paul hockenso speaking
© Giovanni Lo Curto



Explaining Germany’s Transition to Clean Energy

An introduction to Germany’s pioneering green-energy transition called the Energiewende. Germany is the first major industrial country to turn over half of its power supply renewable while phasing out both nuclear and coal-generated energy. Giant wind turbines blanket the north while farmers in Bavaria supplement their earnings with solar power and bioenergy. Cleantech is a booming export product. But still, say critics, Germany could be doing more to lead the world to a carbon neutral future.

Germany from Below: How Mass Movements Made Germany Liberal

From the postwar years to the present, grassroots social movements have pushed and prodded Germany to become more modern, democratic, and open. Mass movements such as the sixties’ student protests, the anti-nuclear energy demonstrations, and the peace campaign of the 1980s, as well as the protetsts that brought down the Berlin wall, have transformed the face of a country traditionally known for its stolid conservatism.

Berlin Calling: Stories of Anarchy, Music, Subculture and the Fall of the Wall

Berlin is a city known everywhere for its politically charged underground world of dance clubs and night spots, squats and offbeat lifestyles. David Bowie described Berlin as “the greatest cultural extravaganza that one could imagine.” I tells this story as someone who has lived in the city since the mid-1980s and saw the Wall fall. Berlin’s new success, however, threatens the very originality that made it cool in the first place. Mass tourism, gentrification, and culture’s commodification are transforming the city again.

1989: The Year That Changed Everything

With the Wall’s breach and Central Europe’s overthrow of communism, the contours of Europe changed forever. Democracy and the free market were the spirit of the day. But though Europe has fused together, illiberalism and the far-right extremism from the Baltic to the Balkans are worrying phenomena. In Central Europe, Poland, and Hungary are not the only countries to contest some of Europe’s basic central tenets. Nationalist populists in every country challenge the idea of a unified, liberal Europe. Can the EU remain united in the face of such diversity and rancor?

Germany and the EU: Joined at the Hip?

The EU was founded in the postwar years to ensure that Europe would never again go to war with itself. West Germany’s loyalty to the European project was unquestioned and indeed won democratic Germany the right to unify in 1990. Since then Germany’s dominance in the EU unnerves many of its peers, who see its oversized clout as undemocratic. This may contradict the spirit of the EU, but can the 27-member bloc work any other way?

Continental Divide: Germany-U.S. Relations at a Crossroads

During the Cold War, West Germany was the U.S.’s most loyal ally in Europe, not least because 200,000 U.S. troops were stationed in the country. Today the unified Germany is a sovereign, independent country with a very different, complex relationship to the U.S. Germany still relies on the U.S., as the first among equals in NATO, for security but its priorities and sensibilities are different, which occasionally causes friction. Germany, and the EU as a whole, wants to be treated by the U.S. as an equal. Washington, however, demands that this require Berlin and Brussels to step up defense spending.  

Wither Conservatism in Germany — and Beyond?

No party has defined the political history of postwar Germany, or even all of postwar Europe, more than Germany’s Christian Democratic Party (CDU). It has led Germany for 52 of the 72 years of its existence: a big-tent party with, until very recently, an almost magical recipe that attracted German voters across classes, regions, and generations. One can sum up its program as: church, nation, family – and always a dependable cog in the EU and Atlantic alliance. Yet today, with the CDU in opposition, there’s never been more uncertainty about the future of conservatism in all of Europe. On the climate crisis, the CDU and conservatives elsewhere in Europe had the opportunity to lead — but failed to do so, and are now paying a heavy price.

See 2021 European conservatism talk at Institute for Advanced Studies Köszeg in Hungary.