26 February 2011

Plagiarism and Politics in Germany

Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg, the defense minister of the Federal Republic of Germany, is caught up in a plagiarism scandal involving his doctoral thesis.

So serious an affair has it become that he has abandoned the use of the term "Dr" in front of his name. As Spiegal Online puts it (see the link above) he has dropped "doctor" in an effort to save "minister."

It appears to have been a law professor at the University of Bremen who kicked off this fuss , on Saturday, February 12, although the dissertation in question had been published back in 2009, and it had been submitted to the University of Bayreuth three years before that. The law professor, Andreas Fischer-Lescano, set out to write a review of it on Feb. 12, a Saturday, and he started plugging passages into google. Apparently, this is for him a routine practice.

Personally, this whole situation makes me wonder: what do they call the sports teams at the University of Bayreuth? Do they play up the Wagner connection? Are the teams the "Bayreuth Composers" or the "U of B Twilighters" or ... what?

Anyway: the thesis in question is titled "Constitution and Constitutional Treaty: Constitutional Developments in the USA and EU."

So Guttenberg has an interest in the comparative study of political developments. I wonder if there is some intra-EU comparative significance in this: Italian politics has come to turn on issues of statutory rape; the UK and Sweden are enmeshed in a dispute over the extradition of the Wikileaker on charges of a sexual offense that seems unique to Swedish law; and German politics erupts over something as staid as a plagiarism charge.

I do think plagiarism is important, as my repeated discussions of related points on this blog no doubt makes clear. But as a cabinet-determining issue? it seems both bizaare and very German.


Henry said...

A plagiarism scandal is said to have caused Biden to quit the 1988 presidential race. http://www.slate.com/id/2198543/. I hear that it did not affect his career permanently, though.

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