Disappearing Socialism: Volker Braun's Unvollendete Geschichte

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One aspect of the Cold War’s legacy has slipped from collective memory: the distinctly socialist arguments against the regimes of the East, for instance the GDR.Volker Braun’s 1977 novella Unvollendete Geschichte provides an instructive example of the current invisibility of such socialist arguments. In the West, Unvollendete Geschichte has been read as a straightforward condemnation of an authoritarian state that penalizes individuals on illegitimate grounds. Yet Braun is a committed socialist and criticizes the state not for its violation of the individual’s integrity, but for the suppression of conflict internal to the collective. A historically sensitive reading reveals that Braun seeks to expose the (East German) state as a distorted manifestation of social collaboration, in line with a radical socialist tradition.






Norberg, Jakob (2010). Disappearing Socialism: Volker Braun's Unvollendete Geschichte. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10161/6389.



Jakob Norberg

Professor of German Studies

Jakob Norberg’s research explores conceptions of community in German thought and literature. His first book, Sociability and Its Enemies (Northwestern 2014), examines the search for non-authoritarian forms of collective life after the end of the Second World War and focuses on thinkers such as Hannah Arendt, Carl Schmitt, and Jürgen Habermas. The second book, The Brothers Grimm and the Making of German Nationalism (Cambridge 2022), shows how Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm viewed philologists as arbiters of national identity, even adjudicators of national territory, and therefore as experts indispensable to the modern nation state. A forthcoming book entitled Schopenhauer’s Politics (Cambridge) reconstructs Arthur Schopenhauer’s anti-nationalist, anti-collectivist political philosophy. His articles have appeared in venues such as PMLA, Arcadia, Cultural Critique, New German Critique, Textual Practice, Telos, and the Blackwell Encyclopedia of Political Thought. More information about Norberg can be found on academia.edu.

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