While the whole world is in a deep crisis… …Germany is racing ahead at full speed. The euro zone’s hub
has a growing and flourishing economy. German products are said
to be the best in the world… …and Chancellor Angela Merkel was
voted the world’s most powerful woman. What can we learn
from Germany’s success? Backlight went in search of the roots
of Germany’s manufacturing industry. Look at a world of punctuality,
common sense… …and an almost religious work ethic.
This is in store for you: I must lead a life in which every minute… …in every situation I live for God. It’s a combination
of class consciousness… …quality awareness, competence… …and the ability to achieve
all this in the marketplace. Germany’s achievements
didn’t just appear out of thin air. It took a lot of hard work,
and the necessary sacrifices. This is Backlight and we’re
taking a peek at our neighbours. We’re here at Volkswagen’s
‘glass factory’ in Dresden… …where Volkswagen’s luxury sedan,
the Phaeton, is manufactured. Our house is open all year round
to any visitors… …and to any customers who want
to see how the Phaeton is made. We want to demonstrate
the art of German engineering. And we want to demonstrate
Saxon handwork. We want to make precision
and technique transparent. The Phaeton is only made here
in Dresden. Every Phaeton you see was made here
by us in Dresden. When looking for a location, we also
considered the emotional aspects. The cultural environment. In this respect, Dresden with its
Semperoper, and Gemäldegalerie… …the former royal palace,
is a fascinating city. And the Saxony region
boasts a wonderful history too. Think of Meissen porcelain,
Glashütte watches. Here in Saxony there’s a great tradition
in the art of engineering. The Phaeton is made here in Dresden
by some 300 personnel. By 300 Saxons,
who work for us with passion. On average, employees stay with us
for nine years. They feel very much at home here. They identify with Phaeton,
with the factory and with Volkswagen. We’re here in the glass factory’s
light tunnel. This is where the final
quality control takes place. Workers manually check the seams. They assess the colour and enamel… …and check the chrome mouldings… …to guarantee that every Phaeton… …is completely flawless
for delivery to the customer. The extremely high labour costs… …with visual observation
by human controllers… …is expensive, of course.
The costs involved are high. But we’re convinced
that in the long term… …for a demanding product
and for demanding customers… …this is the right investment. And we have the patience
to prove this success. Completely flawless, perfectionism,
and patience for success in the long term. That’s our perception
of German thoroughness. But where do these traits come from? A century ago, Max Weber, one of
Germany’s most renowned sociologists… …wrote about the relationship
between capitalism and Protestant ethic… …which is commonplace in Germany. And he linked this with the German
mentality to Protestantism. We’re at the casino in Wiesbaden. One of the most famous
gambling meccas in the world. At the casino, ‘earning’,
or winning money… …is contrary to what Max Weber
wrote about work. Dirk Kaesler, who, until recently
worked for the University of Marburg… …is a Max Weber authority,
and has written several books about him. All Christians, right up until
the Middle Ages… …and until the beginning
of the modern age… …asked themselves:
What will happen to me when I die? To put it simply:
Will I go to heaven or hell? The Catholic, or initially Christian
solution to this was to do good works. We must obey God’s commandments. But what happens to sinners?
That’s bad. The Catholic church
has a whole repertory… …for forgiveness, confession and so on. The Protestants stopped at
the ‘sanctity of work’: If I do good works I’ll go to heaven. They said: No, you don’t get
that many opportunities. It’s better to live your whole life
continuously like this… …like a business… …so you’ll end up with a favourable
balance and also a surplus… …of good works. I must lead a life in which every minute… …in every situation I live for God. These ideas were radically adopted
by the Protestant faith. Especially by Calvinists. Calvinism, according to Max Weber,
elevates this concept to a system. And from there a life is created
that is run like a business. This has several implications:
I must be punctual. I must be reliable.
I mustn’t sleep too much. I mustn’t dwell on nonsense.
There is no free time. My profession is my vocation.
In English it’s also known as a calling. It’s not a job that you quit tomorrow. I must find a profession that’s
my calling, for my entire life. And increasingly, when people… …or when the world was ‘stripped
of its magic, as Weber said… …and people lost their faith… …there was more independence.
