Book Review: Why the Germans Do It Better: Notes from a Grown-Up Country by John Kampfner

As featured in Edition 40, available here.


BY OLLIE GEE (2nd year - German and Economics - Manchester, UK)



The Anglo-German relationship is one that has been at the forefront of global politics since the beginning of Germany’s 150-year history. This is certainly central to John Kampfner’s analysis of modern Germany in “Why the Germans Do It Better”, in light of Brexit and recent German politics. From a well-informed British viewpoint, this book provides a thought-provoking account of the perception of modern German politics.

Much of Kampfner’s praise for the foundations of the ‘grown-up country’ that Germany has built in recent years can be attributed to the stability and strong leadership that Angela Merkel fostered. This particularly shone through in immigration policies during the refugee crisis and the defeat of rising far-right populist nationalism in German politics. The book also praises the reintegration of Eastern Germany following the collapse of the communist Soviet Union as a sign of Germany’s continually high standard of upholding democracy, which is particularly important, as many countries have experienced increasing levels of authoritarianism in recent years.

Rebuilding is one of Germany’s major successes, notable from its turbulent past, as Kampfner lauds the societal and moral response following the events of World War Two. The book also notes that Germany’s ensuing economic ‘miracle’ and industrialisation have led to the country’s increased importance on the global stage, shown by a relatively peaceful foreign policy, working relations with the likes of Russia, the UK, USA, European nations, and Germany’s role in the European Union.

Although at first glance the title, “Why the Germans Do It Better” seems one-sided, Kampfner also analyses Germany's areas for future improvement, such as climate change response and environmentalism, underdeveloped former industrial towns, and intelligence foreign policy weaknesses. Kampfner’s evaluation of Germany is one of the more successful recent political books on Germany, providing an insightful and encompassing understanding of recent German politics.



Image: Waterstones / Why the Germans Do It Better: Notes from a Grown-Up Country