Vagueness and Visions. Biographical Processes of Professionalization among Women in Leading Positions in Social Welfare in East Germany
The theoretical focus of this article which is based on empirical findings of a biographical study about women in leadings positions in social welfare in East Germany is on the relationship between biography and institution. After the breakdown of the German Democratic Republic and its political institutional order, the West German institutional system was extended into the domain of the new federal states. All women experienced the field of private and public social welfare as a biographically grounded sphere of action. At the same time the theoretical perspective of "professions in process" (STRAUSS, 1991) is helpful to understand the women as strategic actors in the process of constructing new institutions. It was possible to discover four empirical types. All of these types represent distinct biographical process structures which are supported or stimulated by the processes of institutionalization in the field of private and independent social welfare. However, in the long run a mutually stabilizing nexus of biographies and institutionalized fields of action is only possible in those cases in which a political or moral mission is a constitutive part of a biographical process of emancipation and in which the women develop a professional habitus.
biography; institution; institutionalization; radical societal change; social welfare; negotiation; process of professionalization; reconstructive social research; biographical research