert 26 Prozent betragen.


The Deutsche Bank is apparently conducting a mass shift of jobs to India. The "Spiegel" reports that in the current year, DNETS, DBOI and GMC in Bombay and Bangalore, will increase from 350 2200. Over 4000 persons will be employed there next year, the Spiegel reported, citing internal documents in its possession. [...]

The Deutsche Bank presented its quarterly financial statement in Frankfurt am Main last week. According to this, earnings increased by 20 percent to 1.24 billion euros. [...] Return on equity before taxes and special factors remained unchanged at 26 percent.

Kölnische Rundschau: Allianz cuts workforce in spite of record profits


München - Der Versicherungskonzern Allianz will sich auf dem Weg zu einem Rekordgewinn nicht von seinen Plänen für den drastischen Stellenabbau abbringen lassen. Nach einer Gewinnverdopplung im dritten Quartal 2006 schraubte das Unternehmen die Prognose für das Gesamtjahr am Freitag abermals nach oben und erwartet nun einen Überschuss von bis zu 6,5 Milliarden Euro, nach 4,4 Milliarden Euro im Vorjahr. [...] Auch in den kommenden Jahren sollen die Gewinne weiter sprudeln. Allianz-Vorstand Helmut Perlet verteidigte dennoch den geplanten Abbau von rund 7500 Stellen im Versicherungsgeschäft und bei der Dresdner Bank. Gerade im Finanzdienstleistungssektor seien die Herausforderungen durch den schärfer werdenden Wettbewerb deutlich gewachsen. "Wir können uns nicht zurücklehnen, es sind weitere Anstrengungen nötig, um das Erreichte zu festigen", sagte Perlet. Munich - On its course toward a record profit, the Allianz Insurance Group is unwilling to depart from its plans to drastically cut jobs. After doubling profits in the third quarter of 2006, the company raised its forecast for the year overall once again on Friday, and now anticipates earnings of up to 6.5 billion euros, following 4.4 billion euros in the previous year. [...] Profits are expected to expand further in the coming year as well. In spite of these developments, Allianz board member Helmut Perlet defended the planned cut of around 7500 jobs in the insurance business and at the Dresdner Bank, asserting that in the financial services sector in particular the challenges of intensifying competition have grown considerably. "We cannot relax, further efforts are needed to secure what we have achieved," said Perlet.

Ah, the good old, "We're doing it because everyone else is" defense.

And then there's this:

Former Siemens Mobile Phone Unit Cuts 2,000 Jobs

What BenQ employees dreaded is coming true. The Taiwanese mobile phone giant is laying off about two-thirds of its German-based workforce. Employees are protesting, and unions are levelling much of their criticism at previous owner Siemens.

The inevitable is happening at BenQ Mobile. Less than a month after filing for insolvency, the German mobile phone unit of Tawainese electronics firm BenQ -- which used to belong to Siemens -- is now laying off close to 2,000 workers in Germany. That's two thirds of its workforce in the company.

"After three weeks of intensive examination, it is clear that this is the only chance of keeping the firm together," said Martin Prager, administrator of BenQ's insolvency process. BenQ filed for bankruptcy on September 29 after deciding the unit could not be made profitable. The firm had accrued €600 million in losses from the German unit since buying it from Siemens in 2005.

Siemens has been under constant criticism about the layoffs -- the mobile phone unit was already in serious financial trouble when they sold it to BenQ. Siemens management maintains BenQ had a realistic plan to save the mobile phone unit and that the Taiwanese firm may have broken agreements that were put in place during the sale to protect employees from this very eventuality. Siemens' top executives have delayed their own salary hikes to help fund assistance to laid-off workers. Nevertheless, Siemens is being accused of ditching the mobile phone unit with little regard for its employees.

The Siemens case has a particularly bad odor. It transferred its underperforming mobile phone unit to Benq roughly a year ago, after obtaining "extensive pay concessions" (as one report puts it) from employees to save the unit. However much Siemens management doth protest, the impression remains that they dumped the business on Benq with the expectation that Benq would do their dirty work for them.

These are just three recent examples - out of many, many more in this year - of companies polishing their bottom lines at the expense of the people who depend on them for their livelihoods. This is not perceived as fair. And those who remember their civics from school also understand that the persons making such decisions are trampling on the spirit of the Basic Law, Germany's constitution - in particular Article 14 (2):

Property entails obligations. Its use shall also serve the public good.

