How is the term of a people used?

background : Who are the people?


At the top of the gable of the Berlin Reichstag are the words: "The German people". They were chiseled into the Reichstag built in 1894 in 1915. A local newspaper pointed out at the time that the people had financed the construction, so they were de facto the owners. Therefore, the building cannot be dedicated to “the people” at the same time. The inhabitants of the GDR remembered this logic when they took to the streets in 1989 and shouted to the officials in the government: “We are the people.” As early as 1789, the revolutionary French invoked the republic as the “peuple français” exclaimed, originated from "res publica", the "public cause", the Latin name for the Roman people. Emperor Wilhelm II was uncomfortable with the dedication to the Reichstag. It was not until 1915 that he agreed to the inscription in order to strengthen public spirit and the home front during the First World War.

With the National Socialist mythization and biologization of the "people", the term was contaminated and was henceforth under suspicion. The people reappeared in the preamble to the Basic Law of 1949, as well as in the constitution of the GDR from the same year. “People” as a crowd was used for a long time for “simple people”, later as a term for a large group with the same language or ethnic group. In contrast, a nation consists of the population, the demos as the sovereign of democracy, which no longer has anything to do with ethnicity. The term is derived from "volc" or "folc", "fulka", which means something like "war band" and appears for the first time in the eighth century as a term for "many" - that sounds, for example, in "bulk" . The standard etymological work by Kluge also shows the meaning of “folc” as “to lead”.


Lots. Germany is an industrial nation. In fact, although it is vice-export world champion, more women and men now work in service occupations than in industry, while consumer behavior and leisure opportunities are changing rapidly. More and more interest groups and “parallel societies” emerge, a kaleidoscope of goals and purposes determines what they do, a puzzle of particular interests is the result. An indicator for the trend is, in addition to the increase in swing voters and the number of parties in parliament, the growing club culture. Wherever three Germans are gathered, it is ironic that they found an association. And this tendency is increasing. In the summer of 2008 there were 554 401 registered associations (e.V.) in Germany, about 6743 associations per one million German citizens. The German citizens are active in thousands of sports clubs for football, fishing, tennis, surfing, rowing, in clubs for dog breeding, carnival and motor sports. They gather as singers, homeland friends, recreational radio operators, campers, conservationists, tax critics, art lovers, mosque builders, asylum workers, nuclear opponents, reading godparents. Networking is helping everyone with the explosive development of electronic data transmission via the Internet and mobile phones. And of course there have long been associations for “video game culture”. The goals of the groups are becoming more and more specialized. Separate fathers organize themselves into self-help associations as well as people with chronic illnesses or saviors of monuments who are concerned with a very specific building.

In the large number of groups and subgroups, "the traditional association" is no longer the applicable norm, rather citizens organize themselves spontaneously, like the Sarrazin fan groups just now, in order to formulate a temporary concern and to publicly advertise, protest or publicly as lobbyists even litigate. “The people” is on the move, the population is organizing - and the politicians are scratching their heads. You can no longer rely on old party loyalty and calm governance from above. In addition to the disenchantment with politics, the troublemakers and activists make themselves felt, and among them there are definitely middle-class actors. In the talk shows, the “affected sofa” has been set up for this clientele, on which, in addition to the usual celebrities, the expert from the population can speak.


From meaningful lobby associations to anarchic flash mobs, groups in the population are organized at short notice. These groups are as diverse as their goals, as unmanageable as their numbers. Larger groups are formed by students who, unlike in the past, do not strike for the Third World or against a war, but pragmatically for fewer tuition fees, more seminars and professors. Local initiatives spring up where political or urban planning measures are to be implemented against the will of an articulate group. This happened in Hamburg, when the grammar school was to be abolished, or in Stuttgart, where citizens, including prominent actors, are currently protesting against the demolition of the old train station and the multi-billion dollar project for an underground train station. They adopt their methods from internationally successful pressure groups, i.e. organizations such as Greenpeace or Amnesty: sit-ins, chains, banners, collecting signatures, open letters. These forms of protest no longer have the character of alternative or subversive action, but can even - see high school, see train station - aim to the opposite, to preserve what has been acquired. Thus they are also an expression of the diagnosed uncertainty of the middle class. How, if and when politics react to the multi-active society has so far only been shown on a case-by-case basis. It seems certain: direct communication via debates or websites is becoming more and more important. Society is on the way to a new culture of dialogue, in which “above” and “below” give way to flatter networks.

