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The People's State: East German Society from Hitler to Honecker Hardcover – January 2, 2006

3.8 out of 5 stars 6 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

"'... a fresh, flowing, thoughtful account... an immensely readable book... Above all, this empathetic account puts East Germans back into their own history. As such, it will surely act not only as a standard work on GDR society, but also as a model for the emerging social history of post-war Europe.' Josie McLellan, Reviews in History / History in Focus 'One does applaud Mary Fulbrook for writing a book that is extremely rich in detail and one that is certainly different from other works on the German Democratic Republic. It provides an excellent framework for further debate on the pros and cons of the first socialist experiment on German soil.' Peter Hylarides, Contemporary Review" --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

About the Author

MARY FULBROOK is professor of German history at University College London. Among her books is the best-selling A Concise History of Germany.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Yale University Press; 1St Edition edition (January 2, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0300108842
  • ISBN-13: 978-0300108842
  • Product Dimensions: 9.5 x 6.4 x 1.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.7 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,437,584 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Mary Fulbrook gives an inside view of life for the average person in the former East Germany. In the preface, she seems to fear being labeled an apologist for the regime, but she doesn't come across that way in the actual text. Rather, they gives "warts and all" view of the life in German Democratic Republic (GDR) while admitting that there were reasons why a number of GDR citizens might have found it adequate.

She accesses reams of archives of both citizen communications with the East German government and analytic reports written by government officials. What emerges in a fascinating take on the real world behind the Wall. Clearly East Germany was no democracy, but party functionaries and bureaucrats were clearly interested in ascertaining the views of the public and, up to a point, trying to satisfy their demands. Rather than the harsh dictatorship or socialist utopia, something in between emerges. The GDR provided a predictable mediocrity for its citizens for more than four decades until the government simply could no longer satisfy consumer demands nor resist the demand for political freedom.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Mary Fulbrook's central thesis in the People's State is the `notion of participatory dictatorship,' which `emphasized the extent to which `democratic centralism', as practiced in the GDR, did actually involved very widespread participation of large numbers of people... people themselves were at one and the same time both constrained and affected by, and yet also actively and often voluntarily carried, the ever changing social and political system of the GDR.' The state was `sensitive to popular opinion on domestic social-policy issues, which contributed to the short-term stabilization and the ultimate downfall of the GDR... there was an institutionalization and routinisation of a `grumbling culture' that led people not only to expect, but even to demand delivery from the state.' The result was `the sheer extent of broad agreement between sections of the SED leadership and significant groups among the wider population over general aims and goals.' The outcome was that the `desired socialist personalities' the individuals whose lives were supposed to be devoted to the collective enterprise of building socialism, did not emerge. Quite the opposite in fact, over time, one can observe a complex set of processes that may roughly be subsumed under the concept of emergent individualism, or an enhanced focus on the fulfillment of individual goals. These mutual trends can be observed, in one way or another, in virtually every area of society.'

After World War II, Nazi Germany was divided into two new German states, a pro-American West Germany and a pro-Soviet East Germany called the German Democratic Republic, GDR.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Very scholarly (perhaps a bit too much so) description of everyday life in the GDR. Makes use of extensive social statistics and personal stories. Probably best suited for someone who already knows quite a bit about the GDR and its history and now wants to take that knowledge to the next level. This would be an ideal college text for a course on the GDR or the Communist Bloc.
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