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Political education in post-transition states: the case of (East-)Germany

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  • Political Science
  • German Studies
  • Education
  • Mathematics
  • Political Science
  • Social Sciences


This paper investigates whether states, which are post transition from dictatorship to democracy, engage in a narrower form of political education in schools, focussing on the transmission of declarative knowledge, with the result that they produce citizens more likely to accept the status quo than to critically analyse and attempt to transform it. Attitudinal and behavioural data from the European/World Values Surveys is used to test this hypothesis with regard to the five new eastern states in Germany, i.e. the former German Democratic Republic. The data was collected at three points in time during the decade directly following its reunification with West Germany in 1990. Three of the WVS items selected for the purpose of this research relate to reported attitudes towards politics and society, including expressed level of interest in politics. Three are behavioural and relate to reported previous political action and expressed likelihood of engaging in future political action. The results indicate that there was an initial period directly following the fall of the Berlin Wall which was characterised by positive attitudes towards the possibility of effecting political and social change together with high levels of interest in politics and engagement in political action. However, seven and nine years later, the picture was somewhat different with a tendency towards more passive, compliant views reflected in an increased desire for order and authority and lower levels of motivation to participate politically and to effect change. Implications are considered.

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