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6. Western Success and Eastern Failure
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Overview   |   1. The Deepening of Division   |   2. The Conflict between Democracy and Dictatorship   |   3. Strains in the Social Market Economy   |   4. Responses to Social Conflicts   |   5. Uncertainties of Modernist Culture   |   6. Western Success and Eastern Failure

When confronted with unexpected social changes, the pluralist society of the West proved more adaptable than the tightly controlled SED system of the East. Although elders on both sides of the border were shocked by the perceived garishness of American popular culture, the elites in the West eventually managed to tolerate rock music and Hollywood films, while the censors in the East reacted repressively, thereby politicizing lifestyle choices (32). Regardless of ideology, patriarchal males resented women's attempts to gain equal rights, but in the West feminists were able to organize, whereas in the East paternalist support was designed to control and direct the political influence of women. In both states, managers and workers were not exactly overjoyed to be criticized by environmentalists, but in the Federal Republic the courts protected protesters against police brutality whereas in the GDR they were criminalized. Similarly, most politicians and soldiers thought the peace movement too idealistic, but in the West pacifists were able to protest openly, while in the East they were repressed (33).

For all of its commercialization, the Westernized culture finally generated a more attractive modern version of German identity than the Sovietized educational dictatorship of the GDR. In the long run, Western self-questioning initiated by the charge of insufficient confrontation with the Nazi past proved more thorough in establishing respect for human rights than the mandated anti-Fascism of the East. Even if openness to international influences at times threatened to submerge German traits, receptiveness to American, British, or French ideas and styles managed to break with the tradition of German separateness and to anchor the Federal Republic culturally in the West. In contrast, Marxist internationalism, promoted by the Soviet Union, went only skin deep and did not manage to eradicate a feeling of German superiority in the Eastern bloc. In the end, the long-term learning processes, initiated by the horrors of the Third Reich and the Second World War, restored a vibrant civil society in the West that contrasted favorably with the repressiveness of the socialist experiment in the East (34).

Konrad H. Jarausch and Helga A. Welsh

(32) Dorothee Wierling, Geboren im Jahr Eins. Der Jahrgang 1949 in der DDR. Versuch einer Kollektivbiographie (Berlin, 2002); Uta G. Poiger, "Rock 'n' Roll, Female Sexuality, and the Cold War Battle over German Identities," Journal of Modern History 68 (1996), pp. 577-616.
(33) Görtemaker, Geschichte der Bundesrepublik; Wolle, Heile Welt der Diktatur.
(34) Konrad H. Jarausch, After Hitler: Recivilizing Germans, 1945-1995 (Oxford, 2006).

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