Historical Social Research

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Lena Kuhl & Oliver Werner: Bezirke on Scale. Regional and Local Actors in East German ‘Democratic Centralism.’ [Abstract]

The article examines the potential of the scale approach in the analysis of the former socialist dictatorships in Middle- and Middle-East-Europe based on the case of the German Democratic Republic (GDR). Obviously, the communist claim to power always relied on highly centralised chains of command. Nevertheless, regional state functionaries were occasionally able to realize their specific interests by scalar strategies like forming horizontal alliances or ‘jumping’ over the official channels through vertical personal networks. Focussing on processes with different patterns of top-down- and bottom-up-interactions, the scale approach reveals the fragile construction of the GDR’s ‘Democratic Centralism’: By taking responsibility for regional or local interests and trying to streamline them with central politics, state functionaries at the same time stabilized and undermined the political system. Despite gaining temporary leeway for acting in their own interests, regional and local authorities remained bound to the directives from the central leadership till the end of the GDR in 1989/90.

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