The article tries to explain the social and political upheaval in the former GDR by using a theoretical model worked out by Pierre Bourdieu. Transition research within political science focuses mainly on the functional prerequisites necessary to liberalize and democratize authoritarian regimes. Bourdieu’s model, however, also accounts for the historical events, the political actors and their actions, and the social and political mechanisms through which a rapid change can be realized. By applying this approach on the system’s change in the GDR it is not only possible to determine the structural and functional conditions of the upheaval, but also to describe the concrete historical processes of how the upheaval took place. The approach used here is an attempt to mediate between ‘agency’ and ‘structure’ and thus to integrate historical argumentation into the theoretical framework provided by political science and sociology.

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