Fragile Bonds of Recognition: Exploring the Social Underpinnings of Sentiments of Exclusion in Post-1989 East Germany

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Series Details Volume 63, Number 2, Pages 247-278
Publication Date August 2022
ISSN 1474-0583
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Recently, as a corollary of intensified efforts to understand the rise of right-wing populism, the topic of social recognition has gained renewed attention in sociological research. It seems that a sense of misrecognition and exclusion is shaped as much by cultural as by economic factors. Just how these elements are interlinked, however, remains a black box.

In this article, I offer an empirical contribution to this problem: I demonstrate that social recognition is nourished in everyday interpersonal relations and that people negotiate ideas of economic deservingness in their social surroundings—so much so, in fact, that they make social ties dependent on them. The article studies the case of the post-1989 societal shifts in formerly communist-ruled East Germany, a context marked by a pervasive sense of social exclusion today. In interviews with 41 individuals who lived through this rupturing process, I identify a crucial dynamic of social misrecognition in how respondents evaluate other peoples’ strategies of coping with the economic fallout of this time and how they draw—often deeply personal—boundaries between themselves and others on these grounds.

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