Breaking and Mending of Social Bonds

In Chapter 7 of Beyond Totalitarianism ((Shelia Fitzpatrick and Alf Lüdtke, “Energizing the Everyday: On the Breaking and Making of Social Bonds in Nazism and Stalinism,” in Beyond Totalitarianism: Stalinism and Nazism Compared, ed. Michael Geyer and Shelia Fitzpatrick (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2009).)) Shelia Fiztpatrick and Alf Lüdtke discuss the breaking and mending of social bonds present in Nazi Germany and Stalinist Soviet Russia.  There a several types of bonds including inclusion, exclusion, and creation and renewal bonds.  Within exclusion bonds, Fitzpatrick and Lüdtke examine family bonds.  On page 286 it states:

It should be noted that implicit in this whole inquiry is the assumption that family bonds are the sources of support and that any weakening of them makes individuals mentally vulnerable and prone to loneliness.  Yet, families are not necessarily harmonious but often the source of pain, distress, and hardship; they may be rent with anger to the point that the family is incapable of offering support to its members and escape may seem highly desirable.  Such stifling family situations have often been discussed in societies facing both commodification and individualization of social and cultural relationships.

One bond that is constantly broken and then mended is that of family.  While family bonds are supposed to be strong, they typically dissolved within Germany and Soviet Russia at the time due to stronger ties and bonds to the state.  Often times children would rat out parents and other family members to state officials for offenses being done.  This intrigued me because it simply shows the great power of manipulation the state had over the individuals.  If family members were able to go against their own family to protect the state, how could individuals trust anyone?

2 thoughts on “Breaking and Mending of Social Bonds

  1. They couldn’t, unless you had children that were quiet in school, which I would say that would be rare. Once the state took over education and emphasized the state before all else, children would have become more susceptible in becoming ‘indirect’ spies to the state to see what individuals were thinking at home. The idea that the state emphasized education, particularly with the younger children is a text book case of installing fear amongst the population and forming distrust between each other. It’s also a case of intelligent thinking amongst dictatorship who care about the future of their rules or the futures of their parties.

  2. I think in some ways that could have been an underlying goal of the policies, especially in the Soviet Union. While both Germany and the Soviet Union stressed family in the sense of reproduction, Fitzpatrick and Lüdtke point out that “the importance of family bonds was a more problematic issue” in the Soviet Union compared to Nazi Germany. ((Fitzpatrick and Lüdtke, Energizing the Everyday” 282-284.)) In the Soviet Union, loyalty of the individual to the state was of utmost importance therefore promoting the importance of family bonds went against the ideology of Soviet Union. The state didn’t have a problem if people didn’t trust their family members as long as they were loyal to the state. This is supported by the Pavlik Morozov story which was used as propaganda during the time.

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