And what happens to those that lose their jobs? Well, if they're young and well-educated (particularly in a technical field), they are likely to find a good job (though they may have to relocate). But most companies are reluctant to hire persons over 40, and will not even look at someone who has hit 50. (And this in a country with a low birthrate and an aging population.) This is the greatest fear that I hear in my age cohort   - that of being catapulted from a secure to a marginal existence even though one performs well and plays by the rules.

In short, then, the German public believes - with some apparent cause - that its politicians are unable to act for the public good, and have reason to assume that their economy is being run for the benefit of particular interests to the detriment of the broader public.

Political frustration - rising social inequity - increasingly precarious personal circumstances. The survey results should not come as a big surprise. Update [2006-11-5 8:20:29 by dvx]: To keep the pot boiling:

FAZ: Glos seeks to drastically curtail dismissal protection
05. November 2006 In der großen Koalition bahnt sich neuer Streit um eine Lockerung des Kündigungsschutzes an. Wirtschaftsminister Michael Glos machte sich für ein Modell nach dänischem Vorbild stark, bei dem der Kündigungsschutz deutlich herunterfahren und dafür mehr Arbeitslosengeld gezahlt wird. Das soll aber an schärfere Auflagen geknüpft sein. Arbeitsminister Franz Müntefering wies den Vorstoß zurück. Glos sagte der „Welt am Sonntag“, solche Änderungen würden die Bereitschaft der Betriebe fördern, Arbeitskräfte einzustellen, und gleichzeitig die Bereitschaft der Arbeitslosen, Arbeit aufzunehmen. „Unser früher geschüttelter Nachbar Dänemark macht damit sehr gute Erfahrungen.“ Im Nachbarland sind dem Bericht zufolge die Kündigungsfristen kurz; dafür erhalten Arbeitslose aber bis zu vier Jahre maximal 90 Prozent ihres zuletzt erhaltenen Lohns. Allerdings müssen sie jede zugewiesene Arbeit oder Ausbildungsangebote annehmen, sonst droht Entzug des Arbeitslosengeldes. 05. November 2006 A new dispute over loosening dismissal protection is brewing in the Grand Coalition. Economics Minister Michael Glos [CDU] advocated a model based on the Danish example, in which dismissal protection is significantly curtailed and instead more unemployment compensation paid. This however would have to be associated with stricter requirements. Labor Minister Franz Müntefering protested this proposal. Glos told the weekly newspaper "Welt am Sonntag" [Attention: Springer alert] that such changes would increase the readiness of businesses to hire employees, and at the same time promote the willingness of unemployed persons to accept work. "The experience of our formerly critical neighbor Denmark has been extremely positive." According to this report, notice periods in the neighboring country are short; in return, unemployed persons receive a maximum of 90 percent of their last compensation for up to four years. However, the report adds, they must accept every employment or retraining opportunity offered or risk losing their unemployment benefit.
Can anyone comment on the Danish (or other Scandinavian) system?

Display:
Excellent diary - hard to find anything to add or comment except for the painfully obvious: this situation and these perceptions are "not just German", they're emblematic of Europeans as a whole.

"Ignoring moralities is always undesirable, but doing so systematically is really worrisome." Mohammed Khatami
by eternalcityblues (parvati_roma aaaat libero.it) on Sat Nov 4th, 2006 at 03:28:43 PM EST
The way I've come to see it is that our biggest problems is that we've come to believe all the ugly things that are being said about our countries in the English language press, and to repeat them ourselves, and it depresses us.

This is not to say that we do not have problems, but I refute that our countries or even our economies or our social fabric is in any worse shape that that of the countries so often touted as models (hint: their names start by U). But this is what is being said and repeated and believed by everybody and it's all lies.

Thus we have to fight the lies.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Sat Nov 4th, 2006 at 04:07:26 PM EST
[ Parent ]
this is the second time in recent days that I see stories about povery in Germany. The survey of the Economist on France last week also flagged the "worrying" poverty numbers for France.

Who the fuck are they kidding? Not that poverty is not a problem, of course it is, but the point is that it is a MUCH SMALLER problem in France and Germany than in the USA or the UK (precisely, I might add, because of the policies these people are hell bent on "reforming), and yet we now only talk about poverty in France or Germany and people end up thinking - becuase that's essentially what's being stated - that there is no poverty in the USA and the UK.

