The Eigensinn and Political Epistemology of East German Kollektiv Psychology

When and Where

Wednesday, May 04, 2022 12:00 pm to 1:15 pm


Dr. Verena Lehmbrock, Visiting Scholar at the IHPST and Research Assistant Professor, History of Science Program, Erfurt University



The draft paper deals with the history of East German social psychology and focuses on one of its major interventions, social psychological training (SPT), targeting the social skills of ‘socialist leaders’ from the late 1960s until the fall of the Berlin Wall. Using the intervention as a case study, the text examines the functions and meanings of psychological expertise through the shifts of real-existing socialism in the German Democratic Republic (GDR). SPT is approached from different angles – domestic versus transnational and governmental versus actor-centered – resulting in a number of distinguishable gestalts. Comparisons with similar group methods in the Federal Republic of Germany (FRG) further complicate the story. At times branded as 'totalitarian’ in the West, psychological coaches in the East increasingly associated group methods with a sense of freedom making use of it as an individualizing tool of empowerment. SPT is thus not only analyzed in terms of the Eigensinn (self-reliant appropriation) of its practitioners but also as an object of political epistemology. Exploring the polyvalent nature of SPT regarding liberal versus illiberal governmentalities the text concludes by discussing historiographical implications.