Within Walls: Private Life in the German Democratic Republic

Paperback | March 27, 2013

byPaul Betts

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Private life in the German Democratic Republic (GDR) is often seen as having been virtually non-existent, simply another East German commodity forever in short supply. In part this had to do with the common perception that private life and state socialism were at odds by definition, to theextent that the private person has no legal identity or political standing outside the socialist community. The East German regime's infamous surveillance techniques, best illustrated in the notorious exploits of the state's sprawling security force - the Stasi - and its reserve army of 'unofficial collaborators', further dramatized the full penetration of the state into the private sphere. Within Walls takes a different perspective. Paul Betts shows how, despite the primacy of public identities, the private sphere assumed central importance in the GDR from the very outset, and was especially pronounced in the regime's former capital city. In a world in which social interaction washeavily monitored, private life functioned for many citizens as a cherished arena of individuality, alternative identity-formation, and potential dissent. Betts carefully charts the changing meaning of private life in the GDR across a variety of fields, ranging from law to photography, religion to interior decoration, family living to memoir literature, revealing the myriad ways in which privacy was expressed, staged, and defended by citizens livingin a communist society.

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Private life in the German Democratic Republic (GDR) is often seen as having been virtually non-existent, simply another East German commodity forever in short supply. In part this had to do with the common perception that private life and state socialism were at odds by definition, to theextent that the private person has no legal ide...

Paul Betts taught at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, 1996-1999, and has been teaching Modern German History at the University of Sussex since 2000. He has published numerous works on post-war German history, including The Authority of Everyday Objects: A Cultural History of West German Industrial Design (2004), and was ...

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Format:PaperbackDimensions:336 pages, 9.21 × 6.14 × 0.68 inPublished:March 27, 2013Publisher:Oxford University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0199668299

ISBN - 13:9780199668298

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Table of Contents

Introduction: Privacy in an Enclosed StateSection I: Secret Societies, Public Institutions, Private Lives1. Tyranny of Intimacy: The Stasi and East German Society2. East of Eden: Christian Subculture in State Socialism3. Intimacy on Display: Getting Divorced in East BerlinSection II: Domestic Ideals, Social Rights, Lived Experiences4. Building Socialism at Home: Remaking Interiors and Citizens5. Property, Noise, and Honor: Neighborhood Justice in East Berlin6. Socialism's Social Contract: Citizen Complaints7. Picturing Privacy: Photography and DomesticityEpilogue: The House of Spirits: 1989, Civil Rights, and the Reclamation of Private LifeBibliographyIndex

Editorial Reviews

"... a great contribution to our knowledge of private life in the GDR. Yet for a historian of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Germany his contribution and especially his methodological approach are even more stimulating ... it will set higher standards for any work on the history ofeveryday life in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries." --Heikki Lempa, German History