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From “Liberal Minimum” to the “Complete Catalog of Human Rights”

On Central Concepts of Hungarian Postdissident Liberals

Ferenc Laczó

This article analyzes how five leading Hungarian postdissident liberal thinkers conceptually constructed their view of liberalism in the early years of postcommunism. Studying Beszélő, the most signi cant liberal journal during the early years of representative democracy, it shows how they did so through references to political “threats” and the idea of a “liberal minimum” (János Kis), local liberal and democratic traditions and “progressive patriotism” (Miklós Szabó), the ongoing “liberal-conservative revolution” and the creation of a “new political community” (Gáspár Miklós Tamás), antipolitics and “expertise” (György Konrád), and the “complete catalog of human rights” and the agenda of “modernization” (István Eörsi), respectively. Next to its conceptual analysis of heavily influential individual thinkers, the article discusses the ambition of postdissident Hungarian liberals to harmonize liberal and democratic tenets. Last but not least, it elaborates on the left-wing origins of many of their central concepts that, as suggested here, ultimately hindered liberalism's assumption of a central position in the new political system.

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Victor Cazares, Itay Snir, José María Rosales, Ferenc Laczó, Anja Osiander, and Heikki Haara

Zachary Sayre Schiffman, The Birth of the Past (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2011), xvi + 316 pp.

Sophia Rosenfeld, Common Sense: A Political History (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2011), 337 pp.

Joris Gijsenbergh, Saskia Hollander, Tim Houwen, and Wim de Jong, eds., Creative Crises of Democracy (Brussels: Peter Lang, 2012), 444 pp.

Mary L. Dudziak, War Time: An Idea, Its History, Its Consequences (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012), 221 pp.

Anneli Wallentowitz, “Imperialismus” in der japanischen Sprache am Übergang vom 19. zum 20. Jahrhundert: Begriffsgeschichte im außereuropäischen Kontext [“Imperialism” in the Japanese language at the turn of the 20th century: A history of concepts in a non-European context] (Bonn: Bonn University Press, 2011), 380 pp., incl. Japanese-German glossary.

Annabel S. Brett, Changes of State: Nature and the Limits of the City in Early Modern Natural Law (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2011), 242 pp.