And yes, this pisses me off to no end.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Sat Nov 4th, 2006 at 04:10:55 PM EST
[ Parent ]
If so, the Economist is hopping on a German domestic debate by turning it upside down and omitting comparison. A study for a branch of the SPD analysed that the neoliberal reforms of recent years in Germany have created a new underclass (Unterschicht). There was much hypocritical debate after this (with former Schröderites in denial, Greens pretending they had no part in it, and CDU pretending this is only about Schröder era policies).

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Sat Nov 4th, 2006 at 06:41:51 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I note the Unterschichten-Debatte gave a slight dent in SPD's poll numbers, moving it again under CDU's..

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Sat Nov 4th, 2006 at 06:43:47 PM EST
[ Parent ]
What is the definition of poverty?

Is it a monetary metric that may include those who by choice have a self-restricted consumption lifestyle? Is it based on ownership? I recall the definition of poverty in a UK study of the 80s that used non-ownership of a colour TV as one definition.

You can't be me, I'm taken

by Sven Triloqvist on Sun Nov 5th, 2006 at 06:21:28 AM EST
[ Parent ]
A standard definition of poverty is 60% of median income.

Those whom the Gods wish to destroy They first make mad. -- Euripides
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sun Nov 5th, 2006 at 07:00:13 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I don't think that the low approval ratings are simply about believing the English-language press.

I read the German situation as somewhat analogous to that in the US. There as well, the macroeconomic metrics are looking pretty good, at least superficially. But the Repugs are unable to capitalize on this because none of the gains are trickling down (if you will excuse that term) to the broader society.

To my mind it's about fairness.

The fact is that what we're experiencing right now is a top-down disaster. -Paul Krugman

by dvx (dvx.clt ät gmail dotcom) on Sun Nov 5th, 2006 at 08:51:11 AM EST
[ Parent ]
we've come to believe all the ugly things that are being said about our countries in the English language press, and to repeat them ourselves, and it depresses us.

But would you go so far as to say that this increase in discontent is wholly due to buying the bad-mouthing hype of the English-press?

Are conditions such in Germany that "objectively" Germans today should be feeling better about things rather than worse?  If so, that is giving a lot of credit to the English press.

If on the other hand conditions are indeed worse than they were in the past, but not as bad as they are in the U.K. and the U.S., then maybe this is not just irrational worrying on the part of Germans, but also perhaps a matter of higher expectations, higher "quality standards" so to speak, with more rigorous demanding of satisfactory results from the government.

If only the ARD could come over to the U.S. to do a similar survey to release the results just in time for the midterm Congressional elections.

Rien ne réussit comme le succès.

by marco on Sat Nov 4th, 2006 at 10:27:48 PM EST
[ Parent ]
But would you go so far as to say that this increase in discontent is wholly due to buying the bad-mouthing hype of the English-press?

I'd say discontent has three sources (which count with different weight if at all for individual pessimist Germans): that the economic upturn doesn't benefit all, that there is no direction in federal politics just endless squabbles, and the unceasing badmouthing from the business press.

While I'd disagree with Jerôme that the last has that strong a role in the present downturn of public opinion, you have to realise that it is a very potent influence on Germany.

Germany is not like France and the USA, the most peoples' and the elites' patriotism/nationalism is much limited. There is a much greater willingless to listen to outside criticism -- and a naivety about critics' motives. Since I'm following the German media, I see the public being subjected to an unceasing series of widely disseminated reports badmouthing the country, serious comparisons with abroad get much less airtime, and real German successes even less.

It's quite the inverse of how things are done in the USA, where every new trend or expanding industrial branch is declared to be the harbringer of a new boom that brings total change. In Germany, if something new is introduced, its proponents will of course praise it in similar terms, but the media will focus in on what sceptics say or on initial problems.

An example. One of the last successes of the previous Red-Green government was the introduction of highway road toll for lorries. It was badmouthed by the road lobby, and due to shabby preparation and sheer complexity, the remote tracking system wasn't truly operational for months -- this was all over the headlines. But now that by now the system is fully operational and brings heaps of money into the German federal budget (more than €5 billion since its start nearly two years ago), it is but a small news on the back pages, even though it is now studied by other countries as a model to follow.

This "Anglo-Saxon" propaganda is all-pervasive and nauseating. Even currently, the rhetoric is that although the economy is running and the budget deficit is the smallest in 15 years, it's all temporary and 'reforms' must continue.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Sun Nov 5th, 2006 at 04:16:51 AM EST
[ Parent ]
While I'd disagree with Jerôme that the last has that strong a role in the present downturn of public opinion, you have to realise that it is a very potent influence on Germany.

