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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 Drawing on a wide range of sources, including unpublished communist reports, secret police files, literature, jokes, letters written by ordinary people, and conversations with key German politicians, this book shows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.Read more
- Presents a new interpretation of German unification
- Offers an alternative interpretation of communism's collapse
- Gives an account of everyday life under communism
Reviews & endorsements
"a meticulously researched, well-written account of the economic ills of the former German Democratic Repulic.... Highly recommended."
–ChoiceSee more reviews
"Jonathan Zatlin, an assistant professor at Boston University, has assembled many remarkable insights into the history and collapse of the German Democratic Republic. Based on archives, interviews, and an extensive secondary literature, this book is excellently researched and illustrated, and is highly readable."
-Mark Harrison, Journal of Economic History
"This is a terrific book, scholarly but at the same time elegantly written and entertaining." -Economic History Review, Jeremy Leaman
"...an indispensable contribution to the economic, political, and historical study of the state-socialist enterprise." -Patrick Hyder Patterson University of California, San Diego
"Zatlin’s book is exciting and wide-reaching because it skilfully illustrates the interactions between the political, ideological and economic calculations taking place in GDR socialism and vividly illustrates the increasing discord between ideological aims, political strategies and economic practice." Andrew Evans, H-Net
"Jonathan Zatlin convincingly argues that the Marxist-Leninist experiement was bankrupted because its doctrine offered no viable alternative to money." -Michael Allen, Business History Review
"As both economic and cultural history, the book is a great success." -Peter C. Caldwell, Rice University
"...Zatlin provides a fresh take on GDR history, a welcome book." -Ray Stokes, Journal of Modern History
"...Jonathan Zatlin offers a refreshingly different approach to analyzing the failures of the East German economic experiment by replacing the prices explanation with on focusing on the leadership's attitude toward money." -Kristie Macrakis, The Historian
"His analysis is multifaceted and elegantly presented." -Peter Monteath, American Historical Review
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- Date Published: October 2008
- format: Paperback
- isbn: 9780521743600
- length: 398 pages
- dimensions: 231 x 155 x 25 mm
- weight: 0.56kg
- availability: Available
Table of Contents
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.
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