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Rationality and moderation: German chancellors' post-war rhetoric

Schröter, M. ORCID: (2021) Rationality and moderation: German chancellors' post-war rhetoric. In: Feldman, O. (ed.) When Politicians Talk: The Cultural Dynamics of Public Speaking. Springer Nature, Singapore etc., pp. 93-109. ISBN 9789811635786

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To link to this item DOI: 10.1007/978-981-16-3579-3


Abstract This chapter will use examples from post-1945 German chancellors’ public speeches in parliament as well as televised addresses to the nation to explore how culture affects the rhetoric of political leaders. Historical experiences following the devastating Nazi dictatorship led to a wariness of collectivism and of an emotionally charged public sphere. Political structures in post-war Germany entail a need for power sharing between the federal government and federal states as well as between coalition partners, leading to moderation of controversy. Secularization and individualism further lead to a primacy of politics catering to, and a rhetoric addressing, interests rather than ideals. Historical experiences with disunity and the division into two German states between 1949 and 1990 necessitate a rhetoric that avoids recourse to metaphysical or grand narratives of the nation and instead emphasizes compromise and stakeholdership. These elements of German political culture will be traced in two central speeches by different chancellors over time: the 1950s (Konrad Adenauer), the 1970s (Willy Brandt), the 1990s (Helmut Kohl), and the 2010s (Angela Merkel) through a qualitative, rhetorical, discourse analysis.

Item Type:Book or Report Section
Divisions:Arts, Humanities and Social Science > School of Literature and Languages > Languages and Cultures > German
Arts, Humanities and Social Science > Language Text and Power
ID Code:97909
Publisher:Springer Nature


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