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Within WallsPrivate Life in the German Democratic Republic$
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Paul Betts

Print publication date: 2010

Print ISBN-13: 9780199208845

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199208845.001.0001

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The Tyranny of Intimacy

The Tyranny of Intimacy

The Stasi and East German Society

Chapter:
(p.21) 1 The Tyranny of Intimacy
Source:
Within Walls
Author(s):

Paul Betts

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199208845.003.0002

This chapter sets out to revise common understandings of the infamous Ministry of State Security and its role in East German society. In particular, this chapter aims to reread the Leviathan-like Stasi as an institution embedded in socialist society, rather than hovering above it. The first part of the chapter will address the historical emergence of the Stasi's secret surveillance empire and how it affected those under scrutiny. The second part looks at the Stasi's transformation in the 1970s, as it developed new duties, strategies and networks of informants to monitor the private lives of ever-more citizens. A central theme of this chapter is how the secret police's targeting of private lives as a haven of secrecy and danger created its own limits and backlashes. In effect the Stasi's secret machinery of power both undermined and in turn inadvertently fostered a sense of privacy among GDR citizens.

Keywords:   state security, stasi, GDR, surveillance, diaries, psychology, privilege, files

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