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Ecologies of Socialisms

Germany, Nature, and the Left in History, Politics, and Culture


Edited By Sabine Mödersheim, Scott Moranda and Eli Rubin

This volume explores the complex webs of interaction between the environmental movement, socialism, and the «natural» environment in Germany, and beyond, in the twentieth century. There has long been a divide between the environmental, or «green,» movement and socialist movements in Germany, a divide that has expressed itself in scholarship and intellectual discourse. And yet, upon closer inspection, the split between «red» and «green» is not as clear as it might at first seem. Indeed, little about the interaction between socialism and environmentalism, or socialism and the environment, fits into a neat binary. In a way, the discourses, positions, and policies
that structure the interactions between environmentalism, nature, and socialism in German history and culture can be said to constitute a kind of ecology – a complex and interdependent web of relations, which can appear as antagonisms, but which can also contain deeper, less immediately visible, interdependencies. Ecologies of Socialisms attempts to combine the work of scholars from a wide range of disciplines (history, literature, German/Austrian studies, philosophy, geography) in order to contribute to a better and more nuanced understanding of how «green» and «red» have clashed and also merged in German history and culture.
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Environmental Policy in the GDR: Principles, Restrictions, Failure, and Legacy (Tobias Huff)


Tobias Huff

Environmental Policy in the GDR: Principles, Restrictions, Failure, and Legacy

There is, seemingly, little room for debate when comparing the environmental track records of the two Germanys. In the West there was a society and a government that took good care of its natural environment and cleaned up the pollution that had existed in its soil and air. The West German populace had a profound appreciation for the importance of the environment, and there existed in West German society a consensus in favor of making industry pay for cleaning up pollution, even if it meant higher consumer prices. And as a result, environmental laws in West Germany were highly effective in forcing real reforms on industry, leading to their significant investment in new technologies and facilities.

In the East, there was a party-controlled state and society whose economy was based largely on technology and machinery which was outdated, and so produced not only inferior goods but also pollution which seeped into the water, soil, and air. The pictures of biologically dead rivers, dying forests, landscapes with abandoned open pits or dirty and degenerated industrial complexes became emblematic for the environmental situation in the GDR. Especially in the 1980s, western media helped shape a narrative depicting a clear dichotomy between the “ecological West” and the ignorant East. The Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung – one of the leading West German newspapers – described the East German natural landscape in the direst terms, using terms like “a scene...

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