The goal of this chapter is not to explain what a government is, how it’s supposed to work, or what it does, but instead give you the opportunity to talk about the government(s) you are familiar with, your experience with them, and some opinions you might have on certain governments and world leaders. How governments work is difficult to understand, but some form of government can be found in every country around the world, so it is important to learn about.
Before starting our discussion, it is important to understand that in many cultures, it is considered rude to talk about politics, especially personal political affiliations. This might sound confusing, but in a culture that values harmony and friendship, talking about a subject that could potentially cause an argument is not something people want to do, so most people in countries, such as the United States, generally avoid talking about politics in casual settings. Because of controversial government leaders and political scandals, this perspective is slowly changing, but generally this is a good cultural rule to follow.
With that said, let’s begin a respectful discussion on politics in Germany. Remember to consider the structure of the government and how it generally functions, but also keep in mind important historical events. For example, World War I and World War II are deeply connected to global governments, political figures, national and international laws, and many other aspects of politics as a field of study.
What do you know about governments and politics? Get into small groups, and take turns sharing what you now! If you did the homework from Unit 3’s Assignment (Question #3), you can use your notes and timelines. Write your group’s answers in the space below.
Germany has a long history that is deeply connected to its government and political leaders. Of course, everyone knows a little about World War II and Adolf Hitler, but what has happened since then? How has Germany recovered from the aftermath of war, and how is the country run now?
A quick way to understand Germany’s government is to watch this video explaining generally how it works. (Note: Your instructor may choose not to show this video in class, so watch it on your own before class. Check the URL below the image or search the internet for more information.)
If there’s no chance to watch the video, here is some brief information about Germany’s government. Germany has a federal parliamentary democratic republic. That means the government is elected by the people in elections, and everyone has an equal vote. They have a constitution that states the rights of the people, and it also describes the jobs of the President, the Cabinet, the Bundestag and Bundesrat (the two parts of Parliament), and the Courts. The President is the head of state, but this is mostly ceremonial. The Federal Chancellor is actually the head of the government.
Think about the government in your native country (or a country you’re familiar with), and look at the table on page 30. For each point in the Germany section, write an equivalent point for your country’s government. For instance, the name of Germany’s political leader is “chancellor,” so the leader from Japan, for example, would be “prime minister,” and the leader from the United States would be “president.” Another example would be when a country’s citizens vote. For Germany, citizens vote for the Bundestag (i.e., federal elections) every four years. When does your country’s citizens vote? General information is ok! Don’t worry about being exact—the point is to gain a general understanding of how some governments work.