How One Authoritarian State (Germany 1871-1914) Made the Transition to Democracy – Or Did It?


Wednesday, March 24, 2010, 4:10pm to 5:30pm


124 Mount Auburn, Suite 200-North, Room 226

Margaret AndersonMargaret Anderson, University of California, Berkeley

About the Seminar
Can robust democratic forces develop within self-conflidently authoritarian regimes? The Germany that Bismarck created was legendarily a hard place” for democrats: headed by an hereditary monarch, whose slogan was “the will of the king is the supreme law”; governed locally by a civil service with all the arrogance that birth and expertise bestow; and aided by an agrarian (“Junker”) aristocracy whose control of the rural population brooked no dissent. Analogous powers were claimed in the Saar and the Ruhr by industrialists who disposed of the votes along with the livelihoods of their workforce. And yet this same society produced political parties (including the largest socialist party in Europe) whose candidates, in democratic elections, regularly bested those of their conservative masters; who in parliament defeated legislation dear to the Crown and its paladins; who wrung concessions from the government and forced the Right to play the parliamentary game. Was it culture or institutions that accounts for the electoral successes of Wilhelmine Germanys democratic forces? And did their success matter?

You can watch the seminar here.

About Margaret Anderson
Professor Margaret Anderson is a faculty member in the history department at the University of California, Berkeley. Until recently she worked on political culture, including electoral politics, in Imperial Germany and in comparative European perspective; the intersection of religion and politics; and religion and society-especially Catholicism in the 19th century. She is now working on the relations (on the level of governments as well as civil society) between Germany and the Ottoman Empire from the time of the massacres of the Armenians in 1894-1896 to 1933.

Democracy Seminar Series
The Democracy Seminar Series brings distinguished speakers to Harvard Kennedy School for the academic year to address critical challenges facing democratic governance.