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The Introduction of Piecework in East Germany, 1945-51


  • Wayne Geerling
  • Gary B. Magee


This paper examines the introduction of piecework, a key aspect of the Soviet workplace, in occupied East Germany. As elsewhere, its implementation encountered persistent hostility from the workforce. What made this episode different, though, was that this process occurred within a context of acute economic and political uncertainty. As this paper demonstrates, the party’s various efforts to control the workplace laid the foundations for the Sovietisation of East Germany. This paper utilises a wide range of primary sources to recount this story. It focuses its attention not just on worker resistance, but also on the interactions between party and worker, between different organisations operating within the occupation zone, between the Soviet military and German communists, and within the party itself. It argues that the introduction of piecework was part of a dual process whereby the party acquired control of the economy and then learnt how to direct it. To achieve the latter, it first needed to learn how to control and direct itself. This paper also illustrates the importance of signalling mechanisms in a planned economy.

Suggested Citation

  • Wayne Geerling & Gary B. Magee, 2012. "The Introduction of Piecework in East Germany, 1945-51," Monash Economics Working Papers 07-12, Monash University, Department of Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:mos:moswps:2012-07

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Kornai, Janos, 1992. "The Socialist System: The Political Economy of Communism," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780198287766.
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    More about this item


    piecework; signalling; East Germany; norms; workplace relations; socialist competition; sovietisation;

    JEL classification:

    • D03 - Microeconomics - - General - - - Behavioral Microeconomics: Underlying Principles
    • J31 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Wages, Compensation, and Labor Costs - - - Wage Level and Structure; Wage Differentials
    • J53 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Labor-Management Relations, Trade Unions, and Collective Bargaining - - - Labor-Management Relations; Industrial Jurisprudence
    • N34 - Economic History - - Labor and Consumers, Demography, Education, Health, Welfare, Income, Wealth, Religion, and Philanthropy - - - Europe: 1913-
    • N44 - Economic History - - Government, War, Law, International Relations, and Regulation - - - Europe: 1913-
    • P31 - Economic Systems - - Socialist Institutions and Their Transitions - - - Socialist Enterprises and Their Transitions

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