Leitkultur is a term that was introduced into the political science debate by the political scientist Bassam Tibi to describe a social consensus based on European values , which is intended to serve as a link between Germans and migrants . Since a speech by CDU MP Friedrich Merz in 2000, the term has been used in the political discussion - narrowed down as “German dominant culture” - in connection with the topic of immigration and the integration of immigrants or as a counter-term to multiculturalism .
Definition by Bassam Tibi - The concept of the "European dominant culture"
In 1996, Bassam Tibi published his contribution Multicultural Values-Relativism and Values-Loss in the supplement From Politics and Contemporary History of the weekly newspaper The Parliament of the Federal Agency for Civic Education . For Tibi, the European guiding culture is based on western - liberal values: "The values for the desired guiding culture must arise from cultural modernity , and they are called: democracy , secularism , enlightenment , human rights and civil society ." As he published in his 1998 book Europe without identity ? The crisis of the multicultural society wrote.
Tibi justifies the need for a leading culture in Germany by stating that identity is defined by ethnicity and that Germany, as a cultural nation , cannot offer immigrants an identity. If the Germans wanted to integrate immigrants into their cultural nation, they would have to define a leading culture: "Every identity has a leading culture!"
For Tibi, a guiding culture in the sense of a consensus of values as a link between Germans and migrants is essential: "Actually, guiding culture means nothing other than house rules for people from different cultures in a value-oriented community". In other democracies it goes without saying that a consensus on values and norms as a link between the people living in the community, regardless of their religion, ethnicity or culture of origin, is necessary. He does not want to see his concept misunderstood as a German dominant culture. Rather, the main culture of integration for Germany must be emphatically European.
In 2001, Tibi warned that a Europe as a “multi-cultural collective residential area without its own identity” threatened to become a “arena for ethnic conflicts and for religiously tinged, political-social disputes between fundamentalisms”, as some Islamists believed they could Islamize Europe. In order to enable a real cultural pluralism, a binding European guiding culture is necessary, as the Tibi describes the cultural modernity with its roots in enlightenment, secularization and tolerance .
Tibi's term European Leitkultur denotes a consensus of values based on the values of "cultural modernity" ( Jürgen Habermas ) and includes:
- Priority of reason over religious revelation ,
- Democracy based on the separation of religion and politics ,
- Pluralism and
As part of the debate on the integration of migrants in Germany, Bassam Tibi suggested that such a European guiding culture should be developed for Germany. He spoke out in favor of cultural pluralism with a consensus of values , against multiculturalism of any value and against parallel societies . He put “ immigration ” (controlled, ordered) against “ immigration ” (wild, including illegal migration and people smuggling ). In the ensuing debate, terms such as “Western guiding culture”, “Christian guiding culture”, or “Freedom-democratic guiding culture” appeared.
"German Leitkultur" in the political discussion
Schönbohm and Sommer (1998)
In June 1998 the CDU internal politician Jörg Schönbohm used the term “German dominant culture” in a newspaper article. In 2006 he distanced himself from it again. Then Zeit- Editor Theo Sommer used it to initiate a discussion about integration and core values in Germany: "Integration inevitably means a good deal of assimilation into the German dominant culture and its core values".
To a broad public discussion came when Friedrich Merz , then leader of the CDU in the Bundestag , on 25 October 2000 in the world rules for immigration and integration called for a free and democratic German culture and turned simultaneously against multiculturalism. During the polemical public discussion , Ernst Benda reminded the FAZ in a letter to the editor that the term “German Leitkultur” was coined by Sommer . Merz then also referred explicitly to summer. However, the latter rejected the reference. He only spoke out in favor of integration, but not against immigration. The criticism of the President of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, Paul Spiegel , of the use of the word “Leitkultur” attracted particular attention ; he explained that the first syllable presupposed hierarchy. Bassam Tibi resisted the political instrumentalization and spoke of a "unsuccessful German debate". The term “German Leitkultur” met with public rejection and was described as a “steep template for the New Right ”. Jürgen Habermas writes : "In a democratic constitutional state, the majority of the minorities are not allowed to prescribe their own cultural way of life - insofar as this deviates from the common political culture of the country - as a so-called dominant culture."
