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Germany’s Modern Angst

Summary:
Like many wealthy Western countries, Germany seems to be caught in a constant state of unease, despite all it has going for it. For that reason, the post-Merkel era is as likely to bring disruption as it is to preserve continuity with the recent past. Steffen Mau, Sortiermaschinen: Die Neuerfindung der Grenze im 21. Jahrhundert (Sorting Machines: The Reinvention of the Border in the Twenty-First Century), Edition Mercator C.H. Beck, 2021.Armin Nassehi, Unbehagen: Theorie der überforderten Gesellschaft (Discomfort: Theory of the Overwhelmed Society), C.H. Beck, 2021.Andreas Reckwitz and Hartmut Rosa, Spätmoderne in der Krise: Was leistet die Gesellschaftstheorie? (Late Modernity in Crisis: What Does Social Theory

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Like many wealthy Western countries, Germany seems to be caught in a constant state of unease, despite all it has going for it. For that reason, the post-Merkel era is as likely to bring disruption as it is to preserve continuity with the recent past.

BERLIN – Germany’s new coalition government – its first in 16 years without Angela Merkel as chancellor – is its first ever comprising the Social Democrats, the Greens, and the Free Democrats. Given Germany’s status as the European Union’s largest member country (economically and demographically), this changing of the guard has understandably spurred global interest in the state of German politics and the country’s economy.

What holds together this country of some 83 million people (one in five of whom is a first- or second-generation immigrant), a nation-state that has essentially open borders with all nine of its neighbors and one of the world’s most open economies?

Being rich doesn’t hurt. Germany’s per capita income is well above the EU average (though its levels of poverty and income inequality have been slowly rising). As Merkel’s successful 2017 campaign slogan put it, Germany is...

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