You are here:   Columns >  European Eye > Deutschland the Dull


It sounds like a paradox: we're fast approaching the German general election, and more and more days go by where I find myself unable to detect any political vision. It begins with spectacularly unimaginative campaign posters scattered about Berlin, insipid campaign commercials, boring appearances by candidates at local markets; if this campaign had a colour, it would surely be a safe grey. Even the head of one of the most respected opinion polling organisations was recently quoted as saying that the population was not particularly happy but not very worried either: "The country is calm." 

Angela Merkel couldn't change this judgment, despite her efforts to cast herself as a ray of light outshining her competitors on the political stage. Making her usual appearance at the Wagner festival in Bayreuth, she sported a new blue outfit after two years of wearing the same dress (a sign that she knew that the country was holding a referendum on her). 

This is a German election and a Brit may argue you wouldn't expect it be a flamboyant spectacle. But the current lethargy is a peculiar one. According to the polls, Germans are more satisfied with their government than ever before, and Merkel is expected to continue in power. And yet, talk to people in the capital about how they expect the next government to tackle their hopes and fears, and you might as well talk to a block of concrete. As the end of the summer approaches, it feels as if everything important was decided weeks ago, and the country is stuck in the languid mood of the last days before an early autumn hibernation. The nation, it seems, doesn't want to be bothered — even if people are feeling more financially squeezed than before the previous election because wages have been frozen. 

We know that emotions matter in shaping a vision. What we don't know is why complacency and anxiety about the future go together. Why aren't Germans more optimistic and less prone to weltschmerz and lethargy? Politicians don't usually engage in such metaphysical matters; in Germany this job is done by public intellectuals.

Few have taken to this more vigorously than Peter Sloterdijk, professor of philosophy and aesthetics at the University of Art and Design in Karlsruhe. Think of him as a more serious and less dashing Bernard-Henri Lévy, but just as savvy about creating an image of himself and just as likely to leave several shirt buttons undone. 

View Full Article

Post your comment

This question is for testing whether you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.