In October 2000, Merz had formulated the political variant of the concept of leading culture in the context of the debate on changing immigration law, in order to establish the necessary rules for immigration and integration as a free, democratic German leading culture. He argued against multiculturalism and parallel societies . Like Schönbohm before him, Merz demanded that immigrants should respect the “German dominant culture”. They would have to make their own contribution to integration by approximating the basic cultural ideas that have grown in Germany. Merz also called for an immigration regulation with the aim of only accepting around 200,000 foreigners annually . With more, the “ ability to integrate ” of the local population would be overwhelmed. Until 2004, “Leitkultur” was a polemical formula that turned against the federal government, but also competitively against the New Right.
As a result, criticism was voiced between the opposition and the governing coalition, particularly from the coalition parties. Cem Özdemir ( Bündnis 90 / Die Grünen ) said that immigration policy should be about integration, not assimilation, of immigrants. Özdemir emphasized that anyone who understands the term “German dominant culture” is an attempt to assimilate people, demanding their adaptation to local living conditions at all costs, is misunderstanding the social intercultural reality in Germany.
In 2005, Bundestag President Norbert Lammert (CDU) called for the debate on the “Leitkultur” to be continued in an interview with ZEIT, as the first “very short debate was prematurely broken off”: “One of the noticeable features of this short debate was that it was a broad, knee-jerk one There was rejection of the term although - or because - it turned out in the debate that there was just as broad support for what the debate was about ”. In a guest article in the newspaper “Die Welt”, Lammert later called for a discussion of the dominant culture to be held on a European level in order to explore the possibility of identity formation in a multicultural society : “If a Europe of diversity preserves national identities and yet one If a collective identity is to develop, a central political idea , a common foundation of values and convictions is required . Such a European guiding principle necessarily relates to common cultural roots, to common history, to common religious traditions ”(Die Welt, December 13, 2005).
In connection with the so-called " caricature dispute ", in which Muslim countries responded in February 2006 with mostly violent protests and calls for violence from fanatical Muslims to the publication of Mohammed cartoons, Lammert renewed his call for a debate on the dominant culture. The dispute over the Mohammed caricatures shows "the inevitability of such a self-understanding of our society on common bases and a minimum of common orientations," as the parliamentary president explained on Deutschlandfunk. A pure constitutional patriotism is not enough, since every constitution lives on cultural prerequisites that “do not fall from heaven”. Fundamental rights such as freedom of the press and freedom of expression would have to be supported by a social consensus. The connections between rights and claims on the one hand and cultural convictions on the other would have to be re-established in a fundamental debate against the background of a multicultural society. The "at best well-intentioned, but on closer inspection thoughtless" idea of multiculturalism has now come to its "obvious end". Multiculturalism cannot mean that in a society everything applies at the same time and therefore nothing really applies. In conflict situations it must be decided clearly what can claim validity and what cannot. Lammert emphasized that he had deliberately never spoken of “German dominant culture”. What is formative for the fundamental culture in Germany goes far beyond national borders. Therefore, if the term deserves an addition at all, it would be more appropriate to speak of a “European dominant culture”.
CDU, CSU and AfD (2007-2016)
In 2007, the CDU General Secretary Ronald Pofalla took up the term again in order to include it in the party program. Since December 4th, however, the basic program of the CDU has spoken of a “leading culture in Germany”.
Since September 28, 2007, the basic program of the CSU has included a commitment to the “German guiding culture”, which is formed by “language, history, traditions and the Christian-occidental values”, which the CSU changed in 2016 to the “guiding culture of our country”. In 2010, CSU General Secretary Alexander Dobrindt defined the German dominant culture as "Christianity with its Jewish roots, shaped by antiquity , humanism and the Enlightenment ".
In May 2016, Alternative für Deutschland committed itself in its party program to a German dominant culture, which is described as the opposite of the “ideology of multiculturalism”. The German dominant culture is based on Christianity , on the intellectual currents of the Renaissance and the Enlightenment, which are rooted in antiquity, with their approaches to scientific - humanistic thinking, and on Roman law . These traditions would form the basis of Germany's free and democratic basic order and the rule of law and would also determine how the sexes and generations interact with one another in everyday life.
