Life review in the context of acute social transition: The case of East Germany
Andrews, M. 1997. Life review in the context of acute social transition: The case of East Germany. British Journal of Social Psychology. 36 (3), pp. 273-290.
Since the collapse of East Germany in 1989, many East Germans have been occupied with Vergangenheitsbewaelitigung ('working through the past') in an attempt to gain insight into how and why 'that which called itself socialism' was able to operate as it did for 40 years. The opening of the East German Stasi files is one example of the effort to document and analyse the history of the GDR, both at the level of society, and that of individual lives. Using data collected in interviews with 40 citizens of the former GDR, most of whom were active members in the citizens' movements, this article examines the relationship between working through the past ofa country and the process of individual life review. Just as societies tend to examine their pasts only when they are already in an acute state of decline, so do individuals tend towards life review when they think the end is near. The argument is made that if this process of evaluation-of both societies, and of individual lives-were conducted as a more integral part of non-traumatic existence, the potential for benefitting from the review might be greatly enhanced. The loss of their country has srimulated a life review for many East Germans, of all ages. The oldest generation experience life review as a very painful summary of their lives which were dedicated to building a country which no longer exists. For the younger generations, life review has a different function, and offers them a chance to rewrite a blueprint for living. The intersection between life review and Vergangenheitsbewaeltigung, or biography and society, is the central theme exp ored in this article.
|East Germany; social psychology
|British Journal of Social Psychology
|36 (3), pp. 273-290
|Accepted author manuscript
|Web address (URL)
|Publication process dates
|16 Dec 2009
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