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.