COVID-19 Pandemic: Is Germany‘s Federalism a Blessing or a Curse for Fighting the Coronavirus?

Helge Martin

Are centrally organized or even authoritarian states at an advantage over federal systems or liberal democracies in general when it comes to fighting the pandemic? Especially at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, this thesis was frequently heard.
At the same time, Germany is one of the countries that are considered a role model worldwide for coping with the first phase of the corona pandemic. Together with Dr. Fabian Hattke from the Chair of Organization and Leadership at the University of Hamburg, Helge Martin has studied the reasons for this. They arrived at the conclusion that it was especially the fragmented authority in the Federal Republic of Germany that allowed for an adequate mix of decentralized, situation-adapted elements and central governance mechanisms. To this end, they examined how the challenges to cooperation between the most diverse actors have been addressed in order to achieve collective solutions such as the implementation of a nationwide register of intensive care capacities or the establishment of coordinated social distancing measures. However, a look at other federal systems also reveals the dangers for the further course of the pandemic. Especially if the risk perceptions of the various actors drift too far apart, coordinated action becomes more unlikely.   

You can read the article on the website of the journal Administrative Theory & Praxis.

Helge Martin is a research associate at the Carl Friedrich von Weizsäcker Centre for Science and Peace Research (ZNF). His dissertation is supervised by the former director of IFSH, Prof. Dr. Michael Brzoska.