16 Pages

Regional policy variation in Germany: the diversity of living conditions in a

This paradigm tends to discount the La¨nder as significant venues for policymaking, instead focusing on their ‘entanglement’ (Verflechtung) in politics at the federal level. It views politics in the La¨nder as a subordinate reflection of federal-level politics. Perhaps its pithiest summary is that by Scharpf:

The post-war German polity is a federal state with a unitary political culture . . . there are no politically salient territorial cleavages . . . and no popular demands for regional autonomy. Mass communication is dominated by nationwide media; political issues are defined and debated nationally; and public attention is focused on national parties even where they compete for office in the La¨nder. By contrast, the political salience of policy-making at the regional level is quite low, and the 16 Land elections have the character

ABSTRACT The German federal system is conventionally understood as highly co-ordinated between federal and regional governments and aimed at producing a ‘uniformity’ of living conditions. This view has increasingly been challenged as new work focuses on innovation and diversity at the regional level, and also as a consequence of reforms to the federal system that took place in 2006. This contribution attempts to establish a more systematic basis for assessing and explaining the scope and significance of regional policy variation in Germany. Our findings suggest that – despite institutional structures that foster intense co-ordination between central and regional governments and apparent popular preferences for uniformity of policy outcomes – the extent of policy variation in Germany is much greater than conventionally understood and driven both by structural factors and partisan choices at the regional level.