When scanning Der Spiegel's headline articles, they sometimes do seem to have some strikingly neoliberal tendencies.

In Germany, if something new is introduced, its proponents will of course praise it in similar terms, but the media will focus in on what sceptics say or on initial problems.

I wonder if this is not also a European trait in general, at least relative to the U.S.

This "Anglo-Saxon" propaganda is all-pervasive and nauseating. Even currently, the rhetoric is that although the economy is running and the budget deficit is the smallest in 15 years, it's all temporary and 'reforms' must continue.

It's also ridiculous, and sometimes pitiful.

Nevertheless, as the maps of European job gains below indicate, there do seem to exist certain "objective" conditions in Germany which could be substantial reasons for the current malaise described in this diary; it would be somewhat of a stretch to blame the English language press for these.




Rien ne réussit comme le succès.

by marco on Sun Nov 5th, 2006 at 05:28:06 AM EST
[ Parent ]
If you look closely, only a small part of West Germany is orange, while London is orange -- and London is not spoken of in similar negative mood. That East Germany is in continuing bad shape is really bad, but local (and encompassing some sixth to seventh of the total population), while the depression is all of Germany.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Sun Nov 5th, 2006 at 06:02:15 AM EST
[ Parent ]
only a small part

Sorry, I meant "the smaller part", and I was already contemplating population which  you may not know where concentrates.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Sun Nov 5th, 2006 at 06:05:17 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Looking at it again, scratch it: on the blow-up I see London itself is not orange, only its surroundings.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Sun Nov 5th, 2006 at 06:07:33 AM EST
[ Parent ]
A different approach:

First, this map is not relevant to the current (second half of 2006) downturn in public opinion, because this is the 2000-2005 change, and just in the last few months, an opposite trend (e.g. increase of jobs) started. On the other hand, the decrease of jobs is arguably a consequence of certain neoliberal reforms (and business policies shifting from Rhineland Capitalist to neoliberal), not the consequence of lack of such "reforms" as the Anglo-Saxon press argues. I.e., I see a loopback effect between the rhetoric and real socio-economic problems (one of which I named as first of three reasons).

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Sun Nov 5th, 2006 at 06:19:02 AM EST
[ Parent ]
First, this map is not relevant to the current (second half of 2006) downturn in public opinion, because this is the 2000-2005 change, and just in the last few months, an opposite trend (e.g. increase of jobs) started.

Very possibly.  Have jobs increased enough to turn those orange areas into peach?  If so, perhaps  Stimmung has yet to catch up with reality.

On the other hand, the decrease of jobs is arguably a consequence of certain neoliberal reforms (and business policies shifting from Rhineland Capitalist to neoliberal), not the consequence of lack of such "reforms" as the Anglo-Saxon press argues. I.e., I see a loopback effect between the rhetoric and real socio-economic problems (one of which I named as first of three reasons).

I wrote it would be a "stretch" to attribute unpleasant  conditions in Germany to the English language press (and its "neoliberal" rhetoric).  What you are describing is the one way I could think of where such blaming might happen.  But this is giving the English press even more credit than Jerome does: basically it is saying that if things are bad in Germany, it's because Germans (Schroeder?) were too weak and/or gullible in the face of the neoliberal rhetoric, caved in, and implemented "reforms" that caused the job situation they had through 2005.  That's a totally plausible scenario and very well may be true.  But it seems a bit too pat and convenient: if something is going well, it's because we are doing things the German/European/Social Democratic way, but if something is going bad, it's because the Anglo-Saxons bullied/seduced/tricked us into doing it.  (My own no doubt too simplistic guess as to why much of Germany was orange was that this was due to still lingering effects of the reunification.)

Again, it may very well be true, that the 2000 to 2005 drop in employment in many parts of Germany were due to Anglo-American-driven neoliberal "reforms" (in the late 90s/early 2000s?), while the 2006 improvement in the job situation was due to a return to German/Social democratic form of capitalism (in the last 2-3 years?).  But I guess I would like to see that case argued in more detail.

Rien ne réussit comme le succès.

by marco on Sun Nov 5th, 2006 at 07:22:48 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Okay, reading dvx's comment below (in particular, his phrase the "reforms" to date), I see that the scenario you describe is more plausible than I had thought.

Rien ne réussit comme le succès.
by marco on Sun Nov 5th, 2006 at 07:31:22 AM EST
[ Parent ]
If so, perhaps  Stimmung has yet to catch up with reality.

