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Social Quality in Hungary

In the Framework of ENIQ

Szilvia Altorjai and Erzsébet Bukodi

In Hungary, the social and economic conditions have dramatically changed after the political and economical transition. The collapse of communism in 1989–90 forced Hungary, as well as other CEE countries, to reconstruct their political, economic and cultural identity. This process has become known as the ‘transition’ and Europeanisation or globalisation (Manning 2004). Within this transition the ability of adjustment to new conditions has become one of the most important factors – if not the most – in the process of diminishing risks and enhancing life chances. The theoretical and methodological elements of the social quality approach were established in the last two to three years. In this article we aim to outline the most important elements of social quality in the conditional factors socio-economic security, social inclusion, social cohesion as well as social empowerment in Hungary. Here, besides a short description of the national context we will emphasise only the key findings according to the four conditional factors. In the third part of the article we outline some aspects of the Hungarian employment policy.

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Hadley Z. Renkin

Violent attacks on gay and lesbian activities in the public sphere, coupled with verbal aggression against sexual minorities by right-wing politicians in Hungary and other postsocialist countries, illustrate the centrality of sexuality in questions of postsocialist transition. This article discusses the limits of current scholarly interpretations of homophobia in postsocialist countries. Drawing on ethnographic fieldwork on LGBT activism in Hungary, it argues that by undertaking public projects that assert multiple forms of identity and community, LGBT people, although often portrayed as passive objects of the changing configurations of power of Hungary's transition, have raised a radical challenge to traditional imaginings of the boundaries between national and transnational meanings. It is this challenge—the proposal of a “queering” of belonging—to which right-wing, nationalist actors have responded with public violence.

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Gergely Rosta

This essay analyses the changing religiosity of the Hungarian youth population between the ages of 15 and 29 after the millennium. The basis for this empirical investigation is provided by the three waves (2000, 2004, 2008) of the National Youth Study. From their results, a similar picture emerges on the religiosity of the youth as from other nation-wide surveys, in relation to the whole adult population. Since the first Youth Study a slow but steady decline has been witnessed in different dimensions of religiosity (practice, faith, self-classification). It is especially salient for institutionalised religiosity. At the same time, the vast majority of the Hungarian youth confess to believing in some kind of supernatural instance, though not necessarily a traditional Christian one.

The socio-demographical background to the differences in religiosity can be partly explained by the secularisation theory, but the effects of an expanded religious education are present too. In contrast to the secularisation thesis, however, the transmission of traditional religious conviction is much more likely in families with better educational backgrounds than other parts of the society, a phenomenon which points to a more and more elite type of church religiosity in Hungary.

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Susan Zimmermann

This study argues that the changing relationship between paid work, unpaid work and paid care work and social services, and the struggle over this relationship and its implications, constituted key factors in shaping the ‘state socialist’ gender regime in Hungary from 1949 to the 1980s. The study is based on a wealth of recent scholarship, original sources and Hungarian research conducted during the state socialist period. It tries to give a balanced and inclusive analysis of key elements of women’s and gender history in the state socialist project of ‘catching-up development’ in a semi-peripheral patriarchal society, pointing to constraints, challenges and results of this project. Due to the complex interaction of a variety of actors and factors impacting on and shaping the state socialist gender regime not all women were affected in the same way by state socialist politics and gender struggles. Women’s status and opportunities, as well as gender relations, differed according to class, ethnicity and economic sector. As a rule, the gender struggle over state socialist family and gender arrangements in Hungary sought to reduce or temper tensions and conflicts by avoiding substantial or direct attack against the privileges of men both within the home and elsewhere.