In September 2016, the members of the CSU and CDU Saxony, Markus Blume , Johannes Singhammer and Michael Kretschmer - not least in view of the success of the AfD in the state elections - presented a “call for a guiding and framework culture”. In it, they described the leading culture as a “connecting framework culture”, “not the lowest common denominator, but the foundation of our coexistence”. In socially troubled times, people need orientation, which they would find in terms such as “home and patriotism” as well as in the “leading culture”. The use of the German language, tried and tested manners, the spiritual tradition of the Enlightenment and Germany's national symbols such as the flag and the anthem were specifically mentioned.
In May 2017, the Federal Government Commissioner for Migration, Refugees and Integration, Aydan Özoğuz (SPD), criticized the use of the term because, given the cultural diversity that is lived in Germany, “a specifically German culture [...] beyond language is simply not identifiable”. Instead of the idea of a leading culture, she proposed a “ social contract with the values of the Basic Law as the foundation and equal opportunities for participation as the goal”. For this she was racially insulted by the AfD politician Alexander Gauland during the 2017 federal election campaign .
The concept of Leitkultur found its way into the preamble and article of the Bavarian Integration Act (BayIntG) of December 13, 2016. In 2017, the SPD and the Greens filed an action against the law at the Bavarian Constitutional Court. He ruled that parts of the law were unconstitutional.
De Maizière (2017)
On April 30, 2017, Federal Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière (CDU) initiated a new discussion on the leading German culture. In his guest post for Bild am Sonntag he wrote that he wanted to invite a discussion with these theses and presented ten properties of one. This included social habits such as shaking hands , showing one's own face (as opposed to covering up ) and saying one's own name when greeting. Further elements of a German leading culture are general education , the concept of achievement, the legacy of German history with the special relationship to Israel and cultural wealth. De Maizière also addressed religious freedom , ideological neutrality and " enlightened patriotism " .
De Maizière was criticized from several quarters, sometimes violently. Olaf Zimmermann , Managing Director of the German Cultural Council and coordinator of the Cultural Integration Initiative , which is supported by the Federal Ministry of the Interior , among others , said on Deutschlandfunk Kultur (DLF Kultur): “With his ten theses for a German leading culture […] Federal Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière alienated a joint political initiative for a cultural value debate in which his own house is also involved ”and in the run-up to a main lecture by de Maizière“ it was explicitly agreed not to use the term leading culture in order to enable a factual debate. ” Robert Habeck , the top candidate of the Greens for the state election of Schleswig-Holstein in 2017, was quoted as saying “If you love your homeland, you don't split it”. Heribert Prantl from the Süddeutsche Zeitung argued "Why de Maizière's catalog of leading cultures is harmful to society".
Habermas declared the propagation of a German guiding culture to be incompatible with a liberal interpretation of the Basic Law. The journalist and Islamic scholar Fabian Köhler felt reminded of the Ten Commandments of the young pioneers and commented under the heading “Our flag roll calls are the debates on integration”. De Maizière's ten theses were also interpreted as an election campaign for the state elections in Schleswig-Holstein 2017 on May 7, for the state elections in North Rhine-Westphalia in 2017 on May 14 and for the 2017 federal election on September 24. Heide Oestreich von der taz referred to the values of free democracy, which consists precisely in the admission of other opinions and the appreciation of other cultures. In this respect, every demand for a leading culture contradicts free democracy. Jochen Bittner von der Zeit regretted that de Maizière had chosen the inappropriate concept of culture , which in fact no one had to be prescribed by the state. This hampers the important debate - also with a view to the Böckenförde dictum - about which values, which go beyond the catalog of rights of the Basic Law, should underlie coexistence in a free society. According to Ralph Ghadban , de Maizière's suggestion could be helpful. His critics would restrict themselves to pure constitutional patriotism and reject the cultural dimension. The Basic Law is only a legalization of human rights, it does not explain them. The establishment of these rights provides the Enlightenment or Christianity. The Muslims are called upon to reform their religion in such a way that it establishes these values.
