Weak ties as a liability the case of East Germany

  • Völker B
  • Flap H
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Examined personal networks of people living in the former German Democratic Republic (GDR) during communism, and social capital theory is used to explain why communism did not produce social integration. In a communist society, weak ties are a liability. GDR citizens trusted only people whom they knew well. People in the former GDR were aware of political control and the damage potential of weak ties, they invested only cautiously in others. They discussed politics only with people whom they truly trusted (the 'niche'). Yet the shortages of the command economy forced people to rely on weak informal ties to secure necessary goods and services. Personal networks in East Germany had two specialized parts each kept separate from the other. The authors' hypothese are tested using multilevel models and triad analyses with data collected in 1992 and 1994 from two random samples in Leipzig and Dresden (n=489). Results show that during communism people indeed created 'niches.' Provision networks were maintained that were small, heterogeneous, and consisted of weak and uniplex ties. Furthermore, there was a relational 'gap' between the niche and the provision network. These differences have gradually been vanishing since the fall of the Wall. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2016 APA, all rights reserved)

Author-supplied keywords

  • Communism
  • Liability
  • Social capital
  • Social networks
  • Trust
  • Weak ties

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  • Beate Völker

  • Henk Flap

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