The politics of identity in Germany: the Leitkultur debate

Hartwig Pautz*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

68 Citations (Scopus)


'Germany is not a country of immigration' is a fiction of national homogeneity that came under increased pressure with the advent, in 1998, of a centre-left government. New laws for immigration, integration and citizenship were to be introduced, eradicating the concept of Volk tied together by ius sanguinis. But the opposition Christian Democratic Union made an electoral issue of 'Ausländerpolitik', especially integration, accusing the government of jeopardising 'German cultural identity'. What ensued was the Leitkulturdebatte, about Germany's predominant culture, characterised by the notion of the 'clash of civilisations' and the incompatibility of 'different' cultures. This not only replaced racial belonging with cultural belonging, transforming the ius sanguinis into an equally essentialist ius cultus, it also formed part of a conservative attempt to re-establish a 'normal' German national consciousness, cleared of the memory of the Holocaust.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)39-52
Number of pages14
JournalRace and Class
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2005
Externally publishedYes


  • clash of civilisations
  • culture of remembrance
  • identity politics
  • immigration
  • integration
  • multiculturalism
  • nationalism
  • normalisation


Dive into the research topics of 'The politics of identity in Germany: the Leitkultur debate'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this