As the creator of the term “Leitkultur” and the originator of the associated integration concept, Bassam Tibi feels “annoyed” both by De Maizières and his critics and “badly misunderstood, even misused” by the CDU and the left-wing Greens. If you don't want a European identity and European guiding culture, he says, you will get an Islamic guiding culture for Europe instead.
According to the ethnologist Irene Götz , the demand that immigrants have to adapt to a dominant culture in the sense of a normatively understood, binding national culture goes hand in hand with the social construction of this national culture. Such a “homogenizing, territorially bound entity ” does not actually exist. What belongs to the national culture is rather defined very differently depending on the region, worldview and time. At best, a “national habitus ” mediated by socialization can be empirically proven, but this is increasingly losing its formative influence due to migration, media consumption, globalization and the general loss of importance of the nation. The renewed debate about a German dominant culture, in which the people of the Federal Republic of Germany are understood as ethnos , is a reminiscence of the time before the concept of a post-national society and the idea of demos , which were propagated after the Second World War.
The philosopher Heiner Bielefeldt advocates dispensing with the concept of leading culture. If it were only about things that are taken for granted, such as command of the German language and acceptance of the values of the Basic Law, it would be superfluous; in fact, however, there is always a “semantic surplus”, something more is meant, but it remains indefinite. At the same time, the term is often associated with a certain binding force, since it is used as a counter-term to the multicultural society that is perceived as arbitrary. This gives him an “anti-pluralist list” and is rejected as an unreasonable demand by minorities, whose integration he actually wants to invite. This is all the more true as the demand to submit to a dominant culture is addressed exclusively to migrants. Bielefeldt quotes the German-Iranian orientalist Navid Kermani approvingly :
“The Basic Law is more binding and more precise than any conceivable concept of a leading culture; at the same time, it does not indicate a hierarchy of people, but at most values and actions. Before the Basic Law everyone is equal, in a leading culture not. "
The economist Thomas Straubhaar emphasizes that the guiding culture may not require more than “the Basic Law with its ramifications” and possibly the common language.
The historian Andreas Rödder believes that a society without a dominant culture, without generally shared ideas about right and wrong, cannot survive.
In 2000, Leitkultur was voted 8th in the vote for the word of the year , and in the same year , German Leitkultur was voted “Unword of the Year” by the Pons editorial team.
The CDU politician Jens Spahn demanded in February 2018, shortly before he became Federal Minister of Health the following month, that a German guiding culture should be taught in schools. It is about " decency , values, virtues". In this context he referred to the CDU as the “party of the leading culture”.
In the 14th chapter of his book " Identity " (German: " Identity - How the loss of dignity endangers our democracy ", 2019) the American political scientist Francis Fukuyama attempts to rehabilitate the concept of "Leitkultur" with reference to Bassam Tibis originally created meaning content. Since the increasing development of the western countries towards an equitable welfare state "every marginalized group could insist on a special identity that differs from that of the majority society and demands respect for it", the "30 year trend of rampant socio-economic inequality" is in the most liberal democracies lost sight of leftist politics. As a result, the feeling of disadvantage and social disdain comes into play in larger social groups that cannot easily be divided into individual sub-identical minorities, such as the rural population or the traditional working class. Instead of thinking more intensively about the trend that populists can instrumentalize and reversing it, the left has been content with the “substitute” for the fulfillment of identitarian minority programs - at the expense of social cohesion. A “leading culture” in the sense of Bassam Tibi therefore appears to Fukuyama to be necessary for an “inclusive denominational nation” based on shared basic democratic values. This “leading culture” of a common set of values helps to prevent society from drifting apart and the struggle of different ethnic, social and other religious minorities against one another.
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- Jens Spahn calls for a leading culture in the classroom , last seen on February 15, 2018.
- "The CDU is the party of the leading culture" , last seen on February 15, 2018.
- Francis Fukuyama in "Identity" , Chapter 11, New York, 2018
- "Such an inclusive sense of national identity remains critical for the maintenance of a successful modern political order ..." , Fukuyama, ibid., Chap. 12
- See also Marc Reichwein: "Francis Fukuyama calls for the confessing nation" , Die Welt, Feb. 6, 2019