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The making of the socialist personality: Education and socialisation in the German Democratic Republic 1958-1978

Brock, A; (2005) The making of the socialist personality: Education and socialisation in the German Democratic Republic 1958-1978. Doctoral thesis , University of London. Green open access

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Abstract

This thesis explores the ways in which two decades of socialisation in the socialist education system of the German Democratic Republic (GDR) left their mark on the people growing up there from 1958 to 1978. The centre of investigation is the enigmatic 'socialist personality', an ideal human being cast from a mould rich in Marxist-Leninist principles. The 'socialist personality' was meant to have an all-round education of 'head, heart and hand' and to possess a wide range of virtues which took their cue from societal requirements rather than individual interests. The 'subjects' under investigation are children and young people up to the age of eighteen, whose experiences both within the education system and beyond are being explored. With this thesis I aim to show that between the project of turning children into 'socialist personalities' and its implementation at the grassroots stood human nature. It is my contention that despite the regime's claim to total control of education and socialisation, the practical execution of this experiment in social engineering had its limits. It collided with young people's individuality and self-determination, as well as with influences of a 'parallel education system' that often, but not always, had a different set of values: the family, peers, the Churches, and the Western lifestyle model just across the border. Yet whilst the great majority of young people were immune to the inculcation of certain aspects of education and socialisation (notably politicisation and militarisation), they did internalise a number of 'good' socialist values (for example love of peace, solidarity and helpfulness) during their formative years. At the end of the 1970s, the 'end products' of the GDR education system, whilst not resembling the envisaged 'socialist personality', showed nevertheless traits of a 'new kind of human being'.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Title: The making of the socialist personality: Education and socialisation in the German Democratic Republic 1958-1978
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language: English
Additional information: Thesis digitised by British Library EThOS.
UCL classification: ?? AL ??
URI: http://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1363641
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