Lives and Political Field. An Analysis of the Power Structure of the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD)

Max Reinhardt


This article discusses methods and results of an explorative study of two generations of the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD): the two generations comprise, on the one hand, older and younger members of the postwar generation who witnessed the Second World War as young soldiers or as children, and on the other hand, the generation that was born in the 1950s and has mainly been responsible for shaping policy for some years. The aim of my dissertation was to analyze the ability of the social democratic leadership to represent the full range of party members and (base) voters by comparing two generations, using a sample of political leaders and the habitus/field-analysis inspired by Pierre BOURDIEU. The basis of the analysis were partly biographical, partly theme-focused interviews, as well as a range of sources and already published literature regarding the biographies of these political leaders.
The following article is based on my dissertation and is focused on a description of selected theoretical implications, on the description of the essential criteria for selecting the sample and on some of the methods used. These are an analysis of the life, life and field effects, the factions and the development of types of political leaders. I will present some results to exemplify the methods used. They show that the ability of the SPD to represent the full range of party members and (base) voters and the power structure of the SPD have changed, thus threatening the party’s status as a "Volkspartei."


biography; life effects; attitude research; field research; Bourdieu; semi-structured interview; typology; political parties


Copyright (c) 2011 Max Reinhardt

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