Social and Work Relations of Professional Women: An Academic Collective in the GDR

in East Central Europe
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Abstract

The work collective is a new institution that has developed in the socialist countries of Eastern Europe. It is part of a general effort to establish work and the place of work as a central reference point in people's lives. In an earlier study, which explored the effects of pressures at work on marriage and friendship relations among professional women and men in the United States and two socialist societies,1 quite unsolicited comments of respondents both from the Soviet Union and in the German Democratic Republic made it clear that the work collective was indeed an element of considerable importance in their personal lives. To explore it further promised to reveal important facets of daily life in a socialist country. When I had the chance to do a series of intensive interviews with professional women directly or indirectly affiliated with a university in the German Democratic Republic (GDR),2 I therefore decided to focus my talks on the work collective. I sought to clarify the formal structure and the tasks of the work collective, as well as to understand the actual role of the collective in the lives of the women I spoke with. That I talked mainly with professional women associated with one university is a limitation but one that also yields advantages. I was able to tap a variety of perspectives on the same or very similar work groups and to gain deeper insights into what they really mean for the practicing women professionals participating in them.

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