Socialism with a Human Face: Using Behavioural Economics to Understand East German Economic History

Gary B. Magee, Wayne Geerling

Research output: Book/ReportBookResearchpeer-review


East Germany’s economic history is typically told as a story of the unravelling of an inherently flawed system. Yet, while the system’s inefficiency is undeniable, its economic history was much richer than its comparatively poor economic performance suggests. For many who lived there, it was a system that, over its forty years, was capable of achievements and generally functioned at bearable levels. This book combines the insights of behavioural economics with archival research to peel away layers of rhetoric and assumptions about the East German economy and explore aspects of that underlying functionality.

Through a series of cases studies that examine the establishment of socialist workplaces, the searches for productivity growth and efficiency, and the emergence of financial crisis, the book considers the system from the perspective of the humans who operated it and made the decisions that made it work. Unencumbered by political preconceptions, it offers a more realistic understanding of East German economic history than that derived from stagnant debates about the clash of systems. The new perspectives and approaches presented demonstrate that, extracted from its Cold War context, East Germany’s economic history can be analysed for what it was, rather than for what it symbolised.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationSingapore Singapore
PublisherPalgrave Macmillan
Number of pages356
ISBN (Electronic)9789811906640
ISBN (Print)9789811906633
Publication statusPublished - 2022

Publication series

NamePalgrave Studies in Economic History
PublisherPalgrave Macmillan
ISSN (Print)2662-6497
ISSN (Electronic)2662-6500


  • Economic History
  • East Germany
  • Command economies
  • Economic behaviour
  • Communist systems

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