Envisioning Socialism examines television and the power it
exercised to define the East Germans' view of socialism during the
first decades of the German Democratic Republic. In the first book
in English to examine this topic, Heather L. Gumbert traces how
television became a medium prized for its communicative and
entertainment value. She explores the difficulties GDR authorities
had defining and executing a clear vision of the society they hoped
to establish, and she explains how television helped to stabilize
GDR society in a way that ultimately worked against the utopian
vision the authorities thought they were cultivating.
Gumbert challenges those who would dismiss East German television
as a tool of repression that couldn't compete with the West or
capture the imagination of East Germans. Instead, she shows how, by
the early 1960s, television was a model of the kind of socialist
realist art that could appeal to authorities and audiences.
Ultimately, this socialist vision was overcome by the challenges
that the international market in media products and technologies
posed to nation-building in the postwar period.
A history of ideas and perceptions examining both real and mediated
historical conditions, Envisioning Socialism considers television
as a technology, an institution, and a medium of social relations
and cultural knowledge. The book will be welcomed in undergraduate
and graduate courses in German and media history, the history of
postwar Socialism, and the history of science and technologies.