Why is Waehler causing apathy

Unemployment (Political Consequences)

When examining the political consequences of unemployment (A), two questions are in the foreground:
  1. To what extent does A. lead to alienation from the respective → political system and / or to extremist attitudes or behavior among those directly affected and / or third parties?
  2. To what extent do unemployed people have the ability to represent their interests effectively?
To 1 .: It is undisputed that those with masses A. connected world economic crisis favored the rise and the electoral success of the NSDAP decisively. However, a study by Falter (Falter et al. 1983) indicates that the unemployed were by no means particularly well represented in the group of NSDAP voters.

The phase of renewed masses A. that began in 1974 and is still ongoing has, contrary to many expectations, not led to a visible endangerment of the → political system of the FRG. With a view to voting behavior, Faas has presented a comprehensive study (Faas 2010), which roughly covers the period 1980-2005 and in which a systematic attempt is made to eliminate third-party variables, i. H. to check to what extent A. was directly affected and to what extent other factors explain the voting behavior of the unemployed. Roughly summarized, Faa's analysis does not reveal any dramatic effects of A. being directly affected on voting behavior. The tendency to vote is slightly negatively influenced by A. The only exception to this is the 1998 Bundestag election due to its special political context: in 1998, many unemployed people also had high hopes for a change of government, which had a mobilizing effect. With regard to the party election, A.'s direct concern encourages the turn to parties to the left of the center. The SPD benefited from this more in times of opposition. T. had to answer for hard cuts for the unemployed (Hartz IV). Faas did not systematically investigate right-wing extremist voting behavior as a result of being directly affected by A., but overall it seems to be more of a marginal phenomenon.

In addition to the effects on voting behavior, other political consequences of A. were also examined. Noteworthy is z. B. Roth's finding (1990) that political apathy, political alienation and authoritarian attitudes occurred significantly more frequently in a surveyed group of unemployed young people than in the comparison group of employed young people. The central question of the extent to which peculiarities in the group of unemployed result from unemployment or were caused by third-party variables, of course, remains largely unanswered in this study. In an analysis of the causes of xenophobia, on the other hand, Ganter / Esser (1999) check the influence of important third-party variables and come to the conclusion that A. does not particularly favor negative attitudes towards foreigners. Other studies also suggest that A. being directly affected is at least not a particularly excellent explanatory factor for right-wing extremist, especially xenophobic attitudes or behavior (cf. e.g. Pfahl-Traughber 1993).

Re 2 .: The unemployed find it rather difficult to organize themselves and to represent their interests effectively. The following, partially interrelated facts are primarily responsible for this:
  • The mostly relatively short duration of membership in the group of unemployed and d. H. at the same time the high fluctuation of group members.
  • The lack of starting points for the emergence of a dense network of relationships between the unemployed.
  • The normally lacking identification of those affected with the role of the unemployed.
  • The regularly occurring negative psychosocial consequences of A., which make it difficult for those affected to become politically active.
  • The inadequate endowment of the unemployed with effective means of political enforcement.
Despite these serious obstacles are again and again and z. In some cases significant approaches to representing the interests of the unemployed have emerged. It would therefore be a mistake to categorically deny the unemployed the ability to effectively represent their interests.

In D., too, there are currently attempts to represent the interests of the unemployed. So far, however, only a very small minority of those directly affected is involved here. The West German representation approaches that have emerged since the late 1970s are essentially made up of around 1,000-1,200 local unemployment projects that are only loosely networked with one another (excluding pure employment projects), in which at most 15,000 unemployed are active. These unemployed projects are, however, only to a small extent pure attempts at self-organization by the unemployed, because on the one hand the initiative to set up the project did not come from the unemployed, but from certain social organizations (especially the Protestant → Church). On the other hand, in most cases, such organizations act as project executing agencies, who usually provide premises, material resources and, above all, the hiring of full-time employees. The majority of the local unemployment projects primarily fulfill social tasks (advising the unemployed, open meetings, leisure and further training offers, etc.), but they also develop political activities. As a rule, these activities are directed at the local political level. Many local unemployment projects were able to implement material project support from the municipality, local employment policy measures and certain benefits for the unemployed when using public facilities and services.

In early 1990, the unemployment association, an organization that also tries to represent the interests of the unemployed, was established in East Germany. Concerns that had prevented the emergence of such an organization in West Germany and that were raised above all by projects with a strong grassroots or trade union orientation did not apply to the same extent in East Germany. In the meantime, however, in addition to the more than 200 local institutions of the unemployment association, a similar number of other, in particular church and trade union or union-related projects have emerged in East Germany.

The range of activities and successes of the association's unemployment projects, as well as the other projects in East Germany, largely coincides with the West German unemployment projects.

Since 1990 there have been intensive contacts and approaches to coordinated lobbying activities between the West and East German forms of organization for the unemployed. The high point so far were the protests of the unemployed in the run-up to the 1998 federal election. In 1998 an action day took place in up to 350 cities every month. Up to 60,000 people took part on the individual days of action. A continuation of this comparatively great success in mobilization did not succeed, however.


Faas, Thorsten 2010: Unemployment and voter behavior. Direct and indirect effects on voter participation and party preferences in East and West Germany. Baden-Baden.

Falter, Jürgen W. et al. 1983: Unemployment and National Socialism. In: Cologne Journal for Sociology and Social Psychology, No. 3.

Gallas, Andreas 1994: Political advocacy of the unemployed. A theoretical and empirical analysis. Cologne.

Ganter, Stephan / Esser, Hartmut 21999: Causes and forms of xenophobia in the Federal Republic of Germany. Bonn (Research Institute of the Friedrich Ebert Foundation).

Pfahl-Traughber, Armin 1993: Right-wing extremism. A critical review after reunification. Bonn.

Roth, Rainer A. 1990: Dispositions of political behavior among unemployed young people. In: From Politics and Contemporary History. Supplement to the weekly newspaper Das Parlament B 29.

Source: Andersen, Uwe / Wichard Woyke (ed.): Concise dictionary of the political system of the Federal Republic of Germany. 7th, updated Aufl. Heidelberg: Springer VS 2013. Author of the article: Andreas Gallas