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Intellectuals, Socialism, and Dissent

The East German Opposition and Its Legacy

1995
Author:

John C. Torpey

Intellectuals, Socialism, and Dissent

Asks why East German dissidents have been left out in the cold.

Once the Berlin Wall fell in 1989, the people of East Germany had little use for the dissident intellectuals who had helped bring it down. This volume offers a penetrating look into the circumstances of this fall from grace, unique among the former Communist states.

“A thorough and comprehensive treatment of the major events leading up to and through the ‘revolution’ of 1989. By far the most cohesive account I have read of this complicated and momentous period in German history.” David Bathrick, Cornell University

Once the Berlin Wall fell in 1989, the people of East Germany had little use for the dissident intellectuals who had helped bring it down. Intellectuals, Socialism, and Dissent offers a penetrating look into the circumstances of this fall from grace, unique among the former Communist states.

John Torpey traces the dissident intellectuals’ fate to the peculiar situation of the East German regime, which sought to build “socialism in a quarter of a country” on the anti-fascist foundations of Communist opposition to Nazism. He shows how the regime’s unusual history and subnational status helped sustain the East German intelligentsia’s conviction that socialism could be reformed and humane-that there was a “third way” between Soviet-style socialism and the capitalism that took root in West Germany. How the pursuit of this third way both supported and undermined the regime, and both galvanized and alienated the East German people, becomes clear in Torpey’s nuanced analysis. His book makes a powerful contribution to our understanding of the politics of intellectuals during one of the most painful chapters in modern German history.

John C. Torpey is currently a Jean Monnet Fellow at the European University Institute in Florence.

Intellectuals, Socialism, and Dissent

John Torpey is Professor of Sociology at the CUNY Graduate Center. He is the author or editor of several books, including Making Whole What has Been Smashed: On Reparations Politics (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2006); Old Europe, New Europe, Core Europe: Transatlantic Relations after the Iraq War (edited with Daniel Levy and Max Pensky; London and New York: Verso, 2005); Politics and the Past: On Repairing Historical Injustices (ed.), Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2003; Documenting Individual Identity: The Development of State Practices in the Modern World (co-edited with Jane Caplan), Princeton University Press, 2001; and The Invention of the Passport: Surveillance, Citizenship, and the State, Cambridge University Press, 2000. His interests lie broadly in the area of comparative historical sociology and his current research focuses on the problem of “American exceptionalism.”

Intellectuals, Socialism, and Dissent

“A thorough and comprehensive treatment of the major events leading up to and through the ‘revolution’ of 1989. By far the most cohesive account I have read of this complicated and momentous period in German history.” David Bathrick, Cornell University

“Thorough and insightful” German Studies Review

“Torpey's study is greatly enlivened by quotations from conversations

“Intellectuals, Socialism, and Dissent provides readers with a vivid account of the East German opposition from the time of the Soviet occupation and military administration after the end of the Nazi regime to the formal creation of the German Democratic Republic and to its collapse and unification with the Federal Republic. It also discusses the early transition years after the unification, through 1992. . . . This book offers a detailed account of intellectuals and oppositional groups in the GDR, and it offers valuable interpretations.”-Contemporary Sociology

“...comprehensive, coherent, accessible. Anyone who wants to grasp the

“His book details the tumultuous events of 1989 and their aftermath while making an outstanding contribution to the ongoing debate on the meaning of 1989, the legacies of Leninism, and the complex relationship between intellectuals and state socialism. . . .

“This book provides a convincing account of the unique formation of the intelligentsia in communist societies and makes appropriate and enlightening use of theory throughout. . . . Torpey succeeds in explaining the role intellectuals played in the collapse of the GDR and provides a valuable historical account of the making of a socialist intelligentsia.” American Journal of Sociology

“Torpey provides convincing evidence that the primary features of East Germany’s intellectuals in the 1980s - - the relatively late demand for civil rights, the lack of interest in German unity, and the desire for a reformed socialism rather than a capitalist system - - were the result of the dissedents’ roots in the anti-fascist, anticapitalist heritage of the GDR and its peculiar national situation. . . . Torpey’s work is a thought-provoking and readable analysis of the role of East German dissident intellectuals before and after 1989 . . . an important work.” Gary Bruce, McGIll University from H-German

“Solid and well written, this study is based on personal interviews and a wide range of sources.” Choice

“Well-written and stimulating history of East German intellectuals. Torpey’s refreshing analysis of East German intellectuals and their uncomfortable relationship with the communist party constitutes an important contribution to the literature on the GDR and its demise.” Theory and Society

“Torpey’s work is a thought-provoking and readable analysis of the role of East German dissident intellectuals before and after 1989.” H-Net