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The Structure of the German Elites across Regime Changes

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image of Comparative Sociology
For content published from 1960-2001, see International Journal of Comparative Sociology.

Germany is an especially apt case to analyze the relationship between regime change and elite continuity. Its political history between 1860 and 1960 is marked by an unusual degree of turmoil. While the first level of leadership in politics, and to a lesser degree in business and administration, was affected by the various regime changes, the levels two and three much less so. The notable characteristic of Germany's social structure is the pervasiveness of corporatism, and this is especially pronounced in levels two and three of the leadership.

We concentrated on the periods before 1914, the halfway revolution of 1918-1920, the Weimar Republic in its closing days, the ascent to power of the nazi leadership, the post-1945 attempts of denazification, and finally on the composition and the modus operandi of leadership groups in the 1990s. During all these changes the elites in Germany retained their segmentalized character, with the economic leaders, the bureaucrats, and politicians at the center, the politicians deriving their influence from their function as linking agents in a segmentalized structure. There are indications, however, that an establishment may be in the making.


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