Philobiblon: Angela Merkel takes over

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Angela Merkel takes over

Germany awoke this morning to its first full day under a female Chancellor. After much tooing and froing, much talk, the Bundestag finally voted her in yesterday (although with 51 less votes than her coalition is supposed to have).

Given the general conservatism of German society, its still extremely rigid gender roles, I get the feeling it is going to be a shock all around. (And it is going to mean that there will, finally, again be a woman at the table of big international summits.)

What makes it even more amazing is that she is the first former East German to hold the post, and was elected on a platform of radical social change, very approximately along the model of Thatcherism, although she is now in a "grand" coalition that has already ruled out much of that.

There's a lot of reasons why she might not succeed, but then all of logic would have said she wouldn't get where she is now.

The Der Spiegel article I've linked to above describes Germany as suffering from a "pathological pessimism about our future prospects". I was talking to a German friend (admittedly an expat who can't imagine going back) who also feels that Germany is just stuck in a deeply destructive rut. Several of her female friends, highly educated, one a doctor, have given up paid work and have no intention of going back. She's deeply disappointed in them, but it seems that they are only following the norms of their society, which surely can't stay that way.

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