CONSUMPTION JUNCTION, WHAT’S ITS FUNCTION? CONSUMER CO-OPERATIVES, STATE-CITIZEN RELATIONS, AND CONSUMER CULTURE IN THE GERMAN DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC
This dissertation is the first in-depth English study of East Germany’s Union of the Consumer Co-operatives (Konsum). It explores the roles of this organization, while alluding to the nature of power relations, Soviet-style socialism, and the tensions between the progressive discourse and the totalitarian elements of socialism in East Germany. The aim of this dissertation is to augment the historiography of the Soviet Occupation Zone (Sowjetische Besatzungszone, SBZ – 1945 to 1949) and the German Democratic Republic (Deutsche Demokratische Republik, DDR – 1949 to 1990) by examining the ways in which the Konsum contributed to the highly modern and totalitarian aspirations of the Socialist Unity Party (Sozialistische Einheitspartei Deutschlands, SED – 1946 to 1990). In examining the SED’s ability to use the Konsum to infuse ideology into everyday life, this study provides new understandings of the ways in which the party’s actions affected its citizens, and the ways in which citizens responded to, averted, and manipulated the SED’s politicization of their daily lives. In other words, the Konsum became a junction between the citizenry and the state. To this end, the study has drawn attention to the state’s incursion into the mundane aspects of everyday life in the realms of education, work, and consumption. To substantiate this examination, I have referred to numerous archival sources and interviews with East Germans associated with the Konsum. Thus, the core contribution of this dissertation rests in the blending of archival material, secondary sources, and interviews in light of the ideas associated with the concepts of attempted totalitarianism, modernism, individual agency, and selective participation. Moreover, this research and source analysis presents a novel departure from the secondary sources cited in this work by illustrating the possible motivations for certain actors, whether state authorities or individuals, to make ideological statements and employ specific types of behaviour.
Konsum, Consumer Co-operatives, East Germany, Consumption, Advertising, Socialism, Propaganda, discourse, state-citizen relations, discourse analysis, Stasi, women, education
Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)