Leitkultur and Bassam Tibi

Sorry, no updates. It was a busy week and I had to travel. When I would have time to blog I was simply too tired for it.

This week’s seminar was dedicated to the “German Leitkultur”, a phrase the Economist was not sure how to translate: “leading culture among Germans” or “German culture that leads”. It was coined by Bassam Tibi, Professor of Politics in Goettingen, describing a european canon of values (democracy, human rights, laizism, enlightment and civil society) in his 1998 book “Europa ohne Identität” (Europe without identity).
Than came election time and politicians were seeking for ammo. A bloke that is no longer in politics (he was found too stupid even for this party) grabbed the word and produced the “deutsche Leitkultur”. Miraculously it grew and floated around like a baloon, and like a baloon it was filled with hot air only: The student giving the referate was unable to come up with a strict definition, because there is none: In the end “german leitkultur” is what anybody wants to understand by it: beer and bratwurst and/or Schiller and Goethe. The word was used heavily in election time to make points at the far-right side of the voters-spectrum, because it always was used in connection with foreigners: “They” “have to accept” the Leitkultur. And nobody of this dumb politicos and loudspeakers ever gave a damn about what this blabla should mean – nobody was able to give a slightly coherent answer.
It is a very good example, how a phrase that describes a certain thing in a given theoretical connection is misunderstood and simply misused by politicans.
In the second part we had a look a the party programs here and what they say about “Kultur”. It is sobering. For the parties here culture is art and sport. End of story. One of the big “Volksparteien” simply skips it: There is a headline – and nothing follows. I realy was astonished – nothing more could be found. I expected statements or ideas or something, but there is nothing.

Bassam Tibi is a german professor for politics of syrian origin. He will be emerited in 2009 and than he will leave Germany. His website can be seen here. I recommend to have a look at this archived site too – I was not able to find a english version. In this long text Tibi explains his position, tells about his academic life and merits and how he and his colleagues were treated by Goettingen university. It is inexplicable to me how the president of a german university can use phrases of the nazi-jargon (“Schwachstellen ausmerzen” – to root out weaklings) in connection with a reorganisation of his university (“Stärkung” – strengthening) and the closing of instituts. Professor Tibi will write about it – I am sure – after 2009.
Let me put it simple: Goettingen is a university sited in the german province, exactly there. No need to go studying there.

6 thoughts on “Leitkultur and Bassam Tibi

  1. This is an interesting post Mago!The fastest way to frustrate an American is to ask them what American culture is. It’s supposed to be called “Americana”, but even the word sounds to Southwester for my approvel.The U.S. is a huge and South, East, West, Florida, Hawaii and Alaska are all distinct from eachother, (the last three being states have geography or idealogy that makes them more distinct then the states or area that surrounds them.)Aside from all the Native American tribes, most of us were immigrants that brought beliefs from our previous homelands.Surely to be “American” means more then just Baseball and Apple pie.-P

  2. This is a very serious matter but I couldn’t help grinning when I read your post. Yes, those chewing-gum words. They are funny as long as one doesn’t get them in their hair. “Außenpolitische Kontinuität” gave me fits of laughter for several years.Not an academic in any stretch of imagination, but I can well imagine how these people were treated there. One needs a thick hide here, especially in those good old <>black<> places. ;) (I’m not allowed to vote here so I can make these sort of jokes.)

  3. AmandaI’m living in the heart of “blackness”. Sometimes I have the idea that is all about vanishing – they make their crosses where they are expected to – and don’t give a damn about anything what “politics” is or could be.Not all academics are treated the way it happende to Tibi and his collegues. He studied in the 60ties in Frankfurt and heared people like Horkheimer, Adorno, Marcuse. Obviously his institute was seen as a far left thing (what it definitly is not, Tibi being in some respects a conservative man), that had to be eliminated.It is as always: People that allow themselves to have a opinion and are able to express it sooner or later found themselves “between the chairs”.The very special joke is that the university of Goettingen is desperatly seeking to get this absolutly sensefree status of “excellency” that is connected with more money from the government and better status. Besides other things the international standing of the institution is evaluated – and the best international image-person they could probably have – gets kicked in the butt. That follows when a “scientist” leads a university … You can not treat humanists like laboratory animals.proximaI’ll post about “americana” next – I promise you.———–Aaah, Igor invited friends for the weekend. With a little luck one will drop from the balcony …

  4. Politicians do the whole buzz word catchphrase thing and run with it all the time, if I have to hear carbon off sets ,global warming or global footprint one more time. I have never seen any of these but now the idea of them are a part of our culture.

  5. The whole situation strikes me in a very ironic way. I still can’t believe these people used the excuse „profillos“ und „entwicklungsunfähig“ I can think of several other faculties that could, theoretically, be closed down this way. ;)Our Igors were rather loud last night. No, not music, but lots of yelling. I couldn’t sleep for the longest time.

  6. All politicians, all hues denominations, shd be bundled up and thrown into the sea. Sorry, but I see red when I see that word.Will return to read the link.

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