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Richardson-Little exposes the forgotten history of human rights in the German Democratic Republic, placing the history of the Cold War, Eastern European dissidents and the revolutions of 1989 in a new light. By demonstrating how even a communist dictatorship could imagine itself to be a champion of human rights, this book challenges popular narratives on the fall of the Berlin Wall and illustrates how notions of human rights evolved in the Cold War as they were re-imagined in East Germany by both dissidents and state officials. Ultimately, the fight for human rights in East Germany was part of a global battle in the post-war era over competing conceptions of what human rights meant. Nonetheless, the collapse of dictatorship in East Germany did not end this conflict, as citizens had to choose for themselves what kind of human rights would follow in its wake.Read more
- Challenges popular narratives on the fall of the Berlin Wall and proposes a new interpretation of the role of human rights in the fall of the Berlin Wall and the end of the Cold War
- Debunks the myth of Western liberal democracies as the sole arbiters of human rights, and provides a unique perspective on the history of human rights by focusing on the agency of actors in East Germany and socialist Eastern Europe
- Highlights the global nature of human rights politics in a field that is deeply Eurocentric by illuminating the influence of decolonization and the Third World on the Eastern bloc
Reviews & endorsements
‘In this pioneering book, Richardson-Little upends conventional wisdom that human rights are the natural enemy of authoritarian regimes. With great range and verve, he shows how the East German socialist state used human rights ideologically and diplomatically to stabilize and legitimate its fledging socialist republic, and only in the last decade of the regime did human rights emerge a source of dissent and resistance against the state. This is a model revisionist account of the protean and multi-directional nature of human rights under socialism.' Paul Betts, University of OxfordSee more reviews
‘Finally a book on human rights history by someone deeply conversant with socialist thought, state-socialist regimes, and current human rights historiography. This is a rare and valuable book as well as a good read. It will be a reference point for years to come.' Lora Wildenthal, Rice University, Texas
‘By showing the centrality of human rights to both the legitimacy and the downfall of the GDR, The Human Rights Dictatorship makes a major contribution to the global history of human rights. In this richly textured history, Ned Richardson-Little shows how East Germans instrumentalized human rights in the name of numerous shifting ideals: socialism, anti-fascism, anti-imperialism, Christianity, peace the environment, democracy, and ultimately, the creation of a unified German state.' Celia Donert, University of Liverpool
‘Eagerly anticipated, Ned Richardson-Little's book breaks important new ground. Overcoming simple narratives of the GDR's erosion, he impressively uncovers the multiple meanings with which East German actors infused human rights - including state elites seeking to buttress their socialist project. Richly nuanced, the book advances our understanding of the twisted trajectory of human rights history in the 20th century.' Jan Eckel, Eberhard Karls-Universität Tübingen
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- Date Published: June 2020
- format: Paperback
- isbn: 9781108440783
- dimensions: 227 x 153 x 15 mm
- weight: 0.42kg
- availability: In stock
Table of Contents
Introduction. The exploitation of man by man has been abolished!
1. Creating a human rights dictatorship, 1945–1956
2. Inventing socialist human rights, 1953–1966
3. Socialist human rights on the world stage, 1966–1978
4. The ambiguity of human rights from below, 1968–1982
5. The rise of dissent and the collapse of socialist human rights, 1980–1989
6. Revolutions won and lost, 1989–1990
Conclusion. Erasures and rediscoveries.
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