Eastern European Reform Socialism and the West German Left

Abgeschlossenes Projekt


While the dramatic changes of 1989-91 brought about a singular triumph of freedom, it also entailed the failure of Eastern European reforms on socialism – a project that had been followed in the West with considerable sympathy. This dissertation therefore investigates the hopes that the Western European left had placed in the reform process in the Eastern Bloc since 1985 and sheds light on the disappointment that this collapse subsequently evoked. It also analyzes the renewal processes that the Western European center-to-left parties went through in the 1990s and explores the connection between expectation, disappointment, and political reorientation in this regard.

This study focuses on the four established left-wing parties of the Federal Republic of Germany and France: the German Social Democrats and Greens and the French Socialist and Communist Parties. The project thus seeks to illuminate distinctive traits specific to individual countries and parties, while also determining overarching trends during the late and post-communist eras.

The focus is placed here on the relevance of – in part revived – utopias and views of the future, but also the question of the emotional sounding boards of positive expectations. The study will also investigate the means of dealing with disappointment within democratic systems including the “relearning of expectations” or “processing of disappointment” (Luhmann). The goal here is derive analytical use from the interplay of expectation and disappointment, a dimension of historical processes that has seldom been taken into consideration.

Publications within the project

Konrad Sziedat

Erwartungen im Umbruch.

Quellen und Darstellungen zur Zeitgeschichte

Berlin 2019


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