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Making and Unmaking Money: Economic Planning and the Collapse of East Germany

  • Author(s): Zatlin, Jonathan R
  • et al.
Abstract

This paper locates the collapse of East German communism in Marxist-Leninist monetary theory. By exploring the economic and cultural functions of money in East Germany, it argues that the communist party failed to reconcile its ideological aspirations ­ a society free of the social alienation represented by money and merchandise ­ with the practical exigencies of governing an industrial society by force. Using representative examples of market failure in production and consumption, the paper shows how the party’s deep-seated hostility to money led to economic inefficiency and waste. Under Honecker, the party sought to improve living standards by trading political liberalization for West German money. Over time, however, this policy devalued the meaning of socialism by undermining the actual currency, facilitating the communist collapse and overdetermining the pace and mode of German unification.

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