It's more like they go in opposite directions. At the time of the World Cup, when positive macroeconomic trends were also already showing,  public sentiment as measured by various indexes was rather positive (by German standards).

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Sun Nov 5th, 2006 at 08:29:21 AM EST
[ Parent ]
still lingering effects of the reunification

A question is, why do those effects have to linger on? The explanation might have something to do with policy.

while the 2006 improvement in the job situation was due to a return to German/Social democratic form of capitalism

For the record, I haven't said that (in fact I see no return to another form of capitalism at all). For the purposes of this thread, the uncoupling of public sentiment and macroeconomic trends is more interesting than the actual reasons behind the current upswing. (My own guess would be that we are seeing the late effects of the World Cup, the effect of stopped oil price increase on the world economy, and the fruits of projects companies they held back during the elections but restarted after.)

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Sun Nov 5th, 2006 at 08:38:20 AM EST
[ Parent ]
For the record, I haven't said that (in fact I see no return to another form of capitalism at all).

Yes, sorry, I misinterpreted your previous comment.

For the purposes of this thread, the uncoupling of public sentiment and macroeconomic trends is more interesting than the actual reasons behind the current upswing.

In your other comment you wrote,

If so, perhaps  Stimmung has yet to catch up with reality.

It's more like they go in opposite directions. At the time of the World Cup, when positive macroeconomic trends were also already showing,  public sentiment as measured by various indexes was rather positive (by German standards).

And I found that so striking, I wanted to make sure I understood it correctly:  You're saying that up to the World Cup, real economic conditions were actually not that great, but public sentiment was pretty good, but since then, as macroeconomic trends started getting positive, public sentiment has gone down?

If so, this is indeed pretty fascinating indeed.  I am sure someone has diaried something along these lines already, but it would be interesting to compare and contrast such trends across various countries.  For example, Colman and Andre the Giant have written about the falseness of the American Dream.  It would be interesting to examine just how far education, myths and propaganda can convince people -- negatively or positively -- that things are different than they are.  (I guess on the extreme side you have North Korea -- but even there I think far fewer people are buying the party line than merely pretend to.)

I see Jerome has just launched another counteroffensive against neoliberal criticisms of France...

Rien ne réussit comme le succès.

by marco on Sun Nov 5th, 2006 at 04:58:29 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I think there is more of double bind going on.

Yes, to an extent we've come to believe all the ugly things that are being said about our countries in the English language press, and to repeat them ourselves, and it depresses us.

But people in Germany are also seeing that the "reforms" to date have made their situation more precarious, and that a global economy "run" entirely on marketista principles will further undermine them both individually and collectively.

What I find fascinating (in a somewhat macabre kind of way) when discussing such subjects is how many people unquestioningly accept the current economic system, as if it were a natural law and not a construct.

If we can formulate an alternative the lies will start to wither.

The fact is that what we're experiencing right now is a top-down disaster. -Paul Krugman

by dvx (dvx.clt ät gmail dotcom) on Sun Nov 5th, 2006 at 05:18:43 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I wonder about your use of "English language press" as a categorization of all that is wrong-headed. Is there a pan-European language other than English?

You are equating the language of the newspaper, English, with an economic model and a broad mindset that does not see "European," and yet if English is the common language of Europe, one would think that there would be European-language (i.e., English) news sources that reflect the proper European way of looking at things.

What are they? Who are the European-language news outlets that I can read that will reflect the correct way of looking at things? BBC? Guardian? Spiegel?

by asdf on Sun Nov 5th, 2006 at 01:35:56 PM EST
[ Parent ]

What are they? Who are the European-language news outlets that I can read that will reflect the correct way of looking at things? BBC? Guardian? Spiegel?

Quite simply, they are not in English.

EVERYTHING in English has a anti-French, anti-German and anti-European bias. It's not as pronounced in every publication and every article, but it's the general background against which stories are built.

And I do mean this a a sweeping statement.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Sun Nov 5th, 2006 at 02:10:53 PM EST
[ Parent ]
This is a pretty big problem, then, I would say. If der Spiegel can offer an English version, why can't the journals that tell it the way it is (or should be)?

Apparently the left in Europe is not interested in communicating with the rest of the world?

by asdf on Sun Nov 5th, 2006 at 06:39:25 PM EST
[ Parent ]
EVERYTHING in English has a anti-French, anti-German and anti-European bias.

Does the Le Monde Diplomatique in English have an anti-French, anti-German and anti-European bias?  How about EuroNews in English?

