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Selling, yet still social: The continuing rhetorical importance of a consociational personhood among the self-employed in eastern Germany

HAMILTON, GARETH,EUAN (2011) Selling, yet still social: The continuing rhetorical importance of a consociational personhood among the self-employed in eastern Germany. Doctoral thesis, Durham University.

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This thesis, conducted as part of a project which aims to investigate sociality and rhetoric culture theory, does so by considering the rhetorics of personhood among the self-employed in Halle an der Saale, eastern Germany, based on extensive ethnographic fieldwork among businesspersons, advisors and officials. Sociality and rhetoric culture theory suggests that it is the persuasive action of humans which effects the continuous and inventive cultural change which our evolved interactive and intersubjective abilities permits. In a region which has seen particularly intense and often negative social, political and economic change towards late capitalism as it moved from a state socialism – where the egalitarian ‘socialist personality’ was fostered alongside a vehement criticism of capitalist individualism – I investigate the rhetorical strategies the self-employed use to describe themselves, their lives and businesses as they take up this most ‘individualistic’ practice as well as those employed by government and parts of the media who encourage it. Based on participant observation, interview data and media analyses, I argue that despite tacit approval of capitalism by the self-employed, the necessity to engage in it brought about by current circumstances is rhetorically tempered by the evocation of the increased sense of solidarity and consociality eastern Germans have been long noted to claim they possess in comparison to their western co-citizens. I also suggest that highlighting these aspects, and indeed being so, offers a distinct advantage to eastern businesspersons in an increasingly competitive and precarious world of encroaching neoliberal work practices.

After a thorough introduction to sociality and rhetorical culture theory, and a consideration of research methods and ethical and reflective issues, in Chapter 3 I introduce my fieldsite and its particular context. I show how aspects of GDR rhetoric regarding work and society still abound in Halle, both in the built landscape and in publications. Chapter 4 features a media analysis of how Germans are encouraged to change to become ‘mini-corporations’ and in it, and in Chapter 5, through participation at courses, and interviews, how acceptance of this is tempered by eastern German focus on consociality, and on the importance of the person. In Chapter 6, based on participation in product promotion I show how success follows focussing on these aspects by these precarious ‘new self-employed’. In Chapter 7, I detail how through the use of promotional ‘mass-gifts’, they create sociality by evoking GDR-era social networks of sharing and consumption. Before a final conclusion, Chapter 8 shows how Halle itself uses people to market itself. I demonstrate how the city authorities, as well as the self-employed, use ‘famous son’ G. F. Handel, but also the self-employed themselves, in order to combat Halle’s negative personification as the post-industrial, socio-economically deprived ‘Grey Diva’.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Philosophy
Keywords:Germany; Rhetoric culture; Personhood; Self-employment; Entrepreneurship; Consociationality; Postsocialism; Publics; Marketing; Product promotion; Mass gifts; Halle an der Saale; George Frideric Handel
Faculty and Department:Faculty of Social Sciences and Health > Anthropology, Department of
Thesis Date:2011
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:15 Aug 2011 14:04

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