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Erzsébet Bukodi and Péter Róbert

European labour-market patterns tend to contain a growing element of flexible employment, which deviates from the norm of the secure, lifelong career. What do we mean by flexible work? Dex and McCullogh (1997) offer the following definition: ‘Flexible work … is a description of a change in the distribution of labour market jobs, away from standard full-time permanent employee contracts, and towards a growth in various types of non-standard employment forms.’ Pollert (1988) argues that flexibility refers to a combination of different factors. It involves firms being flexible enough to be able to respond quickly and efficiently to technological and economic changes; it also refers to organisations that are flexible in terms of employee numbers. In addition, it refers to a workforce that is multi-skilled and/or flexible with regard to time. This may result in a trend for firms to retain ‘core ’employees who work flexibly, with a periphery of employees who are flexible because they are irregularly employed. The result of this process is that employment is no longer as stable as it was. The development of the new, flexible labour market undermines security, leading to the so-called ‘risk society’ (Crompton et al.,1996).

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Making an Appearance

The Formation of Women's Groups in Hungary

Katalin Fábián

This essay presents a historical analysis of Hungarian women's movements from the late eighteenth century until recent years. As women's organising in Hungary responded to both internal and international economic and political forces, it also revealed four sets of connections across the diverse historical landscape. First, these groups have framed their political aims to achieve greater legitimacy by selectively emphasising their international connections. The second parallel is the particularly harsh treatment women's groups have received when the dominant ideology changed. Third, in response to this treatment and for sheer self-preservation, women activists re-framed contemporary events and re-interpreted history in general and women's history in particular to strengthen their sense of identity and self-justification. The fourth common feature is the often difficult relationship between women's groups and the state. These four features potentially counterbalanced the many disagreements among women's groups over what they perceive to be women's appropriate roles and the definition of feminism, and persistently led to women's mobilisation and actions. Controversies around feminism ignite and fundamentally influence how and why women's groups become implicated in politics. Looking at the case of Eastern Europe, and especially focusing on Hungary, this essay argues that feminism has helped to establish much common ground among activists.

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Faltering dialogue?

For a doubly rooted cosmopolitan anthropology

Chris Hann

Both inside and outside Europe, many societies have drawn on their own textual traditions to generate bodies of knowledge possessing some affinity to comparative socio-cultural anthropology. The premise of this article is that even where the focus is restricted to one country or one nationality, such “national ethnography“ should be considered as a legitimate branch of a broadly conceived anthropological field, rather than belittled or denigrated. Under socialism, both native and foreign researchers carried out fieldwork in similar rural locations in Hungary. A dialogue began, but it seems to have weakened in recent years, despite the fact that access to the region has become incomparably easier. Another change is that Hungarian students are now able to study socio-cultural anthropology as a seperate program in a separate faculty, distinct from Hungarian néprajz. This article is critical of such developments and takes the Hungarian example to argue for the benefits of institutional unification. The resulting department would be larger and more cosmopolitan than the old departments of néprajz, but it would retain its local roots. The integration of “national ethnography“ into research and teaching programs in anthropology would facilitate the persistence of distinctive national, regional, and institution-specific intellectual traditions; such departments could also facilitate the work of fieldworkers from abroad.

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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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Entangled traditions of race

Physical anthropology in Hungary and Romania, 1900–1940

Marius Turda

This article discusses the relationship between race and physical anthropology in Hungary and Romania between 1900 and 1940. It begins by looking at institutional developments in both countries and how these influenced the most important Hungarian and Romanian anthropologists' professional and research agendas. Drawing from a wide range of primary sources, the article reveals the significant role the concept of race played in articulating anthropological and ethnic narratives of national belonging. It is necessary to understand the appeal of the idea of race in this context. With idealized images of national communities and racial hierarchies creeping back into Eastern European popular culture and politics, one needs to understand the latent and often unrecognized legacies of race in shaping not only scientific disciplines like anthropology, but also the emergence and entrancement of modern Hungarian and Romanian nationalism.

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Theatre and Ideology

Staging The Merchant of Venice at the Hungarian National Theatre in 1940 and 1986

Zoltán Imre

The article deals with the 1940 and the 1986 stagings of The Merchant of Venice in Hungary and with the forty-six-year gap between them. Comparing these events, the article draws attention to the ways in which the dominant ideology of these entirely different regimes influenced the interpretation of Shakespeare’s play and its staging.