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The CDU and the Politics of Gender in Germany


  • 1 b/w illus. 8 tables
  • Page extent: 284 pages
  • Size: 228 x 152 mm
  • Weight: 0.53 kg

Library of Congress

  • Dewey number: 324.243/04082
  • Dewey version: 22
  • LC Classification: JN3971.A98 C49 2010
  • LC Subject headings:
    • Christlich-Demokratische Union Deutschlands--Membership
    • Women--Political activity--Germany
    • Women--Government policy--Germany
    • Women--Government policy--Europe, German-speaking

Library of Congress Record


 (ISBN-13: 9780521765824)

This book develops the concept of the corporatist catch-all party to explain how the German Christian Democratic Union (CDU) has responded to changing demands from women over the past forty years. Otto Kirchheimer's classic study argues that when catch-all parties reach out to new constituencies, they are forced to decrease the involvement of membership to facilitate doctrinal flexibility. In a corporatist catch-all party, however, societal interests are represented within the party organization and policy making is the result of internal party negotiation. Through an investigation of CDU policy making in the issue areas of abortion policy, work-family policy, and participation policy, this book demonstrates that sometimes the CDU mobilizes rather than disempowers membership. An important lesson of this study is that a political party need not sacrifice internal democracy and ignore its members in order to succeed at the polls.

• Explains Chancellor Angela Merkel's rise to power • Studies the policies toward women of the Christian Democratic Union, Germany's most important political party • Investigates conservative women, a group that is rarely studied


Introduction: a democratic paradox?; 1. The puzzle of CDU policy making on women's issues; 2. The corporatist catch-all party model; 3. The postwar CDU: origins of a corporatist catch-all party; 4. The emergence of the Women's Union, 1969–1982; 5. The Women's Union in the dominant coalition, 1982–1989; 6. Looking eastward: the Women's Union and cobbled coalitions, 1989–1998; 7. The rise of Angela Merkel: policy and personnel decisions of the CDU in unified Germany; 8. Christian democracy with and without corporatism: policy making on women's issues in Austria, Italy and the Netherlands; Conclusion; Appendix A: list of cited interviews.


'Sarah Wiliarty provides a fascinating look inside one of the largest and most important political parties in Europe. In closely analyzing a 'traditional' party's response to gender issues, in developing a new and compelling perspective on party organization, and in linking the empirical literature on political parties to normative democratic theory, this book deserves a wide audience.' David Art, Tufts University

'This is one of the most important works yet written on one of the most important political parties in modern Europe. Sarah Wiliarty's insightful analysis of the CDU's internal dynamics is a major contribution to our understanding of a key player in German democracy. It also offers a fresh perspective on how organizational structures shape intra-party policy making.' Clay Clemens, College of William and Mary

'Was Angela Merkel's rise to become the first woman chancellor in German history an accident of party politics or a miracle of gender representation? Wiliarty shows how both party politics and women's mobilization transformed the CDU, a religious, conservative party, away from its patriarchal ideas about women and family (called 'traditional') and led not only to Merkel's breakthrough role but to her party's leadership in providing paid family leave for women and men. But even more fundamentally, Wiliarty shows that careful attention to gender politics can explain a great deal about how parties themselves function. The corporatist catch-all party that Wiliarty describes as the CDU model may be increasingly the style for all political parties in the age of identity politics and multiple interest groups vying for influence.' Myra Marx Ferree, University of Wisconsin

'This is an excellent piece of research, utilizing high-quality, historical, and comparative methodology to answer the timely question of how conservative political parties respond to women's demands. The quality and scope of the analysis will allow the book to reach a broad international audience at undergraduate, graduate, and scholarly levels.' Kathrin Zippel, Northeastern University

'One of the book's most notable strengths is its creative and potentially very useful model.' Ronald J. Granieri, Temple University

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