Presenting the German Democratic Republic as a therapeutic state: Alcoholism and the law in Polizeiruf 110

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Abstract

Alcoholism was a politically sensitive topic in the GDR, yet three episodes of the crime series "Polizeiruf 110" tackled it on primetime television in the 1980s. Their depiction of alcoholism corresponded to the ‘disease concept’ that was developed in the USA, presenting it as an individual medical issue and thereby deflecting attention away from socio-economic factors. The episodes cast the GDR police in a humanitarian, paternalist role: they function as front-line therapeutic agents, securing alcoholics access to the medical treatment that they require. Whilst Nicholas Kittrie argues that the growth of the ‘therapeutic state’ in the USA entailed the partial divestment of criminal law, no such divestment occurs in "Polizeiruf 110": detectives function as both therapists and penalizers. Letters in the German Broadcasting Archive show how GDR viewers measured this ‘therapeutic state’ against their own experiences, and how the films allowed them to attribute contrasting political intentions to the producers.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)31-48
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of European Studies
Volume45
Issue number1
Early online date13 Jan 2015
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2015

Keywords

  • alcoholism
  • crime
  • GDR
  • Polizeiruf 110
  • television
  • therapeutic state
  • viewers

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