Rating: 5 out of 5
Mr Kampfner’s review of modern Germany was an interesting look into the country which manages the fill many gaps in the reader’s knowledge. The intention that the reader is British was, however, all-too-clear through the majority of the comparisons—and for more informed people this book might not be that illuminating a title.
The author covered the main tendencies in German politics and economy, described how the integration of the East and the West took place, and, of course, dedicated a fair bit of the book to showing how Merkel’s chancellorship has been impressive. In this, the author followed the trends to note the deficiencies with German inability to take up a proper leading position in foreign policy.
What I found most riveting were the descriptions on cultural and social norms: people working together for a common good and this being a societal expectation. Similarly, the anti-credit-spending thinking was an enlightening contrast to the more common British and American models while the contrasts between the leaders’ cultural tastes was also quite interesting (Merkel: theatre; Cameron: TV). The author was still very open in describing the problems that the bureaucratic style has and may lead to, for example, in the construction of the Berlin Airport—a truly song-worthy fiasco.
The historical basis that could have underlied the above-mentioned social descriptions wasn’t as strong as it could have been. Beyond a description of how the Bonn Republic came to stand on its feet in the 1950’s, the author mostly jumped across events until reintegration. Even these events were not detailed as well as Merkel’s leadership—as such, this is a political biography of modern Germany. Some detail is given on how the country got to its present state, but that is only sufficient to answer the most basic questions.
While this is a good overview of 21st century Germany, this book doesn’t come close to answering all questions one could have about how this state developed. That, however, was not the author’s goal—to show what are the worthwhile aspects of the “German system”.