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Bourgeois and Non-Bourgeois Intelligentsia in the German Democratic Republic: A Study of Biographical Upheaval

The socialist intelligentsia, or the educated class, appeared with the foundation of the GDR in 1949 and was dissolved along with the state in 1990. The original intention was for the ranks of the intelligentsia to be open to social groups hitherto unconcerned with education (workers and peasantry). But since the children of this first generation of graduates demanded the same level of education as their parents, GDR society shifted increasingly toward stratum-specific differentiation and a reproduction of societal structures. Case studies of the "socialist intelligentsia" conducted by Erika Hoerning examined the role of the profession in biographical (re-)orientation.

The professional and life histories (narratives) of 31 women and men born between 1929 and 1938 (the generation that rebuilt Germany after the Second World War) and between 1950 and 1960 were recorded on repeated occasions, allowing us to describe the social character of the educated class (the new socialist intelligentsia) and the professional cultures of the former GDR, as well as the life courses of both bourgeois and non-bourgeois members of the intelligentsia. It was then possible to observe the reorientation process retrospectively by examining the transition to "new" social, cultural, and political structures, and obtaining information about how retrospective assessments change over the course of time and life. The study showed that success (or failure) in coping with the transformation process is not only a function of the individual biographical capital, but is highly dependent on the historical development of the institutions (professions) to which individuals belong. The institutional and biographical transfer to/integration into the "new" Federal Republic was explored in case studies on a number of professional groups: medical, law, media, and science professionals, university professors, managers in industry and science, the clergy. These case studies are discussed within the framework of current theoretical debates on professions in the book: "Intelligenz, Experten, Professionen."

Selected Publications

Hoerning, E. M. (2000). Biographie. In F. Stimmer (Ed.), Lexikon der Sozialpädagogik und der Sozialarbeit (4th ed., pp. 100-105). München: Oldenbourg.

Hoerning, E. M. (Ed.). (2000). Biographische Sozialisation. Stuttgart: Lucius & Lucius (Der Mensch als soziales und personales Wesen, 17).

Hoerning, E. M., & Kupferberg, F. (1999). Die anhaltende Loyalität der ostdeutschen Intelligenz. BIOS, 12 (1), 28-49.

Hoerning, E. M. (1998). Die Volkshochschuldozentin: Zwischen Lebenserfahrungen und Professionalität. In R. Arnold et al. (Eds.), Lehren und Lernen im Modus der Auslegung. Erwachsenenbildung zwischen Wissensvermittlung, Deutungslernen und Aneignung (pp. 159-167). Baltmannsweiler: Schneider-Verlag Hohengehren (Grundlagen der Berufs- und Erwachsenenbildung, 17).

Hoerning, E. M. (1997). Sozialer Wandel und kulturelles Kapital. Zwei Fallgeschichten zum Professionalisierungsprozeß im Umbruch der DDR. In I. Behnken & T. Schulze (Eds.), Tatort: Biographie (pp. 15-37). Opladen: Leske + Budrich.

Hoerning, E. M. (1996). Aufstieg und Fall der "neuen" Intelligenz. Berliner Debatte INITIAL, 2, 21­32.

Hoerning, E. M. (1995). Biographische Ressourcen und sozialer Wandel. In P. A. Berger & P. Sopp (Eds.), Sozialstrukturelle Dynamiken (pp. 235-252). Opladen: Leske + Budrich.

Project Team

Erika M. Hoerning