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What Do We Know About (Totalitarian) Books?

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Chapter Summary

The making and breaking of the specific system of publishing, selling and reading books that existed in the centrally controlled socioeconomic systems of the former socialist countries in the region of Eastern and Central Europe would seem to provide an exemplary, and in a certain sense experimental, space to theoretically explore and practically test such links. This chapter examines the ideas and practices involved in the centrally regulated, command system of book production and reception. It addresses several questions about books in general, albeit in a severely condensed and simplified fashion. The 'softer' discourses that characterise both Friedrich Engels's and Marx's writings on arts and culture contrast sharply with the aggressive revolutionary rhetoric of a tendency-driven culture, which eventually dominated the statements of the hard-core communist Marxist-led cultural authorities and were backed up with regulatory interventions, especially during the first decade of the Cold War.

Keywords: Central Europe; Eastern Europe; socioeconomic systems; Totalitarian books



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