Going to heaven was no longer the issue. It was finding a profession
to become very successful. My profession means everything to me. Max Weber lived
on the other side of the street. He lived here for a year and died here too. But anyway. Yes, it’s an interesting theory. In a sense, it’s the north-south conflict
in Europe… …between the thrifty Germans… …new proof for Weber: Protestantism. It’s true that Merkel comes from
a Protestant minister’s family. The south is Catholic with a different,
more open lifestyle. This still applies to some extent.
There’s a different way of dealing with… …economic rationality, the unity of… …as we see in America,
the unity of economic gain… …and a willingness to God. In America this is a powerful base.
It is less so here. But these contrasts are disappearing. Because of the consumer society
and cross breeding. Although it is true that
in the north-south conflict… …elements of Protestant ethic… …and a strong Catholic association
with modernity are not compatible. Does a ‘calling’ still play a role? If you
take the German emphasis on quality. If you mean the issue of
‘made in Germany’… …and you therefore want to see it
in a historical context… …then a profession as a concept
is indeed… …as a concept
for a specific work situation… …a typical German concept.
It’s almost untranslatable. It’s a combination
of class consciousness… …quality awareness, competence… …and the ability to achieve this
in the marketplace. This profession, like many other traditions,
is disappearing in Germany too. But I think it forms the backdrop
for quality awareness… …that has partly been maintained
in the industry… …and which also represents the skilled
worker’s central role in industry… …that you don’t see to the same extent
in other countries. I started working for the company in 1974. We’re one of Germany’s oldest
companies… …and we’ve been in existence since 1808.
We preserve tradition. Some trends encompass everything:
pneumatic, electric. But we’ve now gone back to basics
in organ building. We make everything mechanically,
like our ancestors did. There’s nothing nicer or better. It’s called craft art. It’s real handwork. Many aspects are involved:
we work with lots of materials. Tin and wood. The sound is paramount.
You must have a good ear. We covered the foot with foil
to stop water getting in. Or they’ll be water marks here.
– We can do it like this. It’s a true calling.
You couldn’t do it otherwise. Why not? You must identify with this work. A job is something you do to earn money. But you do this with your heart and soul. And when I hear the organ
once it’s finished… …I sometimes get goose bumps. It’s fantastic. You can say:
I helped build that. A heart for quality and striving for beauty. In this respect, Germany also leads in art. It has always been a nation
of poets and philosophers. If you regard ‘thinking’ as a desire,
then come to Germany. Since 2010, Dutch theatre director Johan
Simons has been the artistic director… …of the prestigious
Münchner Kammerspiele. As a Dutchman, what does he think of
the German mentality to art and culture? Art plays a major role here.
People never say about art… …well, only in a roundabout way,
‘How do we benefit?’ ‘Where’s the profit?’
They never really ask that here. When I was appointed,
I was appointed by government. From the outset they said: We decide.
We’re in power so we can endorse this. But isn’t a government appointment
a drawback? Supposing a fairly reactionary party
is in power? Even German reactionary parties
like the CSU… …have culture representatives
and they’re all intellectuals. They’re all people
who’ve read more than two books. In this black section,
you can see it clearly. The Kammerspiele is an institute
with a 32-million subsidy. Next year it will be 33 million. Annually. And I must create
my own programme… …that evokes as much protest
as possible… …that even leads to booing at times.
So we must be controversial, as it were. This explains our repertory. If I don’t do it well,
so if my programme doesn’t lead… …to discussions in town, or nationally,
but especially in Munich… …I’ll be criticised and
I may have to leave prematurely. And the other point
is audience numbers. But this really takes a back seat. It’s not the most important thing. In this respect, it really is what
they call here a ‘supply culture’. In Holland, it’s a demand culture. Here we have a supply culture. Listen. The problem is
in something that’s round. And then there’s the technique too. What’s the problem?
– It’s too much. It’s a very well-read… …I’m talking about
the middle and upper classes, eh? But there’s a lot of misery here too. But the middle class is very well-read. It looks good, to put it in a corny way
or a typical way… …it just looks good if you’re
a Kammerspiele season-ticket holder… …and you attend performances and
you know this, that or the other writer. That’s what they call ‘Bildung’.
