World Politics

Research Article

Exit, Voice, and the Fate of the German Democratic Republic: An Essay in Conceptual History

Albert O. Hirschmana1*

a1 Professor of Social Science, Emeritus, at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton

Abstract

The revolutionary events of 1989 in Eastern Europe took a special shape in the German Democratic Republic: large-scale flights of citizens to the Federal Republic of Germany combined with increasingly powerful mass demonstrations in the major cities to bring down the communist regime. This conjunction of private emigration and public protest contrasts with the way these distinct responses to discontent had been previously experienced, primarily as alternatives. The forty-year history of the German Democratic Republic thus represents a particularly rich theater of operation for the concepts of “exit” and “voice,” which the author had introduced in his book Exit, Voice, and Loyalty (1970). The events of 1989 are scrutinized in some detail as they trace a more complex pattern of interaction than had been found to prevail in most previous studies.

Albert O. Hirschman is Professor of Social Science, Emeritus, at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton. His most recent book is The Rhetoric of Reaction: Perversity, Futility, Jeopardy (1991).

* For useful comments on an early draft of this essay, I am much indebted to Albrecht Funk, Arthur J. McAdams, Bernhard Peters, and Rebecca Scott. See also fn. 18 for further acknowledgments.