“Halved Globalization?" The Business Practices and Scope of Action of the GDR Foreign Trade Organizations
The project examines how individual foreign trade transactions of the GDR took place and what role the state-monopolized foreign trade enterprises played in the preparation and execution of those transactions. Of particular interest is whether and what scope for action existed for individual foreign trade enterprises in the GDR's institutional structure, and how this was filled. It will also be discussed whether foreign trade enterprises adapted their practices to the increasingly internationalized markets.
The organization and management of the GDR's foreign trade can only be understood properly as situated between the poles of dependence on global trade and the planned economy's striving for autonomy. In historical micro-studies, the project discusses the behavior of various selected foreign trade enterprises that took place in this tense situation. The guiding question in all chapters is whether the behavior of the foreign trade organizations corresponded more closely to a bureaucratic organization within a planned economy or whether the foreign trade organizations followed a market economy logic. This guiding question can be divided into several aspects. First, it should be asked whether the goals of the foreign trade organizations were in line with political guidelines or whether entrepreneurial rationale determined them. Of course, these goals do not necessarily have to contradict each other. Second, it should be noted that the scope for action was determined by different environments in which the trade organizations operated: by the political and economic decisions within the GDR, the general conditions and competitive situation in the capitalist markets, and the political and economic decisions in the socialist economic area. The project strives to discuss how the foreign trade organizations dealt with the sometimes contradictory demands of these different environments and which demands prevailed at which moments. Finally, the impact of the foreign trade organizations on institutional conditions at the national or international level will be determined and evaluated. The project's period of investigation covers Honecker's reign, from the 1970s to the late 1980s.
Leibniz Center for Contemporary History Potsdam
Am Neuen Markt 1
E-Mail: senoner [at] zzf-potsdam.de