– Yes, ‘Bildung’. Education. From a young age,
you learn that the world is bigger… If you’re really good at maths, say… …then a German will be interested
in many other areas too. We have a great tradition in the area
of education, in Humboldt’s tradition. Particularly at universities,
but also at high schools. It is an important basis
for Germany’s development. It’s not about restrictive
vocational courses. We differentiate between education
and training courses. Education is all-round, a training course
is aimed at a certain trade. In the 1970s… …I did an empirical study on this.
It was my first sociological project. We looked at how to gear training courses
to the labour market. We’re still looking at this today. And the result was, very interestingly,
and very broad too… …not only at my institute,
but at lots of other institutes… …the attempt to achieve
useful education… …is counterproductive,
if it’s geared almost solely to jobs. Only a general education
makes it possible to adapt… …because the fast-changing
labour market… …means that after five years
after the completion of training… …these jobs have gone
or have almost gone. While those with
a more general education… …are better equipped to deal
with changes in the labour market. Flexibility is vital to the success of
small and medium-sized businesses… …that form 70 percent and the backbone
of the German economy. Like Arri in Munich, for instance. For almost 100 years, Arri’s been
among the world’s best-known makers… …of professional cameras
for the film industry. Box-office hits such as Apocalypse Now,
Schindler’s List and Das Boot… …were filmed using Arri cameras. In recent years, they’ve managed to
change from a film to a digital camera. They were tough times:
2008, 2009 were really hard. The demand for analogue film cameras
plummeted. Obviously, we’re active in other areas too. But our camera business
hung by a thread at the time. We had to make lots of adjustments.
Not only is it a different product… …the whole company’s production method
is entirely new. But we managed,
here with our staff in Munich… …to change everything
so that our digital cameras… …could successfully be made and sold. The transition from analogue to digital… …was extremely tricky. Because, in my opinion at least… …the change wasn’t driven by technology
or by performance parameters… …but by financial and economic forces. Plus a familiar phenomenon
in the consumer world: The hype factor, which also played a role. Everyone wanted digital
because it was a ‘must have’. It’s not that the 35 mm film… …was surpassed by digital technology
two years ago. No, it was just the mindset of the day. Just like we now all want iPhones,
and nothing else. We didn’t let ourselves
be influenced by the mainstream. Where it’s all about the millions of pixels: 8 million, 12 million, 14 million pixels. The more pixels, the better the camera.
But this is not true. Arri was the only company
that focused on other factors. We said: We think it’s important
to have a camera… …where the dynamic range and
film sensitivity are as big as possible. The dynamic range, that is
the contrast that can be reflected… …is essential to the quality of the image. This is why our images have proved
to be qualitatively unparalleled. How important is it to you
that this all happens here in Munich? And not in factories in China? We keep asking ourselves this question… …because Munich isn’t the cheapest
of locations, of course. We have higher labour costs
than elsewhere. It’s more than just tradition. But it is tradition too. We’ve been here
almost as long as the company itself… …except for a short break. But it is more than tradition.
We’re close to development here… …and production, suppliers and partners. Plus our development partners.
Everything started here around Munich. We have an excellent workforce here,
which you don’t find everywhere. And it’s not easy to move a company
like this. The camera is such a complex product… …that transferring production… …besides development, purchasing
and all the other processes… …is too complicated,
so we’re staying in Munich. The most successful German companies,
from Arri to Volkswagen… …are firmly rooted in the region. Unlike other European countries,
Germany boasts many regional banks. And in the area of sustainable energy
supplies… …most initiatives are local set-ups. In northern Germany, in Wiemersdorf,
with some 1500 inhabitants, for instance… …a citizen-financed wind farm
was established fifteen years ago… …to supply power to 26,000 households. And it’s run by the citizens themselves. Germany is certainly an exception… …when it comes to all its citizen-run
wind farms. Owned by small investors. It’s an exception, because
energy production is normally… …in the hands of the large concerns. They’re never run by syndicates
or funded by citizens. Usually, it’s by limited companies. This started on the west coast… …where there’s lots of wind. There, people got together and said: Why do we always let others
run our power plants? We want to run them ourselves. And
this success formula was expanded. Here we have conventional funding. With 80% external funding
and 20% owner’s equity. It was in the days of the German mark.
