Problematic Normalization: Eastern German Workers Eight Years after Unification

in German Politics and Society
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  • 1 University of Potsdam
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How can one best investigate the mental attitudes and patterns of

behavior of eastern Germans eight years after political unification?

Since 1990, the method dominating this discussion has been based

on measuring the degree to which easterners have “caught up” with

the supposedly more modern western Germans. However, empirical

studies and surveys have shown that this model is an ineffective, even

inappropriate means of describing how unification has impacted the

lives of eastern Germans. In this article, I argue that a more appropriate

approach is to consider the enduring differences in the opportunity

structures among eastern and western Germans, as well as the

differences in their respective behavioral patterns. In this context,

“opportunity structure” refers to the opportunities provided and limitations

imposed by social structures. For the analysis of opportunity

structures, I focus on what I call “contradictory adaptation” and

“problematic normalization.” My analysis of behavioral patterns

emphasizes the logic internal to the subjects themselves (Eigenlogik).

This internal logic differs significantly from outsiders’ interpretations

of easterners’ behavior, as the following example illustrates.