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 the extent 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 was heavily 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 living in a communist society.
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Number of pages: 336
Weight: 488 g
Dimensions: 235 x 158 x 18 mm
Review from previous edition Within Walls is an outstanding and timely study...an eye-opening book that will be a necessary companion to any study concerned with the reality of socialist life in East Germany. * Ulrike Zitzlsperger, Times Higher Education *
this is a work of the highest level, crucial to the field, and a model of scholarship to be followed by historians of the GDR, Germany, and beyond for years to come. * Eli Rubin, Central European History *
... 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 of everyday life in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. * Heikki Lempa, German History *
highly illuminating * Dorothee Wierling, German Historical Institute London Bulletin *
Betts provides not just a thought-provoking account of the nature of GDR society through the interaction between socialism and the private sphere; he also helps us understand better the nature of the GDRs collapse, and the continued significance of the GDRs semi-private social world ... Paul Betts has written a book that is central to a new understanding of the GDR, providing a sophisticated perspective on why the unloved state lasted for as long as it
did * Jan Polmowski, Journal of Contemporary History *