We invested some 20 million marks. Four million of our own money, of which
three quarters came from Wiemersdorf… …and a quarter from surrounding areas,
where we managed to attract people… …who were also involved in wind energy. This is how we managed
to raise all the capital we needed. At the first park, we had
some 44 sleeping partners. At the new park, most of the
44 contributed plus 51 others. So we now have almost 100 participants
at all the plants here. And all in all, in the village too… …it’s very widely accepted. The local council is happy
to receive corporate tax each year. I’ve just calculated how much.
We’ve paid… …some 900,000 euros to the local council
for the first twelve years. In a year’s time,
it will top the million-euro mark. We also sponsor the fire service
and the sports’ club… …and the kindergarten. We can do something for the common
good, so that in the municipality… …people who don’t participate
still talk about our wind turbines. The wind farms are not subsidised
but there’s a buying commitment… …for the power network operators,
who are required by law… …to buy electricity at a fixed rate
from the citizens’ wind farm. Stable terms were set out
in the sustainable energy law… …so that sustainable energy products
from an economic viewpoint… …enable power plants to operate
with the necessary degree of certainty. The biggest advantage of this law… …is that it now enables projects
to be set up quickly. This therefore makes it possible
for citizens… …for the ‘little man’
to participate in projects… …and to be involved in energy production. And to exclude the big concerns,
the ‘monopolists’… …while also allowing ordinary citizens
to participate. And I see that the small operators,
including them… …are far more flexible
than the large concerns. And this has made a big contribution… …to the drastic increase in sustainable
energy supplies in Germany. Communities now play a major role. It is not only a technology process. Nor just an economic process either
but a democratic process. It’s another kind of democracy. This already applied to the operation.
It’s not run from the top down. This would be a new kind
of State socialism. Participation is needed at different levels. Initiatives must start at the bottom. Therefore it’s about
a new kind of democracy. Germany’s change to sustainable energy
was accelerated… …after the Fukushima nuclear disaster
in Japan. The German government decided
to phase out nuclear power completely. Chancellor Merkel ordered
a commission to look into… …how to implement this energy change. Sociologist Ulrich Beck was chairman
of this ‘Ethics Commission’. Here too, Germany’s small and medium
sized businesses played a vital role. This is linked to Germany’s
economic success after the war. Therefore it is also part
of the success… …since for a long time people thought
it would be swallowed up by the industry. And this was just
a transitional phenomenon. Currently, small and medium-sized
businesses are globalising. This was very interesting in the debate
on nuclear power and its alternatives. All kinds of groups imaginable
participated. The large producers were all very critical
while the small and medium enterprises… …were hugely positive. Because the architects,
those who build new machines… …that provide technical systems… …that need less resources, already
have a global market at their disposal. They’re completely in line with the
Federal Republic and the commission. This was extremely interesting. They didn’t perish as a result of
globalisation. Just the opposite, in fact. They adapted and
they also form the backbone… …for the education of
the new generations. There’s vocational training
and it is also developed there… …for a certain quality awareness and
also for skilled workers and engineers. This is all part of it.
