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09.3 Program for the Study of Germany and Europe

The Grundgesetz After 50 Years: Analyzing Changes in the German Constitution

1999 Andreas Busch


Fifty years after its original drafting, the German constitution has seen its text amended many times. Indeed, among OECD countries, the Grundgesetz has one of the highest rates of constitutional change. This paper analyzes these changes. It does so in a quantitative manner in its first section, before proceeding to ask how the numerous changes can be explained. Three approaches from the legal and political science literature are presented: one emphasizing historical-structural factors, one analyzing changes as constitutional revisionism, and an institutional approach which focuses on the conditions for constitutional amendment. The strengths and weaknesses of each approach are then compared and contrasted, before the article concludes with an assessment of the characteristics of Gemuw constitutional policy.