Working Paper 61

Compulsion, Compliance, or Eigensinn? : Examining Theories of Power in an East German Field Site

John Eidson

Abteilung ‚Resilienz und Transformation in Eurasien’

Jahr der Veröffentlichung


Working Paper 61

A broad conceptual gulf would seem to separate Max Weber's notion of legitimate authority from Alf Lüdtke's notion of Eigensinn (which might be described as putting up with political power to the degree that one must, while pursuing one's own ends to the degree that one can). It is possible, however, to bridge this gulf by employing the concept of mass or political clientelism. That is to say, authorities can render compliance with state policies consistent with the pursuit of one's own ends by distributing rewards that provide for the needs of the individuals and families making up the larger population. Alternatively, it may be sufficient to provide these benefits only for certain strategic groups. In this paper, these general propositions are applied to case study materials drawn from the German Democratic Republic. The citizens of the GDR were willing or unwilling clients of the socialist state, though this was truer of some segments of the population than others. For example, in the Southern Region of Leipzig, a mixed industrial and agricultural area where the author has conducted ethnographic and social historical research, coal miners and farmers were variably affected by state policies, and their responses to these policies differed widely. Variable tendencies to comply with political power, which changed with changing conditions over time, can be understood with reference to both official strategies of legitimization and differences in the way in which privileges and benefits were distributed within the workforce.

Zur Redakteursansicht