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Communist Parties Revisited
Sociocultural Approaches to Party Rule in the Soviet Bloc, 1956-1991
Edited by Rüdiger Bergien and Jens Gieseke
383 pages, 28 illus., bibliog., index
ISBN 978-1-78533-776-5 $135.00/£99.00 Hb Published (January 2018)
ISBN 978-1-78920-845-0 $29.95/£23.95 Pb Published (November 2020)
eISBN 978-1-78533-777-2 eBook
“This collection will be a valuable resource for scholars interested in the inner workings and sociocultural dimensions of the communist parties of the Soviet Union, East Germany, Poland, and Czechoslovakia in the post-Stalinist decades… By demonstrating how the ruling communist parties operated as active, multifunctional organizations, this volume advances understanding of the history of East European communism and, more broadly, the history of Europe during the Cold War.” • Choice
“…a highly important volume for anyone attempting to better understand the diversity characterizing the political arena of the Soviet bloc and offers a myriad of arguments against the essentialist claims about systemic as well as individual agency in late socialism.” • European Review of History
“The volume is designed as a pathbreaking study taking the discussion of communist ruling parties beyond their political functions and treating them as social and cultural communities. The bottom-up perspective, with the focus on medium- and lower-level functionaries, is also very welcome.” • Ab Imperio
“This volume is in several respects a useful contribution to the analysis of East European state socialism, especially of its social and cultural history. State socialism as both a specific society and power structure is gone, but its legacy remains lively in the present ‘new Europe.’” • Journal of Contemporary Central & Eastern Europe
“…timely, detailed and authoritative…an impressive, thought-provoking and innovative anthology that should become compulsory reading for specialists and higher-level students alike.” • European History Quarterly
“Communist Parties Revisited is an outstanding volume that brings together path-breaking research in an important field. Its analysis of shifting social structures, discursive change, and internal dissent within Eastern Bloc communist parties is fascinating and genuinely novel.” • Dolores Augustine, St. John’s University
“These essays are well-written, accessible, and grounded in careful scholarship. They offer a new and important comparative perspective on communist rule after Stalin.” • Lisa Kirschenbaum, West Chester University
The ruling communist parties of the postwar Soviet Bloc possessed nearly unprecedented power to shape every level of society; perhaps in part because of this, they have been routinely depicted as monolithic, austere, and even opaque institutions. Communist Parties Revisited takes a markedly different approach, investigating everyday life within basic organizations to illuminate the inner workings of Eastern Bloc parties. Ranging across national and transnational contexts, the contributions assembled here reconstruct the rituals of party meetings, functionaries’ informal practices, intra-party power struggles, and the social production of ideology to give a detailed account of state socialist policymaking on a micro-historical scale.
Rüdiger Bergien is Privatdozent at the Humboldt University Berlin and a postdoctoral research fellow at the Centre for Contemporary History in Potsdam. His many publications include, most recently, Im Generalstab der Partei: Organisationskultur und Herrschaftspraxis in der SED-Zentrale (1946-1989) (2017).
Jens Gieseke is head of the research department “Communism and Society” at the Centre for Contemporary History in Potsdam, Germany. His most recent publications include The History of the Stasi: East Germany’s Secret Police, 1945–1990 (2014) and as co-editor, The Silent Majority in Communist and Post-Communist States: Opinion Polling in Eastern and South-Eastern Europe (2016).