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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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Socialism's Social Contract

Socialism's Social Contract

Individual Citizen Petitions

(p.173) 6 Socialism's Social Contract
Within Walls

Paul Betts

Oxford University Press

Over the years, the GDR has gained a reputation (especially in West Germany) as a cranky and unremitting ‘complainer culture.’ Yet the perception of the GDR as a veritable ‘grumble Gesellschaft’ was actually homegrown in East Germany. This chapter sets out to recall the special place of the famed citizen petitions, or Eingaben, within East German life. What makes these citizen communications particularly interesting is the way that they straddled the line between public and private. They show how GDR citizens presented their anger, frustration and desires, and in so doing revealed remarkable ‘patterns of individualization’ in an otherwise highly-regulated society. For this reason, they furnish some of the most revealing everyday texts of East German history, casting a good deal of light on popular perceptions of the state and socialist justice.

Keywords:   East Germany, East Berlin, Civil rights, grievances, materialism, petitions, supplicants, disaffection, justice

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