Bavarians - Sociopolitical Organization

Germany, a federal republic, is governed by the Federal Parliament at Bonn. States have important rights and a great deal of autonomy. Federal elections occur every three to four years and representatives are elected by the proportional ( d'Hondtische ) method in districts determined by population size.

Social Organization. Bavaria has a class structure based on socioeconomic status, similar to most West European nations. Traditionally, rural communes were ruled by the "Honorationen," usually the wealthiest landowning peasant or petty noble, the schoolteacher, and the parish priest. In larger towns and cities the council was composed of the artisan elite, often a patriciate, and control was absolute. In smaller communities, political power was more fluid and diffuse and less absolute. Until 1800, the Catholic church Controlled much land and property, at times up to 50 percent in southern Bavaria, and played a significant role in the power structure.

Political Organization. Bavaria is divided into seven Regions, 71 counties, and 2,051 communes, the smallest of which are combined into 345 administrative unions. The state of Bavaria has an assembly with deputies elected by Direct vote every four years. These deputies, in turn, elect a minister president and a cabinet. A senate consisting of appointed officials from various Bavarian associates completes the state-level political organization. State government has been controlled by the conservative Christian-Social Union (CSU) since 1957 and was headed most notably by the flamboyant Franz Josef Strauss for ten years, until his death on 1 October 1988. Regional, county, and communal political units are similar in organization. Each is headed by an official chosen by direct vote (president, Landrat, and mayor, respectively), each has a general assembly to which representatives are elected (every four years for the region, every six years for county and commune), with assembly size based on population.

Social Control. Formal controls are similar to those that were established in any Western European democracy, and they include a constitutional court, regular courts at the Regional and local level, as well as courts of appeal and a state supreme court. In addition, there are specialized courts for labor, social affairs, finance, and administration. Informally, in all but the largest cities, gossip and an efficient network of "moral guardians," often elderly women, effectively control behavior.

Conflict. Warfare has been common in Bavaria since the Romans fought the La Tène Celts. Important conflicts include battles with the Alemanni, Slavs, and Hungarians; conflicts engendered by eastward colonization; quarrels between various branches of the Wittelsbach family for control; the Peasants' Wars of 1525 and 1706; the Thirty Years' War (1618-1648); the Napoleonic Wars (Bavaria sided with France) ; the Prussian-Austrian War (Bavaria sided with Austria) ; the Franco-German War (this time Bavaria sided with Prussia); World War I; the ill-fated socialist revolution of 1919; and World War II. Since World War II Bavaria, as the rest of West Germany, has been committed to peace, postwar economic development, and rapid industrialization.

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