Bringing Culture to the Masses: Control, Compromise and Participation in the GDR

Overview

Cultural life in the former German Democratic Republic (GDR) was strictly controlled by the ruling party, the SED, who attempted to dictate how people spent their free time by prohibiting privately organized leisure time pursuits and offering instead cultural activities in state institutions and organizations. By exploring the nature of dictatorial rule in the GDR and analysing the population’s engagement with state-organized cultural activity, this book challenges the current assumptions about the GDR’s social ...

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Overview

Cultural life in the former German Democratic Republic (GDR) was strictly controlled by the ruling party, the SED, who attempted to dictate how people spent their free time by prohibiting privately organized leisure time pursuits and offering instead cultural activities in state institutions and organizations. By exploring the nature of dictatorial rule in the GDR and analysing the population’s engagement with state-organized cultural activity, this book challenges the current assumptions about the GDR’s social and institutional history that ignore the interaction and inter-dependence between ‘rulers’ and ‘ruled’. The author argues that the people’s cultural life in the GDR developed a dynamic of its own; it was determined by their own interests and by the input of cultural functionaries, who often aimed to satisfy popular demands, even if they were at odds with the SED’s cultural policy. Gradually, these developments affected SED cultural policy, which in the 1960s became less focused on educationalist goals and increasingly oriented towards popular interests.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781845454586
  • Publisher: Berghahn Books, Incorporated
  • Publication date: 1/1/2009
  • Series: MGH
  • Pages: 256
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

Esther von Richthofen grew up in Bonn, London and Brussels. For her undergraduate degree, she read Modern History at Oxford University. She did her M.A. and PhD at UCL and specialized in the history of the German Democratic Republic. She is currently employed as the personal assistant of the president of the Humboldt University in Berlin.

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Table of Contents

List of Abbreviations

Introduction 1

Prelude: Nonconformity, Coercion and Alienation: the 1950s 28

Pt. I Bending the Rules While Upholding the Structures: Cultural Functionaries 45

Ch. 1 Neither Puppets nor Opponents 49

Ch. 2 Organising Culture: Compromise and Communication 72

Pt. II Attempted. Self-determination - Pursuing an Interest: The Participants 95

Ch. 3 Patterns of Participation 100

Ch. 4 Communication with Cultural Functionaries 123

Pt. III From Utopianism to Pragmatism: Cultural Policy 149

Ch. 5 Responding to Developments at the Grass Roots 153

Ch. 6 From Art to Culture 171

Aftermath: Breakdown of Communication: the Late 1970s and 1980s 190

Conclusion 208

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