Inventing a Socialist Nation: Heimat and the Politics of Everyday Life in the GDR, 1945?90

Overview

Twenty years after the collapse of the German Democratic Republic, historians still struggle to explain how an apparently stable state imploded with such vehemence. This 2009 book shows how 'national' identity was invented in the GDR and how citizens engaged with it. Jan Palmowski argues that it was hard for individuals to identify with the GDR amid the threat of Stasi informants and with the accelerating urban and environmental decay of the 1970s and 1980s. Since socialism contradicted its own ideals of ...
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Overview

Twenty years after the collapse of the German Democratic Republic, historians still struggle to explain how an apparently stable state imploded with such vehemence. This 2009 book shows how 'national' identity was invented in the GDR and how citizens engaged with it. Jan Palmowski argues that it was hard for individuals to identify with the GDR amid the threat of Stasi informants and with the accelerating urban and environmental decay of the 1970s and 1980s. Since socialism contradicted its own ideals of community, identity and environmental care, citizens developed rival meanings of nationhood and identities and learned to mask their growing distance from socialism beneath regular public assertions of socialist belonging. This stabilized the party's rule until 1989. However, when the revolution came, the alternative identifications citizens had developed for decades allowed them to abandon their 'nation', the GDR, with remarkable ease.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"This remarkable study deepens our understanding of how power functioned in the SED state and proves the explanatory value not just of its formal mechanisms of power, but also its cultural history. Not least owing to its comprehensive temporal range – from 1945 to 1990 – this study will provide a fruitful foundation for further work. The book is, moreover, written in the most lively prose." -Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung

"Palmowski has brilliantly captured the complexities of the GDR, including the juxtaposition of the combination of dictatorship and control of language against social development and subversion of language. He has written a remarkable book indeed." -Peter C. Caldwell, H-German

"This richly detailed and theoretically sophisticated work makes an important contribution to three critical areas of recent scholarship in modern German and European history..." -Thomas Lekan, The Journal of Modern History

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781107690424
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press
  • Publication date: 8/22/2013
  • Series: New Studies in European History
  • Edition description: Reissue
  • Pages: 362
  • Sales rank: 1,035,175
  • Product dimensions: 5.98 (w) x 9.02 (h) x 0.75 (d)

Meet the Author

Jan Palmowski is Professor of Modern History and European Studies and Head of the School of Arts and Humanities at King's College London. His previous publications include Liberalism and the City: The Case of Frankfurt Am Main, 1866–1914 (1999) and Citizenship and National Identity in Twentieth-Century Germany (as editor, with Geoff Eley, 2008).
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Table of Contents

1. Introduction; Part I. Socialism, Heimat, and the Construction of Identity: 2. Cultural renewal and national division, 1945–c.1958; 3. Trace of stones; Part II. Public and Private Transcripts: 4. Heimat and identity in the Honecker era; 5. Citizenship and participation in the local community - 'Join In!'; 6. Environmental destruction; Part III. Power, Practices and Meanings: 7. Social drama and the euphemization of power; 8. Cultural practices, Eigen-Sinn, and obfuscated meanings; Conclusion: from citizens to revolutionaries.
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