Citizens’ Initiatives: Grassroots Democracy and the Growth of Environmentalism in the 1970s and 1980s

  • Rob Burns
  • Wilfried van der Will


The beginnings of the 1970s marked a distinct hiatus in the history of the West German protest movements: the APO was to all intents and purposes defunct and the student movement ebbing, the peace movement seemed in abeyance as a campaigning force, and the women’s movement was as yet barely more than a dot on the political horizon. Also, the installation of an SPD/FDP coalition government committed to détente abroad and social reform at home no doubt nourished the hope that parliament might show itself more receptive to the aspirations and concerns of all individuals and groups whose protesting voices had hitherto been dismissed by those in power. And yet, for all that, the early 1970s was a period of intense extra-parliamentary activity, for it witnessed the growth — unparalleled in Europe either at the time or since — of what came to be known as Bürgerinitiativen (citizens’ initiatives). This was the term applied to ‘spontaneous, loosely organised association of citizens, normally in existence for a limited period of time only, who, directly affected by a specific issue, intercede outside the traditional institutions and participatory forms of representative party democracy and who seek, either by way of self-help or by way of influencing public opinion and exercising political pressure, to prompt action on the part of the authorities with regard to the citizens’ particular concern’.1


Federal Government Federal Republic Nuclear Power Station Green Party Woodland Area 
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Notes and References

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Copyright information

© Rob Burns and Wilfried van der Will 1988

Authors and Affiliations

  • Rob Burns
    • 1
  • Wilfried van der Will
    • 2
  1. 1.University of WarwickUK
  2. 2.University of BirminghamUK

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