But there’s another change too: Alternative technology… …is also incorporated into research,
science and education. Universities and faculties
are involved in this. It is not only an alternative culture… …but it provides opportunities for careers,
in the long term too. This is the backdrop against which
the energy change occurred. It’s already well developed,
also in answer… …to the earlier conservation movement
that also used this as an innovation. death has a smooth face
it drinks champagne its house is big and windowless
so you can’t just look inside its house is the nuclear power plant
hooray, listen, cheers the atom contaminates the snow
radiation affects the fish in the lake destruction is spreading like wildfire death in our country
comes in all shapes and sizes, you see if you don’t die meekly for it
it will take you by force Germans have always had
a special relationship with nature. Nature is also seen
as a religious revelation. This is not purely a German trait,
it occurs in other religions too. But it’s always been a symbol
of an anti-modernist movement… …whose age-old principle has been
the tradition and conservation of nature. Paradoxically, the anti-nuclear energy
movement is also conservative. Because the values they hold dear
play such a major role in Germany. And the conservation movement was
responsible for scientific development. The industry that at first was strongly
opposed to the conservation movement… …has tapped new markets
for conservation technology. All in all, a combination has developed… …a paradoxical combination
of conservatism… …’conservatism of values’,
as Eppler called it… …and alternatively,
the urge for innovation. Other countries don’t see it
as a future markets’ issue. Involving large, global markets
for sustainable technology. Because we opted for sustainable
technologies at an early stage… …intellectually, then later
both government and science… …Fukushima had a different impact here
than in other European countries. See how green it is here even. There’s a story behind this too. Since the 1920s when roads were built
in Germany… …and later on motorways,
there were designated green areas. It’s not that obvious here,
but with some motorways… …you can still see how the road
was adapted to the landscape. And the landscape was made to fit in too. By planting trees typical of the landscape
along the side of the road… …or by putting greenery
in the central reservation. Bernd Ulrich is an historian, and was
recently the curator of a Berlin exhibition… …on the relationship
between Germans and forests. A relationship that extends to the creation
of legends about Germany’s identity. And a relationship that explains
why nuclear energy was abandoned. Why was only Germany
that fast with the energy change? It’s rare, but you must also look
at history… …for the background
of the whole development. What has certainly played a role and
has become increasingly stronger… …and was partly abused by the Nazis
for political reasons… …is environmental awareness,
that we could initially fall back on. This is how I see it. The forest is lodged
in the minds of the nation… …and has increasingly
attracted those people… …who support nature conservation. In literature and art… …works of classical antiquity
have been rediscovered. Including The Annals… …by Tacitus, about Germania. Here, in a few pages, he describes
the characteristics of the landscape. Germania as the land of dark forests… …a swampland, but in any case
a dark land with lot of woods. Plus the fact that in 9 A.D… …a famous battle took place where
the Roman legions were annihilated… …by Germanic tribes led by Arminius,
otherwise known as Hermann. They waited in ambush… …then cut the Roman legions to shreds. It was a big event at the time.
Then in the early 19th century… …after the Napoleonic War… …and Germany’s increasing obsession
with liberation… …it was rediscovered and
became part of our personal identity. At the time, we successfully defeated
an undesirable occupier… …who was also from a Levantine country,
in the south. In the late 19th century,
Hermann was depicted many times… …as a Germanic blond figure
wearing a magnificent winged helmet… …riding a white horse… …as the conqueror of the swarthy,
malicious, brown-eyed Romans. This was illustrated
in a popular psychological way. Not only in ‘High Art’
but also in what we’d now call comics. It was anchored in the minds
of the nation. The message was that here lay
the origins of the German nation. The unconditional desire
for battle and victory. This is the Teutoburger Forest
as portrayed by Tacitus. This is the classical swampland
which ensnared Varus. Here, the Cherusci chief Hermann
the noble warrior was victorious. The German nationality
triumphed in this quagmire. if Hermann had not won the battle
with his fair troops… …Germany would not be free
and we would have become Romans. The Romans were defeated
and Napoleon was ousted. The German nation was born. But now, many centuries later,
there’s Europe. It was meant to bridge the
differences of the nation states. Post-war Germans… …have, in the wake of others,
but also of their own choosing… …always seen Europe as part
of their own national self-awareness. Also partly in response… …to the fascist experience and the war… …in an attempt to absorb the western
value system, the democracy… …into daily life and government. You must also realise
that the reunification… …was laid down in the constitution. After this obligation was met… …European integration became part
of the German constitution. The relevant sections were replaced. Europe is more than an area on a map. With its shared history… …and its shared values
and achievements… …Europe evokes hope
and builds bridges between nations. In the main, Germany has Europe
to thank for its recovery. Forty percent of exports
go to European countries. Hidden behind the ‘made in Germany’
label is a piece of global society. A piece of collaboration,
a piece of Europe. It is not only a national label,
as this would be a huge misconception. It’s about cooperation. Germany is less aware of this
than other countries… …it’s something that Thomas Mann
warned us about around 1950: A kind of German Europe. At the time, Thomas Mann said:
Never again a German Europe… …but a European Germany. We now have a mix of a German Europe
and a European Germany. And ultimately this is because
we Germans are inclined… …to call some of our experiences
and also our successes… …universal truths. Stability politics
are suddenly a German truth… …which serves as the answer
to any opposition. Even if there are alternatives or if things
in southern Europe don’t work properly. As yet, we haven’t been successful
and that’s putting it mildly. All this is a new economic dogmatism… …which is typical of Germany.
