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Dictatorship as Experience: Towards a Socio-Cultural History of the GDR

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Dictatorship as Experience

Towards a Socio-Cultural History of the GDR

Edited by Konrad H. Jarausch

402 pages, bibliog., index

ISBN  978-1-57181-181-3 $135.00/£99.00 Hb Published (October 1999)

ISBN  978-1-57181-182-0 $39.95/£31.95 Pb Published (October 1999)

eISBN 978-1-78238-479-3 eBook

Hb Pb View cartYour country: United States - Click here to remove geolocation   Buy the eBook from these vendors Request a Review or Examination Copy (in Digital Format) Recommend to your Library Available in GOBI®


"The essays presented display a realm of vibrant historical inquiry. Many of the chapters significantly expand our understanding of the complexity of GDR society."  · Central European History

"This is certainly the best single volume on the social and cultural history of the GDR in English, and indeed ranks highly among works in German as well."  · German Politics

"What emerges from this collection is a picture of a complex society that was neither fully modern nor fully totalitarian ... The dense book provides an illuminating discussion of the difficulties inherent in characterizing the GDR and, in so doing, points the reader in directions that might prove more fruitful."  · German Studies Review

"The contributions represent sound research, employing use of new archival sources, interviews and oral history, as well as rich secondary literature ... The volume merits high marks for its theoretical and empirical import."  · The Historian


A decade after the collapse of communism, this volume presents a historical reflection on the perplexing nature of the East German dictatorship. In contrast to most political rhetoric, it seeks to establish a middle ground between totalitarianism theory, stressing the repressive features of the SED-regime, and apologetics of the socialist experiment, emphasizing the normality of daily lives. The book transcends the polarization of public debate by stressing the tensions and contradictions within the East German system that combined both aspects by using dictatorial means to achieve its emancipatory aims. By analyzing a range of political, social, cultural, and chronological topics, the contributors sketch a differentiated picture of the GDR which emphasizes both its repressive and its welfare features. The sixteen original essays, especially written for this volume by historians from both east and west Germany, represent the cutting edge of current research and suggest new theoretical perspectives. They explore political, social, and cultural mechanisms of control as well as analyze their limits and discuss the mixture of dynamism and stagnation that was typical of the GDR.

Konrad H. Jarausch is Lurcy Professor of European Civilization at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill and a Director of the Zentrum für Zeithistorische Studien in Potsdam, Germany.

Subject: History: 20th Century to Present
Area: Germany


List of Abbreviations

Introduction: Beyond Uniformity: The Challenge of Historicizing the GDR
Konrad H. Jarausch


Chapter 1. The GDR: A Special Kind of Modern Dictatorship
Jürgen Kocka

Chapter 2. Modernization and Modernization Blockages in GDR Society
Detlef Pollack

Chapter 3. Care and Coercion: The GDR as Welfare Dictatorship
Konrad H. Jarausch


Chapter 4. From Dismantling to Currency Reform: External Origins of the Dictatorship, 1943-1948
Jochen Laufer

Chapter 5. Foreign Influences on the Dictatorial Development of the GDR, 1949-1955
Michael Lemke

Chapter 6. Repression and Tolerance as Methods of Rule in Communist Societies
Mario Keßler and Thomas Klein


Chapter 7. Creating State Socialist Governance: The Case of the Deutsche Volkspolizei
Thomas Lindenberger

Chapter 8. Food Supply in a Planned Economy: SED Nutrition Policy between Crisis Response and Popular Needs
Burghard Ciesla and Patrice G. Poutrus

Chapter 9. The Myth of Female Emancipation: Contradictions in Women's Lives
Leonore Ansorg and Renate Hürtgen

Chapter 10. The Socialist Glass Ceiling: Limits to Female Careers
Dagmar Langenhan and Sabine Roß


Chapter 11. Dictatorship as Discourse: Cultural Perspectives on SED Legitimacy
Martin Sabrow

Chapter 12. The Fettered Media: Controlling Public Debate
Simone Barck, Christoph Classen and Thomas Heimann

Chapter 13. Criticism and Censorship: Negotiating Cabaret Performance and Book Production
Sylvia Klötzer and Siegfried Lokatis

Chapter 14. The Pivotal Cadres: Leadership Styles and Self-Images of GDR-Elites
Arnd Bauerkämper and Jürgen Danyel


Chapter 15. Stagnation or Change? Transformations of the Workplace in the GDR
Peter Hübner

Chapter 16. The Hitler Youth Generation in the GDR: Insecurities, Ambitions and Dilemmas
Dorothee Wierling

Chapter 17. Reforming Socialism? The Changing of the Guard from Ulbricht to Honecker during the 1960s
Monika Kaiser

Chapter 18. Mobility and Blockage during the 1970s
Ralph Jessen


Chapter 19. Rethinking the Second German Dictatorship
Christoph Kleßmann

Selected Bibliography
Notes on Contributors

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