2008–2018: Crisis and Hegemony in Hungary - Abstracts in English

Áron Márk Éber, Ágnes Gagyi, Tamás Gerőcs and Csaba Jelinek: 2008-2018: Crisis and Hegemony in Hungary

In this introductory article to the special issue, we join debates on the nature of the current Hungarian regime from a perspective that understands local processes in terms of their integration into the development of global capitalism. We see the present Hungarian regime as a local, temporary hegemony that developed in the context of the long downturn of the postwar global economic cycle, and particularly in the phase of the crisis that followed 2008. This local hegemony is characterized by a temporary, but successful compromise between the requirements of external integration and the capitalization of a new local oligarchy. As the conditions of internal and external accumulation in the context of the crisis can only be secured through increasing pressure on labour and the conditions of its reproduction, this regime is also characterized by the tools it employs to create and control the social conditions necessary for its functioning. The article discusses the structures of internal end external accumulation that provide the political economic base of the regime together with the social changes and tensions they produce. We identify four aspects of the regime's policies which serve to create the conditions of accumulation and control the tensions arousing from the accumulation process: (1) measures that maintain macrostability (the stability of external integration); (2) measures that serve to capitalize the national oligarchy, (3) measures to strengthen and integrate the middle class into the regime's structures; and (4) measures to control dominated classes. In terms of the main contradictions or tensions produced by the regime's functioning we stress its dependence on external growth, and a growing crisis of social reproduction.


Áron Márk Éber: Class Structure in Hungary from a Global Perspective

This paper proposes a framework for the analysis of class structure in Hungary from a global perspective and aims to answer the question: what kind of class relations and class positions has the historical evolution after 2008 and 2010. The paper interprets the class structure of Hungarian society as a semi-peripheral class structure embedded in the capitalist world-economy or modern world-system. To explore these relationships, the analysis first examines the relationship between the capital-labor relationship that organizes class relations and the core-periphery relationship that organizes the capitalist world-system. As a second step, the paper examines, in a global and historical context, the class-shaping effect of the local state and the struggle of politically organized classes and class alliances (political-economic blocs) to gain key positions in the state. Finally, the analysis provides an answer to the question of how it could organize itself as a ruling class in the struggle to win the state in 2010, its relationship with dominated classes (local labour), intermediate and mediator classes ("middle classes" of the semi-periphery), and with three major fractions of capital producing locally.


Gergely Csányi: Gender Regime and "Women's Policy" in Hungary 2008-2018. A Historical Political Economic Analysis

In my paper, I look at the gender regime and "women's policy" after 2008 in the context of the history of the integration of female formal and informal labour into society. I show that the productive and reproductive labour performed by women has integrated into society in different ways in different historical periods, according to way in which Hungary integrated into the world system. I argue that when looking at the gender regime and "women's policy" after 2008, in addition to the rearrangement directly caused by the crisis, we also need to consider the demographic downturn that has been continuous from the 1950s, the abortion discourse attached to this, as well as the downturn of the world economy from the 1970s. We need to consider the way in which Hungary formally reintegrated into the world system in a dependent, semi-peripheral position during the regime change.


Márton Czirfusz, Zsófia Ivanics, Cecília Kovai and Tibor Meszmann T.: Hungarian Workers in the Long Downturn

This paper analyses how workers and wage labour in Hungary are embedded into relations of global capitalism. We argue that it is the long downturn - starting with the crisis of the 1970s - that offers a critical historical perspective in understanding current Hungarian capital-labour relations. Situated in the semi-periphery of the world-capitalist system of production, a characteristic feature of the crisis in Hungary is that the state has central and instrumental active role especially in creating short-term labour policies and more generally, regulating production. 

The article discusses, first, the effects of the 1970s crisis on Hungarian workers, in terms of the systematic interdependences of wage labour, the 'second economy' and social reproduction. Second, the 1990s are framed in how workers and labour were re-embedded into global capitalist relations after the change of regime. Third, the 2008 crisis and its aftermath is conceptualized with two interrelated processes: the growing exploitation of wage labourers and the social distinction of non-wage-workers. These aspects are explored further in two empirical chapters, one on the intensification of work in the automotive sector after 2008, and another on the ethnicization of the (non-wage) worker population.


