An investigation into the politics of consumerism in East Germany during the years between the Berlin Blockade of 1948-49 and the building of the Berlin Wall in 1961, Dictatorship and Demand shows how the issue of consumption constituted a crucial battleground in the larger Cold War struggle.
Based on research in recently opened East German state and party archives, this book depicts a regime caught between competing pressures. While East Germany's leaders followed a Soviet model, which fetishized productivity in heavy industry and prioritized the production of capital goods over consumer goods, they nevertheless had to contend with the growing allure of consumer abundance in West Germany. The usual difficulties associated with satisfying consumer demand in a socialist economy acquired a uniquely heightened political urgency, as millions of East Germans fled across the open border.
A new vision of the East-West conflict emerges, one fought as much with washing machines, televisions, and high fashion as with political propaganda, espionage, and nuclear weapons. Dictatorship and Demand deepens our understanding of the Cold War.
About the Author
Mark Landsman is an independent scholar living in New York.
Table of Contents
1. Production and Consumption: Establishing Priorities
2. The Contest Begins: The Currency Reform, the Berlin Blockade, and the Introduction of the HO
3. The Planned and the Unplanned: Consumer Supply and Provisioning Crisis
4. The Rise, Decline, and Afterlife of the New Course
5. "Demand Research" and the Relations between Trade and Industry
6. Crisis Revisited: The "Main Economic Task" and the Building of the Berlin Wall
What People are Saying About This
Dictatorship and Demand provides new and important information about a period in East Germany's history that had a defining impact on the country's later years. Landsman is an engaging writer who skillfully brings life to this generally opaque period of German history.
A. James McAdams, University of Notre Dame, author of "Judging the Past in Unified Germany"
State socialism failed, among other reasons, because it produced an economy of consumer scarcity. Mark Landsman's well-documented study starkly reveals the contradictions between the priorities of production and consumption in perhaps the most industrious Communist society, the German Democratic Republic. The rich texture of this work, the presentation of now obscure bureaucratic conflicts, the gritty evocation of privation, ensure its quality and interest.
Charles Maier, Harvard University