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The Study of the DDR in the USA

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image of East Central Europe

Until the mid- to late 1960s, East Germany remained a virtual terra incognita to all but the tiniest handful of specialists in the United States. Even today, the discovery of the DDR by wider American publics-both academic and non-academic-can scarcely be regarded as anything like complete. Yet, after surveying the state of American research on the DDR, Peter C. Ludz concluded in 1970 that despite certain problems, its future prospects seemed bright.1 Indeed, he contended that the high level of development of social science techniques in the United States, together with geographic detachment from day-to-day involvement in intra-German politics, might enable American scholars to come to grips with "the basic questions" more readily than their German colleagues.2 Just how well has that optimistic forecast been borne out? Readers are invited to draw their own conclusions from the discussion that follows. Since the present treatment, rather than aspiring to be comprehensive, seeks to depict general trends, identify specific problems, and explore future prospects-all in the author's own disciplinary speciality, political science, several cautionary observations should be recorded at the outset. The study of politics, in the United States no less than elsewhere, must constantly grapple with the fact-value dilemma. I believe there can never be a genuinely wertfrei social science, in the sense in which some Americans have tended, somewhat one-sidedly, I think, to understand Max Weber's scientific aspirations. Similarly, with respect to the sociology of knowledge, Karl Mannheim's postulation of a freischwebende Intelligenz appears, to employ Mannheim's own terminology, to be utopian. If, as I believe, political science must be regarded as "metapolitics," then any treatment of work in the field of political science becomes a kind of "meta-metapolitics."3 Thus, description is inseparable from evaluation, if only because all description necessarily "involves selection, synthesis, and sequence."4 My personal value biases (broadly humanistic) and methodological preferences (I favor choosing the particular research techniques appropriate to specific subject of investigation rather than vice versa and am always distrustful of narrowly positivistic approaches) will be apparent in the account that follows. They will obviously also inform the recommendations for possible directions in future work on the DDR with which the present report concludes.

Affiliations: 1: (University of Wisconsin-Madison, Madison, Wis., U.S.A.


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