Title The people's state: East German society from Hitler to Honecker
Author Mary Fulbrook
Publisher New Haven [Conn.]: Yale University Press
Annotation Mary Fulbrook presents the history of state socialism in the former GDR from the point of view of the ‘normalization’ of the regime and of its rather successful localization within German society. She writes a social history of communism in GDR that refuses the dichotomies such as state-society or power-oppression. She envisages the GDR as “welfare dictatorship”. That is, on the one hand the SED attempted to answer for the needs of the population through the creation of extensive socio-economic safety-nets. This generated high expectations and deepened state paternalism that came together to form a type of non-democratic mechanism of accountability for the SED. On the other hand, in the context of the shock of the 1953 worker’s strike, the SED developed an impressive surveillance regime, the STASI, that permanently loomed in everyday life and in the collective conscience of the population. The importance of this approach lies in the fact that it equally emphasizes both features of comunist regimes: surveillance and reproduction. The GDR is even more significant in this case. It was supposed to be a showcase for successful state socialism. But the SED also had ‘to purify’ society of its Nazi past. And, prof. Fulbrook accounts both: the sense of a second chance from below and the communist push from above. Subsequently, she offers a view of the communist regime in GDR characterized by a specific pluralism of social views of the ‘good life’ pressing upon the SED’s developmental projects and identitarian policies. Ultimately, the author argues that the SED leadership ‘went broke’ by failing to provide to the extent of its promises, but it also succeeded in instilling an equalitarian ethos within the society it ruled. Mary Fulbrook brings forth the idea of disenchantment with state socialism rather than that of a revolution against it.
Author of Annotation Bogdan Cristian Iacob
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