Maintaining a sense of individual autonomy under conditions of constraint: a study of east german managers

Ulrike Nagel

in Biographical methods and professional practice

Published by Policy Press

Published in print March 2004 | ISBN: 9781861344939
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9781447301554 | DOI:
Maintaining a sense of individual autonomy under conditions of constraint: a study of east german managers

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This chapter deals with the biographical situation and coping strategies of highly educated cadres under the authoritarian regime of the former German Democratic Republic (GDR). It is based on the seventeen narrative interviews with East German managers who had been economic cadres under socialism and who succeeded in maintaining leading positions after the breakdown of the Berlin Wall in 1989. The second part of this chapter discusses the methodological difficulties of cross-cultural research, specifically in the areas of post-socialist transformation research and migration research. The problem of providing an adequate framework for the interpretation for the social phenomena of a culture unfamiliar to the researcher will be captured by the notion of lacking the ‘common sense knowledge of social structures’ of the world under scrutiny. A central concept to this chapter is that of ‘institutionalised life-course regime’. While this is applied to the former GDR, it is argued that modernisation and globalisation processes are increasingly bringing lives in ‘Western’ societies under the way of institutionalised life-course processes. The illustrative example of the unexpected and the unwanted outcomes of social policies, and some heuristic concepts that might serve as tool while ‘working with the subject’ is also presented in this chapter.

Keywords: biographical situation; coping strategies; German Democratic Republic; East German managers; economic cadres; socialism; cross-cultural research; institutionalised life-course regime

Chapter.  7427 words. 

Subjects: Social Research and Statistics

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