Protest Politics in Germany

Movements on the Left and Right Since the 1960s

By (author) Roger Karapin

Paperback - £24.95

Publication date:

15 August 2009

Length of book:

336 pages


Penn State University Press

ISBN-13: 9780271029863

Social movements and the protests they spawn are widely regarded as important to the vibrancy of democracy and its ability to respond constructively to change. In the immediate postwar period, West Germany’s was a “spectator democracy,” with the citizenry largely passive and elites operating mainly through consensus. Beginning with the student demonstrations in the late 1960s, however, Germany experienced waves of left-wing protest that expanded the political agenda and broadened political participation. Later, after the unification of East and West Germany, the country was confronted by new challenges from right-wing groups, which often engaged in violence during the early 1990s.

In this book Roger Karapin carefully examines protest movements on both the left and the right in order to understand how they became large and influential and why protesters in different conflicts used quite different methods (ranging from conventional participation to nonviolent disruption to violent militancy). His study of nine cases of protest includes leftist opposition to urban-renewal and nuclear-energy policies in the 1970s and 1980s and rightist opposition to immigration policy in the 1990s. Comparisons of contrasting cases reveal the crucial role played by strategic interaction among protesters, party politicians, and government officials—rather than socioeconomic factors or political institutions—in determining the paths that the movements took.

“Providing detailed analysis of several recent social movements in Germany, Roger Karapin explains the development of social movement campaigns, with particular concern for activists’ tactical and strategic choices. By comparing similarly situated movements, Karapin shows the extent to which activists make their own fates, given the very real constraints of political contingencies, including the quality of government leadership, the effectiveness of policing, and the support of party politicians. This book is critical reading for anyone interested in social movements and in German politics more broadly.”

—David S. Meyer, University of California, Irvine