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Attentism ( Latin attendere , "watch out, wait, focus one's attention on something") describes inactive, waiting behavior . Action decisions are postponed in the expectation that the situation will be resolved. The opposite of attentism is activism .

Attentism in Politics

The concept of Attentism goes back to the early 20th century. In France, the term attentisme appeared as a term for political behavior around 1918. Attentism later describes the wait-and-see attitude of European politics towards the rise of National Socialism . The passive attitude of the population in the face of the German occupying power, which was criticized by supporters of an active resistance struggle, was also called attentism. Dieter Groh transferred the term to the political stance of German social democracy in the early 20th century in a habilitation thesis written in 1973 with the programmatic title "Negative Integration and Revolutionary Attentism" . He defined attentism as a conglomerate of "political waiting, hope for revolution aimed at overthrowing existing conditions and verbal radicalism". With this he characterized the policy of the SPD party leadership under August Bebel and Karl Kautsky , which did not actively bring about the revolution but wanted to wait for it to come. This contrasted with the revolutionary activism of the radical left wing ( Rosa Luxemburg , Karl Radek ) and the reformist activism of Ludwig Frank . Karl Kautsky formulated his strategy as early as 1893: “Social democracy is a revolutionary, but not a revolutionary party. We know that our goals can only be achieved through a revolution, but we also know that it is just as little in our power to make this revolution as it is in our opponents' power to prevent it. It doesn't even occur to us to instigate or prepare a revolution. ”With this, Kautsky described the attentist basic attitude of the SPD. Attentism is often to be understood as an attitude that “sits out” existing problems and does not solve them, but adapts to the given situation opportunistically. Chancellor Angela Merkel is sometimes accused of attentive government behavior. The German professional diplomat Markus Ederer also believes that “more courage for foreign policy” is needed and that the “previous attentiveness” must come to an end.

Attentism in the economy

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The term attentism comes from politics, but is of particular importance in economics . Attentism is triggered by unclear boundary conditions and planning uncertainty. Wait and see or delayed action means that planned decisions by economic entities are not implemented as planned, for example because an announced or expected government measure could affect these decisions. Attentiveness can be observed when regulations ( laws , central bank measures ) which are advantageous for the economic subjects concerned are to be introduced in the future or if disadvantageous ones are to be dropped. In order to benefit from these regulations, decisions that have already been planned must be postponed. The economic subjects affected are private households , companies and the state and its subdivisions ( public administration , state-owned companies , municipal companies ). There is attentism in all markets where market prices or interest rates fluctuate. The stock exchanges know the attentism of market participants who observe the stock market but wait and do not intervene in the market development . Attentism is a mentality of avoiding risk by waiting and watching the market . If, for example, an interest rate increase has been announced on the money market , investors will postpone their intended investment until after the interest rate increase has taken place and entrepreneurs will prefer investments so that the external financing associated with the investment can still take place at a lower interest rate . If the economic agents expect falling market prices and accordingly hold back with purchases, this attentism can trigger a spiral of further price cuts and a sharp collapse in economic activity. Announced tax breaks encourage the beneficiary economic subjects to postpone and postpone their decisions until the tax breaks come into effect in order to then implement their decisions. In these cases, the attentism is associated with a deadweight effect .


Even simple announcements of future economic policy intentions by state organs can trigger signal effects on market participants that prompt these participants to react. This reaction can consist of bringing forward decisions that are actually planned later (pull-forward effect) and also of delaying decisions that are actually planned earlier (attentiveness). The wait-and-see hesitation of market participants on monetary policy measures by the central bank, for example, can result in undesirable interest rate effects, which in turn affect overall demand. Attentism on the part of investors can force interest rates to rise; conversely, attentism on the part of investors and the public sector can cause interest rates to drop . On the stock market, rumors, especially about changes in interest rates or exchange rates, can accelerate the price development, as investors withdraw their demand for securities or foreign exchange from the market .

Attentiveness usually leads to inefficiencies in the use of politics due to delays in effect . In doing so, central banks and governments exacerbate a crisis and achieve the opposite of their intentions. Not only measures by the central bank, but all pending government measures with a financial impact can provoke attentism on the part of affected economic subjects. The political situation can also influence entrepreneurial investment decisions: "Attentism gains less space if the economy has confidence in the future intentions of politics, if we succeed in improving cooperation with the government". A deflationary development leads to an attitude of investment and consumption, because when prices fall, it is worthwhile for investors and consumers to wait until the planned purchases are the cheapest.

Governments and central banks have started to no longer announce their financially effective decisions in advance, but to announce them surprisingly. Many decisions (such as revaluation or devaluation ) are therefore published on the weekend when market participants cannot react due to bank holidays .

Web links

Wiktionary: Attentism  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. Grand Larousse de la langue française en six Volumes, Vol. 1, 1971
  2. Le Front, May 16, 1936
  3. ^ Henry Rousso, Les années noires. Vivre sous l'occupation , Paris, Gallimard, 2006. Contemporary document
  4. Dieter Groh, Negative Integration and Revolutionary Attentism: The German Social Democracy on the Eve of the First World War , Berlin 1973, p. 36 ff., ISBN 3-549-07281-3 .
  5. Ludwig Frank, Auf der Landagitation , in: Pan, Issue 7 of January 4, 1912, p. 209 f.
  6. ^ Karl Kautsky: The way to power . Cf. Dieter Groh, Negative Integration and Revolutionary Attentism: The German Social Democracy on the Eve of the First World War, 1973, p. 36.
  7. Wrong staff, wrong program , Der Tagesspiegel of September 23, 2013.
  8. ^ Course on the world , Zeit online from February 6, 2014.
  9. Otmar Issing, The Euro: Birth, Success, Future , 2008, p. 90.
  10. Berndt Keller / Paul Binder, Critique of Traditional Economic Theory and Conventional Economic Policy , 1975, p. 81.
  11. Wolfgang Gerke, Gerke Börsen Lexikon , 2002, p. 72.
  12. Michael Hohlstein (Ed.), Lexikon der Volkswirtschaft , 2009, p. 68.
  13. Fredmund Malik, Think Correctly - Manage Effectively , 2007, p. 178.
  14. Otto Wolff von Amerongen , President of the DIHT, New Data Circle for the Upswing , in: Lecture series of the Institute of the German Economy, No. 46, 1975.