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GoetheInstitute

18/10/2006

From the Feuilletons is a weekly overview of what's been happening in the German-language cultural pages and appears every Friday at 3 pm. CET.. Here a key to the German newspapers.

The "Unterschicht" debate grips the feuilletons

It all started with a study commissioned by the Social Democratic Party to the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung on the growing poverty in Germany today. The authors avoided the word "Untersicht" (underclass) in the study, speaking of "prekarität", or precarious existences. The debate fired up when SPD chairman Kurt Beck declared he had no problems speaking of a new underclass. SPD Vice-Chancellor and Minister of Labour and Social Affairs Franz Müntefering then said he backs the study and prefers to speak in terms of "precarious" existences. The feuilletons have taken up the debate.

In the Süddeutsche Zeitung, sociologist Heinz Bude states: "The central point of the breaking 'underclass debate' is the socially and politically far-reaching insight that a growing part of our society has abandoned the aspiration of living their lives under their own guidance. We are talking here of 'broken existences,' unresponsive to the challenge of furthering their education or taking responsibility for themselves.... What defines these groups is a reinforced feeling of exclusion, expressed in the sentiment that individual undertakings on their part will be fruitless. Talk of employment potential, readiness and team spirit come from another world. These people need a different set of views about how to eke out a living. In Germany we have to face up to the breach between those who live in the world of opportunities, and those who see themselves as excluded from this world."

In an interview in the taz, sociologist Jutta Allmendinger explains why she believes the term is a fitting description of the hopeless situation of the poor. "If over a period of three years a person is unable to find a way to climb above the poverty line, then we are talking about enduring poverty. Then 'underclass' is indeed the right term to use."

Hans-Jürgen Linke in the FR comments caustically: "Instead of 'politicians' perhaps we should talk about 'people with impaired perception'?"


Der Tagesspiegel
18.10.2006

Political scientist Herfried Münkler explains why atom bombs could once more become a real option for countries: the logic of deterrence fails to work with lunatic states. "In a regional framework, the potential for blackmail is inversely proportional to a power's rational ability for cost-benefit analysis. Traditional de-escalation mechanisms fail with a 'lunatic' nuclear regime, as the current development shows. North Korea interprets the latest UN resolutions as an outright 'declaration of war.' In view of this dynamic, potential victims of nuclear blackmail don't necessarily want to be dependent on the US nuclear umbrella, as they cannot be sure if it will open in cases of emergency. So people are striving to create their own umbrellas. Japan is considering atomic weapons, despite the memory of Hiroshima."


Die Welt 18.10.2006

Rainer Haubrich lets the architects Meinhard von Gerkhan, Thomas Willemeit, Hans Kollhoff and Georg Gewers, most of whom live in turn-of-the-century apartments in the smartest part of West Berlin, battle it out about how avant-garde the face of Berlin should be. Kollhoff: "Let us be honest with you: if we had it our way, we wouldn't be sitting here now at the Hauptbahnhof, (Berlin's new train station built by Meinhard von Gerkhan and subject of our article "Bodily harm to a train station), but somewhere nice and cosy on Kollwitzplatz." Gewers: "I prefer sitting in the Cafe am Neuen See." Von Gerkhan:"I have to think about an old paradox. Young architects in particular prefer to present their building owners with the most exalting buildings they can come up with, while preferring themselves to live in old buildings." Welt.de: "You don't live in an old building." – Von Gerkhan: "And I'm not exalted either."


Süddeutsche Zeitung 18.10.2006

An international photography exhibition "Meeting with the Middle East" has just opened in Aleppo, Syria, showing work by 70 artists from 32 countries. It is the ninth such festival organised by Syrian photographer and gallerist Issa Touma. But, reports Mathias Kolb, Touma refused to show the work to the secret service and the Baath Party before the opening and will therefore have to stand before a military court on charges of subversion. "Until recently he hoped that his international reputation would protect him to some extent. But he cannot be sure of anything, Syrian politics are completely inscrutable with personnel and power relationships in a state of constant flux. And at the beginning of October, the security office of the prime minister issued a decree strictly forbidding all Syrian politicians to talk to Touma. He himself rates his situation as 'very dangerous'. There is no way of knowing what will happen when the festival ends."

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