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Federal DynamicsContinuity, Change, and the Varieties of Federalism$
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Arthur Benz and Jörg Broschek

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780199652990

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2013

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199652990.001.0001

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Resilience and change in federal institutions: The case of the German Federal Council

Resilience and change in federal institutions: The case of the German Federal Council

(p.117) 6 Resilience and change in federal institutions: The case of the German Federal Council
Federal Dynamics

Kathleen Thelen

Sebastian Karcher

Oxford University Press

One of the oldest federalist systems, Germany offers itself as a case study for long-term developments in federalism. Drawing on a burgeoning literature on institutional continuity and change we investigate the development of a key institution of German federalism, the Federal Council (Bundesrat) from the foundation of the German Reich until today. Counter to claims that institutional change occurs mainly during “critical junctures,” the Federal Council has shown remarkable resilience: It persisted through World War I and the 1919 revolution and the writing of the centralist Weimar constitution. Dismantled in 1934, it returned in 1949 after years of dictatorship, war, and military occupation. Counter to an emphasis on institutional stability in “settled” times in earlier literature, the role of the Bundesrat has changed significantly over the last 60 years. Initially representing the interests of federal states, it has gradually developed into a powerful second chamber dominated by national-level politics.

Keywords:   federalism, historical institutionalism, path dependence, germany (german reich 1871-1919), germany (weimar republic 1919-1933), germany (federal republic of 1949-), bundesrat (federal council), political parties

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