Research / Christianity and democracy

The stability and flexibility of Christian democratic values in the government programs Germany – CDU/CSU

Christian Democracy, just like other political ideologies, has a solid value orientation. Naturally, values tend to change in the light of the dominant norms of the current society. However, there is also a general expectation that some „core values” are so significant that they should be more resistant to the alterations of times. One of the decent ways to analyze the stability and flexibility of these value orientations is to look at the government programs of political parties. In the article below, the most significant European Christian Democratic parties, CDU and CSU will be investigated by looking at the Düsseldorf Guidelines from 1949 and the Government program for 2017 elections highlighting some central similarities and differences.


In our era, we are inclined to focus on great personalities, heroes, and anti-heroes of politics. Several political scientists emphasized the personalist trends of current politics; nowadays, symbolically speaking, we tend to vote on politicians, not on parties and politicians attract attention, not party politics. Still, political parties are not dead, and they produce a kind of output that is more durable than the ever-changing speeches of the politicians, namely party programs. In these documents, it is possible to find a relatively stable set of policy orientations, values, and norms the political party wishes to represent. Every political party has its values and norms but in the case of Christian democratic parties, it might be even more crucial to focus on them as the “Christian”, in itself, points to a solid value orientation.

This article includes the analysis of an “old” and a “new” government program of the most significant European Christian Democratic party, the German Christian Democratic Union (Christlich Demokratische Union, in short, CDU). CDU was established in 1945 after the end of the European Second World War as an interdenominational Christian party. Its party members partly came from former German political parties, such as the Catholic Centre Party, the German Democratic Party, the German National People’s Party, and the German People’s Party. From 1949 the first zenith of the party began which is usually named after its leading politician, Konrad Adenauer as Adenauer era. Several historical documents are worth being investigated, for instance, CDU’s social policy called the Ahlen program (Ahlener programm) from 1947, or the party’s economic policy that advocated “social market economy” from 1948. Here, the Düsseldorf Guidelines (Düsseldorfer Leitsätze) from 1949 will be examined as it offers a comprehensive summary of the principles that CDU claimed at that time.

Nevertheless, it should be mentioned that CDU is closely tied to its sister party, the Christian Social Union in Bavaria (Christlich-Soziale Union in Bayern¸ in short, CSU); they are in the same faction in the Bundestag, and their recent government programs are common. This is the case in the second analyzed document which is the Government Program by CDU and CSU 2017-2021 (Regierungsprogramm 2017-2020) titled “For a Germany that is good to live in” (Für ein Deutschland in dem wir gut und gerne leben)[1].

The central question is whether these Christian democratic government programs changed or not and if yes, in what ways. Obviously, there can be several reasons behind the stability and flexibility of the government programs (for instance diverse solutions are necessary after a world war and in a peaceful period). This article wishes to detect the similarities and differences without evaluating the moral content of these phenomena. First, the Düsseldorf Guidelines, then the Government Program for 2017-2021 will be examined. An overview of the main emphases and the structure of the documents will be presented. Furthermore, the most important issues and their solutions will be also detected in order to point out the similarities and differences between the two programs.


[1] For the analysis, the German and the short English summary was also utilized.

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