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The Currency of Socialism: Money and Political Culture in East Germany (Publications of the German Historical Institute)

The Currency of Socialism: Money and Political Culture in East Germany (Publications of the German Historical Institute)

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Jonathan R. Zatlin
Cambridge University Press, 12/18/2008
EAN 9780521743600, ISBN10: 0521743605

Paperback, 398 pages, 23.4 x 15.6 x 2.3 cm
Language: English

There is perhaps nothing so commonplace and yet so mystifying as money. But to European communists, money was clearly an instrument of economic exploitation and spiritual alienation. In this groundbreaking study, Jonathan R. Zatlin explores the East German attempt to create a perfect society by eliminating money and explains the reasons for its failure. Drawing on a wide range of sources, including unpublished communist reports, secret police files, literature, jokes, letters written by ordinary people, and conversations with key German politicians, this book shows how the communist regime undermined the political authority of socialism and created the material conditions for its demise. By exploring both the economic and the cultural function of money, Zatlin challenges traditional approaches to economic planning by offering a novel explanation for the collapse of communism in East Germany and a highly original interpretation of German unification. Written in an engaging and lucid style, The Currency of Socialism brings to life the scurrilous competition for power among communist officials and the everyday burdens experienced by ordinary East Germans.

Part I. Production
1. Making and unmaking money
monetary theory and economic planning in East Germany
2. Accounting and accountability
financing the planned economy under Honecker, 1971–80
3. Parsimony and the prince
crisis and stability, 1980–5
4. The currency of decline
the disintegration of the East German economy
Part II. Consumption
5. The vehicle of desire
the Trabant, the Wartburg, and the discipline of demand
6. Consuming ideology
the intershops, Genex, and retail trade under Honecker
7. Appealing to authority
the citizens' petition and the rhetoric of decline.