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The essays which this paper is based on, "Liberalism and society: The Feminist Movement and Social Change", "The Politics of Demagogy in Imperial Germany", "The Mythology of the Sonderweg", and "A Bonapartist Dictatorship" were enlightening, but tended to repeat a central theme, the unwillingness of the Junkers of Germany to give up even the smallest bit of their power over the lower classes. I suppose there will always be many opinions on what influenced the formation of Germany, but it really can be laid at the feet of Otto von Bismarck. He ran Germany from Prussia in the way he saw fit, through the eyes of a Junker.
Junkers and heavy industry are what controlled Germany during its formation years and the Industrial Revolution, trying to keep independence while Bismarck tried to bind the many city-states together. The Junkers had the money and the power and were not willing to give up their vast influence. This meant they were naturally conservative, giving the government more influence in the running of the regions would mean less power and money in their pockets. Each Junker in every small province wanted to keep their independence and traditional way of life. They felt the need to keep the power over the poor and uneducated.
The three party voting system helped to insure that the rich elite would keep their power. This system divided the population into three sections; the poor bourgeoisie, Junkers and industry, and the elite. With the votes being even for each faction, the rich, with two thirds of the vote, would always have the advantage over the poor. This sammlung of Junkers and heavy industry feared government socialism, which would take away from their power, and did all they could to block any democratic reform, which would give the poor more power in the form of voting ability as well.
As far as women having an added influence in Germany at this time, I believe they were only slightly influential. Prior to the advent of the industrial revolution, the only place for a woman in Germany was in charitable positions on the bare fringes of public life. Their lot was to tend to the home and family. With the coming of the industrial revolution to Eastern Europe, there were more jobs available outside the home, and women joined the workforce more and more. They were needed and necessary in the workforce, but their effect in bringing about democratic reform was minimal.
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Even with the rising rate of women in the workforce, the conditions of work were extremely restrictive. While being indispensable to the growing industries and service jobs that were now appearing, women could never hope to teach at a boy’s school, and to teach in any case, they had to be single and prepared to resign if they got married. These movements were more conservative as well, and tended to not indulge in politics, with the exception of trying to break into the medical professions and to try and get better education in the girl’s schools. More women found jobs in the growing roles of secretaries or line workers in newly industrialized factories.
The Woman’s Movement, while having some parallels with the suffrage movement in America, was a lot slower. Making a comparison between the suffrage movements in Germany and America is not exactly a fair evaluation though, since the roles of women in these two cultures differed so completely. The women in Germany did eventually get the right to vote, and petitioned for equal pay for equal work as well as attempt to get a more equal education for young girls.
It has been proposed that because of the votes of women in Germany, Hitler eventually came to power. I give this proposition little credence, for the actions of Bismarck and following Chancellors paved the way for the eventual rise of Nazism. The militarization of the bourgeoisie did more to bring about a greater acceptance of socialism and Nazism than anything the Woman’s Movement could have done.
Basically, I do believe that these essays coincide with each other, with just a few areas where they do not quite meet. No matter what the poor did, no matter the opinions of the growing Women’s Movement or feelings of the new middle class, Junkers would still control Germans and influence the economy.
The mittelstand and bourgeoisie, while being in far greater numbers than the Junkers and other ruling elite, could not hope to sway the government. This is where we can find the failure of the German government and what led the rulers of Germany into wars. I cannot help but believe that if there were a true democratic reform, where every man’s voice was heard, that we would have seen a very different history of Germany. The Junkers might have lost some of their power, but would still have retained everything else. They were still the landowners and would still hold great sway over the lower classes.
Because of the industrial revolution, the economy did flourish, and most were well off. This was not necessarily due to the Junkers or other elite though, but because of the new mittelstand, the managers of new corporations created by the new industry. As the new middle class climbed the ladders of success, they reasonably thought they should have a greater say in their own future and the workings of the government.
While it was indeed the non-elite who were helping to build up the economy of Germany, and in numbers that would grow daily, we still see that they were not given an equal voice in their government. I definitely believe this was a big mistake on the part of the ruling elite of Germany at this time, but as was said before, the ruling elite did not want to take the chance of losing any of their power. They feared losing the three party voting system that had given them the edge for so long. One way that was found to get the bourgeoisie minds off the voting and democratic reform was to militarize them, turn their thoughts to problems outside Germany, setting them into a war with the Dutch. I saw no sense in this, but obviously Otto von Bismarck did.
This militarizing of the mittelstand did create more unity in the German populace. Many different regions could now see that they were all German, and not just a conglomerate of different peoples. National pride grew from this new unity, which is another factor in the growing desire to expand the German Empire. I also cannot help but think that these new thoughts of nationalism were also a primary reason that Hitler could grow in power. It amazes me how quickly national pride can grow to a hate of other races.
Bismarck, an agrarian Junker, is credited with doing what no one else could. The city-states of Germany were at one time bound together with the thought of never being unified, but Bismarck changed all this, bringing a multitude of small provinces under the rule of Austria and Prussia, Bismarck ruling both from his seat in Prussia.
Bismarck saw all the small provinces as not being Hamburgs or Hapsburgs, but as all being German, and he brought it all together under his iron rule. He supposedly was bringing about the wishes and desires of William I, but even Wilhelmine scholars know that Bismarck is the one who called the shots. He kept the Junkers in power, and suppressed the complaints of the German people with making war against others, in the effort to get their minds off the troubles at home.
I believe Bismarck succeeded in accomplishing what he set out to do, and it might have worked better, had the Chancellors who followed after him had the same will and determination as he. No one, it seems, was able to match Bismarck’s will in this, and Germany suffered as a result. There lies the failure of Bismarck as well. He made the assumption that what he accomplished would outlast him, but instead, it led to more destruction and pain for Germany.