This chapter examines some of the functions and roles of consumer “activation” in socialist car cultures by focusing on cars and consumers in the German Democratic Republic (GDR) from the 1970s, when a specific type of “automobile society” emerged. It considers car tinkering, repairing, and modifying within the context of Autobasteln—the social movement of do-it-yourself, amateur craftsmanship, bricolage, even modeling and home renovation. The chapter discusses Autobasteln in relation to politics, the economy, the individual bonding of man and technological artifacts, and aesthetics. It asks whether automobiles in socialist countries had not only technological but also social specifics, whether the social construction of cars was different in different societies, and whether users needed or developed other practices and skills than those used in the West.
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