You could also put it like this: From Machiavelli to Merkiavelli. So a combination of Merkel
and Machiavelli… …that very cleverly… …doesn’t clearly speak out
in favour of Europe… …nor does it embrace nationalism. ‘Yes’ and ‘no’ is being said
simultaneously to Europe. In this respect, success… …and the new arrogance… …the new feeling
that we know everything better… …are closely linked. The result is that
such ‘uber’ identification… …with Germany’s opportunities… …has almost become
the consensus in Germany. Europe has a common currency. The euro. Our money. Why is the ECB in Frankfurt? Where else should it be? Jürgen Stark was chief economist
at the European Central Bank. But in late 2011, he resigned. As he didn’t feel he could be responsible
for the ECB’s monetary policy… …with respect to the European crisis. I was against the European Central
Bank… …buying government bonds
from certain countries. Because even if this was due
to political monetary motives… …there’s always a fiscal factor
and a fiscal effect. So certain countries
will no longer feel inclined… …to take the necessary
budget measures… …or to introduce structural reforms. Germany’s achievements
didn’t just appear out of thin air. It took a lot of hard work
and the necessary sacrifices. And I think it would be fatal… …if whatever Germany has achieved
through hard work… …after a long adjustment period
since the start of this century… …with wage restraints when
wages rose too much in Germany… …after reunification in 1990… …and Germany lost most
of its competitive edge. This must be restored. I empathise with the public’s reaction… …to demands mainly
from Anglo-Saxon academic circles. But also from the US government
demanding Germany does more. Germany must not jeopardise
what it has achieved through hard work. The European Central Bank
is going to buy government loans. The ECB is willing to buy Spain’s
unlimited government loans… …from investors
who want to get rid of them. This will curb Spain’s interest rate and
prevent its public debt from soaring. Will Germany be able to save Europe? Too many demands must not be put
on the German economy. The German economy is
a vital economic anchor in Europe. If this anchor is weakened… …it would be fatal Europe-wide. After the war, an analysis concluded that
Germany must renounce nationalism… …which is why it threw itself
wholeheartedly into the economy. Yes, that’s right. The expression was:
‘D-mark nationalism’. The D-mark was not just a currency,
but it also expressed… …the new blossoming self awareness. It was also part of Germany’s
national awareness. And now we’re trying to project
this D-mark nationalism on the euro. This is German euro nationalism. We say: If there’s a euro,
let it be on Germany’s terms. If you want to define it, you can say
that Angela Merkel, the Chancellor… …is the uncrowned queen of Europe. Irrespective of all
the numerous institutions.

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10 thoughts on “The German economic model – VPRO documentary – 2012”

  1. 100 procent foutloos is absolete niet waar. Volgens mij, ik ben niet van indruk bij de infrastructuur en de bauhaus cencept van bouwkunde.. Na de dieselgate de commentaar van de meneer in VW centrum in Leipzig klint belachlijk…

  2. Hello!
    Welcome to vpro documentary!
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    Toggle the captions to get them.
    We hope you enjoy this documentary about the German business model.
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  3. The link between Protestantism and the German ethic seems arbitrary, given that Bavaria, the most powerful region in Germany economically, was part of the Catholic league and is still mostly catholic

  4. It is very interesting to see how Germany pay attention and respect to its blue collar labor, crossing the Atlantic the government should emulate this practices and leave aside the debate of socialism as the only way to reach lower and middle class well being.

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