In the past, social groups saw themselves largely represented by the Bundestag and Cabinet, today the political elites often seem unrealistic. This is also due to the greater social mobility that creates new life plans and professional profiles. To the extent that more individual closeness and attention is expected from politics, traditional forms of politics - keynote speeches, party programs, symbolic appearances - appear less adequate. In addition, representatives of the political class are experienced as "those up there" who have little idea of ​​everyday life. Statistically, “the population” can hardly be recorded in traditional categories either.


Everyone who lives on the territory of the Federal Republic and is registered with their main residence here, including all foreigners registered here. According to the Federal Statistical Office, around 82 million people live in the densely populated country - by the way, 216,000 (0.3 percent) fewer than in the previous year. About 15.6 million have a migration background. The office calculates that there is a "population density of 230 people per square kilometer" - in the EU there is an average of 116 people. Of course, these numbers are abstract. Outside the cities, fewer people live per square kilometer than in the metropolitan areas. The birth statistics sound just as abstract, showing a slight increase in births from 1.37 to 1.38 children per woman around 2008.


Since the founding of the republic in 1949, the reality of life and life expectancy have changed rapidly. Above all: Germany is aging. There are more people living here who are 65 years of age and older than those who are 15 and younger. 18.7 million people are part of a married couple, but a growing proportion also prefer unmarried partnerships or live in blended families. The families themselves are getting smaller and smaller, households with more than three children are rare. On the other hand, single-person households are steadily increasing in large cities, 16.5 million people live alone, in Berlin a good half of the population. The number of single parents is also increasing year by year. In 2009, 1.6 million mothers or fathers looked after their children alone; almost every fifth child is looked after by just one parent, mostly the mother. According to surveys, the majority of young people want a family, the status of family is increasing again and online dating agencies are booming. And: Education, further training and lifelong learning are in great demand. Around 70 percent of young people acquire the general or subject-specific higher education entrance qualification. The proportion is significantly lower for migrants. Overall, a little more female than male adolescents pass the Abitur.


Statisticians measure this using indicators of prosperity, the most important of which is per capita income. They are currently showing that with relative prosperity, rich and poor will drift further apart. This is shown by a study by the publicly funded German Institute for Economic Research from June. This trend is unsettling the middle class, they say, and attacks social stability. Only 60 percent of people in Germany belong to the middle class with net incomes between 860 and 1844 euros, six percent less than in 2000. The number of low incomes rose from 18 percent in 2000 to almost 22 percent in 2009.

This also has consequences for urban development, with the threat of developing more and more social hot spots. After all, despite the economic crisis, unemployment has barely increased. Nevertheless, the number of job seekers is considerable. In August the Federal Employment Agency reported that 5,729,000 people were receiving “wage replacement benefits”. The reason for displeasure among taxpayers and politicians remains the fact that around half of the federal budget has to be invested in transfer payments. This also gives the impression that a few hard-working people pay huge sums of money for millions of non-working people. The fact that “foreigners” in particular belong to this group increases resentment. In addition, there is the feeling that in the wrong place - see Stuttgart train station - too much is being spent by carelessly operating functional elites. Last but not least, the economic crisis has shaken confidence in the elites. “Do they actually know what they are doing?” This could be the key phrase for an attitude to life that is permeated with skepticism in the face of once reliable authorities.

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