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The Plans That Failed: An Economic History of the GDR

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Volume 13

Studies in German History

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The Plans That Failed

An Economic History of the GDR

André Steiner
Translated from the German by Ewald Osers

236 pages, 15 figs, bibliog, index

ISBN  978-1-84545-748-8 $135.00/£99.00 Hb Published (September 2010)

ISBN  978-1-78238-314-7 $29.95/£23.95 Pb Published (August 2013)

Hb Pb View cartYour country: United States - Click here to remove geolocation   Recommend to your Library Available in GOBI®


“…the economic history of the GDR is an important topic, not just in modern German history, but in the history of the world Communist movement. The publication of André Steiner’s book is therefore warmly to be welcomed, for it provides a competent and useful overview of the evolution of the East German economy from the Soviet occupation of 19459 through to the collapse of the Communist regime in 1989.  ·  English Historical Review

“So far there has been a dearth of studies on the economic history of the GDR, unlike the recent surge of general historical accounts. Based on an exceptional knowledge of the literature and well supported by a number of key, so far unpublished, documents, this book fills the gap. André Steiner fully succeeds in his attempt, managing to produce from highly complex material a very accessible text for a wide readership without sacrificing analytical quality.”  ·  H-Soz-u-Kult

”…provide[s] an excellent introduction for students and researchers who are just starting their work in the area of East Germany’s history, or for the researchers of state-owned enterprises and planned economies, who are interested in an overview of the historical precedent. Furthermore, Steiner’s bibliography presents an impressive scholarly reference to a large subset of primary and secondary sources that are available on the topic.”  ·  EH-Net

This 13th volume in the "Studies in German History" series (published in association with the German Historical Institute, Washington, DC)  is the most comprehensive account of the German Democratic Republic (GDR) economy available in English…Detailed endnotes, extensive bibliography, brief biographical sketches, and very good index…Highly recommended.”  ·  Choice


The establishment of the Communist social model in one part of Germany was a result of international postwar developments, of the Cold War waged by East and West, and of the resultant partition of Germany. As the author argues, the GDR’s ‘new’ society was deliberately conceived as a counter-model to the liberal and marketregulated system. Although the hopes connected with this alternative system turned out to be misplaced and the planned economy may be thoroughly discredited today, it is important to understand the context in which it developed and failed. This study, a bestseller in its German version, offers an in-depth exploration of the GDR economy’s starting conditions and the obstacles to growth it confronted during the consolidation phase. These factors, however, were not decisive in the GDR’s lack of growth compared to that of the Federal Republic. As this study convincingly shows, it was the economic model that led to failure.

André Steiner is Senior Research Fellow at the Center for Contemporary History Potsdam (ZZF) and Professor of economic and social history at the University of Potsdam. He has been the Research Director of the Department of Economic and Social History at the ZZF, a Research Fellow at Institutes for Economic History in Berlin and Mannheim and was Professor at the Ruhr-University Bochum.

Subject: Economic History Postwar History
Area: Germany


Introduction Chapter 1. A Difficult Start? Initial Conditions in the Soviet Occupation Zone
Economic Potential and Structure at the End of the War
Plant Dismantling and Reparations
Political Forces in the Soviet Occupation Zone and their Ideas on Economic Policy
Land Reform and Nationalisation of Industry
Restarting Production

Chapter 2. The Establishment of the Planned Economy 1948–1952
German Economic Commission and Currency Reform
Problems of Economic Control
Reorientation of Foreign Trade and Industrial Development
Agriculture and Supplies for the Population
The Resolution to ‘Build Socialism’
The Events of 17 June 1953

Chapter 3. Between Shortages and Growth 1953–1963
Industrial and Structural Policy
The Private Sector and Agriculture
Problems of the Steering Mechanism
Growth, Structural Transformation and Standard of Living
The ‘Main Economic Task’: ‘Catch Up and Overtake’
Collectivisation and the Road into Crisis 1960/61

Chapter 4. The ‘Golden’ Sixties? Economic Reform between Take-off and Crisis 1961–1971
Störfreimachung and Produktionsaufgebot 1961/62
A ‘New Economic System’?
Implementation of the Reform
‘Overtake without Catching Up’
Economic Results and Living Standards in the Reform Period
The Growth Crisis of 1969/70 and its Political Consequences

Chapter 5. ‘Unity of Economic and Social Policy’ 1971–1982
Honecker's ‘Main Task’
Fewer Investments and Innovations?
Concentration in Industry and Agriculture
And More Consumption?
Debt Crisis

Chapter 6. Continued Economic Decline 1982–1989
Getting out of Debt?
Dispensing with Reforms in the Steering of the Economy
Growing Loss of Assets
More Money, Fewer Goods
Final Crisis

Brief Biographies

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