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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.
© 2021 Berghahn Books