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Subproject C3

Democratization through Ritualized Cultural Transfer: West Germany during the Reeducation Phase

Department and Research Field: Sociology, Research on Historical Social Structures
Subproject C3 has been concluded June 30, 2007.

Subproject Management

Prof. Dr. Uta Gerhardt

Institute of Sociology
Sociology Department II
Sandgasse 7/9
69117 Heidelberg

Phone: +49 (0) 6221 - 54 29 75
Fax: +49 (0) 6221 - 54 29 77


Dr. Gerhard Neumeier

Project Program

Subproject C3 aims to take on a new perspective on West Germany's democratization through reeducation as it was initiated by the occupying powers after 1945. During the first project phase, we will focus on the American occupation zone and accordingly on the reeducation projected by the American military government.


Our underlying hypothesis states, that the quest for democratization on the verge of the metaphorically so-called "zero hour" employed ritualization of acts to a so far unrecognized extend. Our approach includes the reconstruction of cases to allow a synchronic compilation of the processes during the democratic "restart".

The case reconstructions comprise three levels:

a)      scripts (handbooks, directives, manuals)

b)      experts

c)      performance (in terms of ritualized acts as the are practiced

         in their respective context)


The research results for the different levels of the drafted concepts and practices will be prepared to make the different types of ritualized acts become apparent. Comparing them will then allow their translation into a typology of rituals.


The case reconstructions target six areas: political reorganization, economy, denazification, education (incl. universities), refugees and displaced persons as well as police and public safety. The research will focus on a selection of regional scenarios like cities or detachments, which were part of the American occupation zone: Mannheim/Heidelberg, Nuremberg, and Frankfurt. Moreover, we will also treat the topic from a diachronic perspective. Based on Victor Turner's concept of ritual process we will assess the impact of the transitional phase ("zero hour") from 1945 to 1949 on the democratic development of West German society.


To determine whether the transfer of a democratic culture from one society to another can be characterized as ritual process we will examine inter alia the proclamations of the military government and research reports of the Information Control Division. The reports are based on 80 representative polls conducted in the American occupation zone.


Consolidating both synchronic and diachronic research data, we hope to provide evidence that the reeducation project, developed by the Americans in the early 1940s, succeeded as a ritualization-based cultural transfer.


This perspective sheds a new light, not only on the "roots of post-war West German democracy", but also on the particularly daring venture of initiating a process for the fundamental restructuring of a complex social system including its innermost mentality structures.

Main Topics