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Power/Knowledge Failure

Epistemic Practices and Ideologies of the Secret Police in Former East Germany

Andreas Glaeser

Keywords: bureaucratic organizations; epistemic practices and ideologies; power and knowledge

This paper traces the epistemic practices and ideologies that Stasi (East Germany's former secret police) used to construct the GDR peace and civil rights movements during the 1980s as one of the GDR's key enemies. In particular, the paper addresses the question of how communications in organized social encounters that are hierarchized by a cultivation of secrecy (legitimized by a Manichaean worldview) and corresponding myths about the distribution of knowledge and the proximity to an absolute social good have shaped interpretive processes. The particular epistemic style of Stasi is analyzed as a peculiar conflation of ethics and epistemology which was, ironically, profoundly undialectic, that is monothetic, and thus unable to react constructively to interpretive failures in response to a fast changing environment.

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