They very well may; I only rarely read them so I wouldn't know.  But as I noted in dvx's diary on Germany, I am often struck by neoliberal undercurrents in Der Spiegel's English version.

Rien ne réussit comme le succès.

by marco on Sun Nov 5th, 2006 at 06:56:50 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Property entails obligations. Its use shall also serve the public good.

What an excellent thing to write in a constitution.

Anyway, I can report that the continental depression is not affecting Sweden. People are as optimistic and pompous as ever. If we had a survey at least two thirds would say that Sweden is the best country on the face of the planet.

It's called "Swedish exceptionalism" or "Welfare imperialism" and it has been around for at least 50 years.

And I have to admit that even I sometimes can not control my nationalism.

(Not that any Swede would ever admit it is nationalism, the thought have never ever struck their minds. That Sweden is the best country in the world is so deeply ingrained that it's not an opinion, it's a fact, just like snow being white and the sky blue. And this, of course makes it even more intensely nationalistic.)

I mean, just look at me and this comment. It was about Germany and here I am writing about Sweden. No one is immune.

Anyway, silly Germans, don't read Anglo-Saxon business press! They have an agenda, remember?

Peak oil is not an energy crisis. It is a liquid fuel crisis.

by Starvid on Sat Nov 4th, 2006 at 06:22:12 PM EST
How many Dalahäst

do you own?  

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre

by ATinNM on Sat Nov 4th, 2006 at 09:50:55 PM EST
[ Parent ]
None, as a matter of fact. But contrary to popular opinion, Dalahästar are not Swedish. They are Dalecarlian. :)

This is part of what I mentioned above. No Swede needs nationalist effigies, as we carry our Dalahäst with us all the time, inside our heads. Without even noticing it.


Peak oil is not an energy crisis. It is a liquid fuel crisis.

by Starvid on Sun Nov 5th, 2006 at 03:38:04 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Anyway, silly Germans, don't read Anglo-Saxon business press! They have an agenda, remember?

Silly us, too, on ET.

Those whom the Gods wish to destroy They first make mad. -- Euripides

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sun Nov 5th, 2006 at 04:17:58 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I was about to write the same comment myself!

You can't be me, I'm taken
by Sven Triloqvist on Sun Nov 5th, 2006 at 05:06:00 AM EST
[ Parent ]
100% agreement, jerome.

look to big media ownership and the pols who fawn on them for the hit to their narcissism for the cause of this, imo.

they want to undermine our sense of pride and contentment so the faceless movers and shakers can sell us more useless shit.

all dancing around the golden calf of corporate mammon-mind, where peple exist to serve money, instead of vice-versa.

where we all live in some cement dystopia, grateful for crumbs from out imperial overlords, who chew up lives and spit out empty industrial hulks after they have sucked the marrow from the people and the land, terrorising people who dare speak out against injustice.

 thanks to blogs like this perhaps we will arm ouselves with the necessary info to outwit these bottom-feeders, as our ignorance is their best friend, and with their trusty tool, the msm, they count on perpetuating the status quo, titillating us with gimcrack, superficial, ersatz punditry, while they slope away with the family silver.

it's going to take a whole lot of eddy-kayshun...

'free trade' is largely a con, at present...they know it, and dread that we wake up and recognise that smell of sulphur in the air!

stick it to 'em, j!

please continue to wake us up, for the future's sake...

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Sat Nov 4th, 2006 at 06:27:28 PM EST
...companies polishing their bottom lines at the expense of the people who depend on them for their livelihoods.

The standard NeoLiberal dictum that an enterprise's duty is solely to shareholders (and rewarding upper management.)

This is not perceived as fair.

The perception matches reality.  It isn't fair.  

... the greatest fear that I hear in my age cohort - that of being catapulted from a secure to a marginal existence even though one performs well and plays by the rules.

Classic controlling mechanism: change arbitrary rules at arbitrary times for arbitrary reasons.  People can adapt to physical danger (roofers & etc) and they can adapt to consistently applied rules even if those rules are completely insane.  What people cannot adapt to is constantly changing "reality-challenged" rules.  

Political frustration - rising social inequity - increasingly precarious personal circumstances.

Let's face it: we don't need them since we produce the goods and services that constitute wealth.  The ruling class will always parasitize the productive classes keeping us in "precarious personal circumstances" until we build our own economic structures: banks, grocery stores, factories, extractive industries, e.g., mining, and so on.  

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre

by ATinNM on Sat Nov 4th, 2006 at 10:33:59 PM EST


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