The Wirecard scandal could only have happened in Germany

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It is because the Standort
has become the substitute for a national pride that does not dare to pronounce its name. The phrase “made in Germany” was first coined in 1887 in the UK to make shoddy German imitations of British goods visible. German manufacturers, like British lawmakers, have treated it as a mark of shame, with German companies placing the label in areas where it would be unlikely or impossible to spot it. But even before WWI, stigma had become a sign of pride, and after WWII ended, it became something even more important: the only possible vehicle for German power politics.

After World War II, German national pride was in tatters. It improved thanks to the power of German industry and the powerful Deutschmark. The German economy has become an attractive substitute for explicit nationalism. Before long, Germans might once again show their faces as heralds of Bosch dishwashers and Volkswagen beetles, rather than spiked helmets and boots.

One result, sociologist Oliver Decker has proposed, was “secondary authoritarianism,” less focused on leaders or national greatness than on the economy and representative businesses. “This secondary authority,” Decker and his co-authors write, “may, like the first, require the individual to sacrifice his own desires and life plans, and in compensation it offers the promise of immediate participation in his life. power.” During the economic miracle of the post-war years, many Germans identified with “the economy” and its visible icons: its profitable businesses, its huge trade surpluses, its powerful currency.

During this transfer, German politics retained an old paranoid thinking about the economy. Just as German nationalism after World War I had its myth of the “stab in the back” to explain how the German army lost the Great War, postwar Germans tend to see secret plots for thwart their clearly superior economic power to have violated international standards. Nachtwey, who briefly worked with Volkswagen in the aftermath of the company’s notorious emissions scandals, says that even as executives went to jail and prosecutions escalated, superiors “spoke privately that this was all wrong. was just one element to weaken VW. in the United States, because we are too strong. “

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