This book presents a corrective to conventional portrayals of East German society, both before and after the opening of the Wall in 1989, based largely upon data obtained through participant observation in the German Democratic Republic and the new German states of the Federal Republic of Germany. This account is coupled with an analytical interpretation of the failure to develop socialism in the GDR and the impact of the unification of 1990 on East German social life. The book also examines the legitimization crisis in the GDR, the factors that contributed to the collapse of the GDR state, life inside the Socialist Unity Party from below, the role of the Protestant and Catholic churches in the GDR, and the existential and financial crises within the Protestant churches following unification. The work assesses the contradictions of the 40-year history of the GDR, not only in terms of its shortcomings but also its achievements.
Hans Baer is Professor of Sociology and Anthropology at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock.