chapter  Chapter Six
41 Pages

From Golden Age to the End of Social Democracy? The FRG, 1945–1998

WithStefan Berger

This chapter examines why Social Democratic Party (SPD) remained in opposition for so long after 1949, why it looked so pedestrian and ill-at-ease when it came to power in 1969. And why it has found itself in crisis after relinquishing power in 1982, and why its resounding election victory in 1998 produced so little enthusiasm from within the West German left. Social Democrats supported the change and some of their leading personalities, such as Carlo Schmid, were of crucial importance in shaping the outlook of that republic's constitution in the deliberations of the Parliamentary Council in 1948 and 1949. As Eric Hobsbawm has pointed out, the period of unprecedented economic growth, which lasted from the end of the Second World War to the first oil crisis in 1973-74, was the 'golden age' of a capitalism tamed by Social Democratic values and beliefs.