Generations in motion : The transition in Hungary and the democratic change of regime, 1987-94

Abstract: This dissertation explains the transition - the change of political system from a one-party state to a multi-party system - in Hungary as the result of a generation change, where different generations with different historical experiences either lost or gained political capital. It also includes a review of what consequences the changes in the political field had for the intellectual and economic fields. All in all, there were four generations involved in this process. The oldest one consisted of Party members whose Party engagement dated back to World War II, which was their most decisive political-historical experience. They had been in power since the 1956 revolution, they wanted to keep the one-party state basically unchanged, and they were the net losers of political capital in 1987-90. The next generation, whose decisive historical experience was the 1956 revolution, had members both within the Party and outside of it. Some of the Party members took sides with the older generation, others (particularly those with technocratic training) with the younger one, but for many members of this generation the suppressed memories of the revolution caused a latent inclination towards nationalist sentiments. This was not least the case within the opposition, where many had been able to pursue professional careers in spite of activities during the revolution. Those who managed to take advantage of the nationalist feelings among the electorate were net winners of political capital in 1987-90. The 1990 elections brought the opposition into government, but it lost political capital during this government’s period of office, and finally also the 1994 parliamentary elections. The economic reform NEM in the late 1960s was the decisive experience for the next generation, most of whose members were skilled technocrats. The opposition members of this generation usually preferred liberalism. Most of their peers in the Party advocated reform socialism. These, along with reform-minded members of the previous generation, brought about the change within the Party, but also, with the opposition, the change of political system. Although they also were net winners of political capital before 1990, they got into opposition, and some of those who had been employed within the government administration had to leave it, often for a business career. An influx from the intellectual field compensated for this outflux from the political field. They continued amassing political capital in 1990-94 and got into government after the 1994 elections. The youngest generation, also trained technocrats, had experienced some intellectual freedom in the 70s and the 80s, but also the decay of Kádárism. Wanting to put an end to the one-party state, they have been net winners of political capital since 1988. Still, only a few of them have got some government experience.

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