The Impact of Key Figures on the Formation and Stabilization of Social Movements: The Independent Peace Movement in East Germany

  • Alexander Leistner Universität Leipzig
Keywords: social movements, leadership, key figures, biography, peace activists, GDR peace movement, reconstructive research, biographical research


By analyzing key figures of the GDR peace movement, this article illustrates that the conceptualization of social movements should be conducted in a differentiated manner. Based on empirical research of continuous activism in the peace movement, the paper identifies typical functional key figures at different stages in movement development, such as the pioneer, the mentor, the martyr, the veteran, the mastermind, the networker and bridge-builder, the facilitator and advocate, the renegade and the agent provocateur. Narrative-biographical interviews are analyzed by looking at the processes of reinforcing activist identity. I will show that these functional roles are crucial for the formation and stabilization of social movements. Furthermore, it is shown that the local constellation of key figures promotes the development of the movement as a whole. URN:


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