The Role of the Masses in the Collapse of the GDR

The Role of the Masses in the Collapse of the GDR

The Role of the Masses in the Collapse of the GDR

The Role of the Masses in the Collapse of the GDR

Synopsis

Jonathan Grix's study shows the extent to which citizens of the GDR dictatorship were instrumental in their state's demise. The book's publication coincides with the tenth anniversary of the collapse of the East German regime.

Excerpt

The German people's revolution of 1989 represented a key stage in the wider collapse of the former Soviet bloc in Eastern Europe. The fall of the Berlin Wall, for a long time a symbol of division and a reminder of the bipolarity of the international order, triggered historic events that led to global changes in long-established security and economic alliances. East. Germany's demise in this epoch-making process has been attributed overwhelmingly to external political power relations, internal economic and systemic factors and 'opposition' groups. The present work can be seen as a challenge to these approaches which have spawned a huge body of academic literature adopting a predominantly 'top-down' perspective on the collapse of the GDR. In contrast, this project employs a 'bottom-up' approach, examining the actions of ordinary citizens leading up to and during the Wende (turningpoint/change) of 1989. This work argues that the mood, attitudes and opinions of the majority of the population did not necessarily turn against the regime because of the shift in external political parameters and economic stagnation of the late 1980s. For this suggests that they agreed with their situation in the first place. The contention throughout the following book is that a latent crisis of legitimacy vis-a-vis the state was present during the GDR's existence, which emerged once certain conditions and parameters had altered. The hypothesis that the majority of citizens in the GDR were never won over to the idea of socialism on German soil counters the claims of both East German intellectuals and many Western observers and reporters alike, who often did not fully realise the extent of the alienation between the people and the system. By introducing the concept of 'conditional loyalty' — a state within which the majority of the population found themselves— this work thus explains the evolutionary shift from . . .

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