Tamás Gerőcs and András Pinkasz: Hungary in the European Division of Labour: Relocations in the Global Automotive Value Chains

The world economic reintegration of the East and Central European (ECE) region started in the midst of the global crises and the subsequent restructuring in the international division of labour in the 1970s. However, the region's economic and financial dependence on the capitalist world system did not become apparent until the political regime change in 1990 and the collapse of Comecon in 1991. The consolidation of the new international division of labor was completed after the world economic crisis in 2008. Ever since the 1970s, the ECE region's economic integration was determined by both external and internal factors. The authors strongly emphasize both the changes in the technological development that affected their access to the state of the art technologies and the reorganization of the Western European production networks around which neomercantilist institutions in the whole of the European Union has dominated. The overproduction crisis manifest in the production of the combustion engines and the increasing presence of the electric vehicles resulted in the re-organization of the German automotive value chains in the region. Due to the increasingly standardized production processes and their deteriorating ability to produce high value-added products, relocation from Germany to ECE accelerated since 2008 upon which a new semi-peripheral accumulation regime has emerged that serves the interests of German capital and reproduces ECE's historical dependency on external finance and technology. The economic policies of the Hungarian government is understood in this context as the peripheral version of the German neomercantilist model.


Ágnes Gagyi, Csaba Jelinek, Zsuzsanna Pósfai and András Vigvári: Housing after the Crisis. Financialization, Divergent Housing Policies and the Coping Strategies of Households

Housing is one of the fundamental elements of social reproduction, and also a market through which financial extraction from households takes place. We investigate the contradictory relation of these two functions of housing in Hungary in the context of the long economic downturn starting with the crisis of the 1970s. Within this period we focus particularly on the years following the economic crisis of 2008 and the political turn of 2010, which are starting points of the „System of National Cooperation"; the new conservative regime built up by prime minister Viktor Orbán and his party Fidesz . First, we analyze how the financialization of housing unfolded in Hungary primarily through mortgages, and what form it currently takes in a transformed system of semiperipheral hegemony. Second, we give an overview of how the housing policies of different governments throughout the studied period mediated between external economic pressures and social reproductive needs. The third part of the article discusses informal housing practices, which develop when the state and market do not provide housing solutions, and households rely on their own resources in responding to their housing needs. We discuss the  global economic conditions of housing (financialization), housing policies and informal practices of households as different constituent elements of the same process. Housing is both an important vehicle for investment and financial extraction, and a precondition for social reproduction. The tension of these two „expectations" from housing guides us through the various aspects and chronology of our analysis.


Emília Barna, Mária Madár, Kristóf Nagy and Márton Szarvas: Dynamic Power. Cultural Production and Policy in Hungary after 2010

Interpreting cultural production from the perspective of political economy, the paper seeks to define the material conditions of the creation and production of culture, and the social processes and structures that determine the positions of producers of culture after 2010. We analyse changes in cultural production through three areas. First, we look at the role of cultural public work in state cultural production. Then we analyse the relation between the state and the market through changes in the financing of popular music. Finally, we look at ideology production and the establishment of state hegemonic strategies through the historical changes affecting newly founded (such as the Hungarian Academy of Arts, the Hungarian National Film Fund and the Hangfoglaló Programme) or transformed institutions (such as the Public Foundation for the Research of Central and East European History and Society or the Petőfi Museum of Literature).
In these areas, the characteristics of state cultural policy after 2010, the interests of local and global market actors, and the transformation of the employment of cultural producers (incorporation and expulsion) are simultaneously present, making them suitable illustrations for the logic of cultural production and the changes and haphazard nature of cultural policy under the Orbán regime. The main goal of the analysis is shedding light on the complexity of the mechanism of hegemony, as well as the interests of, and damages suffered by, social groups in similar positions, and recognising the possibilities of action that follow from these. We suggest looking upon the downfall of the old hegemon and the incompleteness of the new one as an opportunity, as opposed to a reason for mourning over the loss of values, since it is such transitory moments that reveal the real nature of constructed social practices.



This glossary covers the most recurrent terminologies of this issue. These terms are considered keywords for the World-Systems Analysis of the current Hungarian social relations. Some of them (such as household or regime change) are common terms that are nevertheless used in this issue in specific ways. A second type (such as capital) are used by critical social scientists in various ways, thus it is worthwhile to clarify how his issue operates with them. A third group consists of terms (such as semi-periphery) that comprise key concepts of World-Systems Analysis.