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Durham University

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Publication details for Dr Alexander Burdumy

Burdumy, Alexander (2013). Reconsidering the role of the welfare state within the former German Democratic Republic's political system. Journal of Contemporary History 48(4): 872-889.

Author(s) from Durham


Welfare state policy in the former German Democratic Republic (GDR) was distinctly different from that in the Federal Republic of Germany (FRG). The rationale for welfare provision in the GDR was not provision for the sick and elderly, but the political goal of regime stabilization through welfare measures. This article reconsiders the role of welfare state policy and shows how it fulfilled several different roles within the system, and how this determined the shape of the GDR’s welfare state. The article begins with a brief historical overview, outlines developments from 1971 onwards, and reviews problems and successes in East German welfare policy. In the end, the shortcomings of the GDR’s planned economy became the biggest obstacle preventing it from achieving its goal of regime stabilization. Most of the research findings presented here are based on archival sources; this includes petitions and complaints from citizens, known as Eingaben, correspondence from SED functionaries and confidential reports on public opinion from the Ministry of State Security. The article is based on the broader research conducted for a PhD dissertation at Aston University, Birmingham and two papers containing the general thoughts of this article.