Historical Social Research

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Konrad H. Jarausch, Realer Sozialismus als Fürsorgediktatur. Zur begrifflichen Einordnung der DDR [1998] [Abstract]

After the peaceful revolution, politicians and scholars intensely debated the labels which ought to characterize the East German brand of communism. Focusing on its totalitarian features, cold warriors called it an Unrechtsstaat while former supporters of the SED preferred to speak about “real existing socialism” as a failed experiment. In order to escape this polarization some scholars labeled the GDR a “modern dictatorship,” while yet others talked about an “educational dictatorship” or a “commodious dictatorship.” The conceptual challenge to which these efforts responded was the paradoxical character of the SED-regime that was clearly repressive, but also allowed many citizens a fairly normal life. Alluding to the party’s emancipatory claims, but contrasting them to its repressive practice, I therefore suggested the neologism of a “welfare dictatorship.” The Right’s denounciation of it as too soft and Left’s criticism as too harsh suggested that the new term might have hit upon a useful characterization.