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Radicalism and indifference

Memory transmission, political formation and modernization in Hungary and Europe

Domonkos Sik

Most theories of radicalization focus on the birth of antidemocratic ideas, semantics, behavior patterns and organizations. However, such focus is one-sided: radicalization is as much about the forgetting of historical lessons and the weakening of a democratic consensus, as the spreading of populist ideas. A case study of public and private processes of memory transmission in Hungary reveals how the ambiguous relation to modernization affects political formation: the failures provoke populist reactions, while the successes result in political indifference. The combination of these two political cultures creates a dangerous compound including both the opportunity for the birth of antidemocratic semantics and their ignorance. The author analyzes the potential of such «incubation of radicalism» on a European survey.


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Political formation in divergent constellations of Hungarian modernization


The general characteristics of experiencing modernity in Central Europe were elaborated in the first chapter as an idealtype in the Weberian sense. Obviously, idealtypes cannot be detected in any actual social constellation; instead, they serve as a measure of interpreting empirical patterns. In the following chapter two loca- tions are chosen based on this idealtype: the two towns, Ózd and Sopron represent two significantly different tracks of Hungarian modernization, thus they highlight the two opposite ends of the distorted Central European experience of moderniza- tion.13 These two locations have similar population sizes and they are both situated far from the economic and cultural center of Hungary, near to the border, while being micro-regional centers. However, they have a completely different, inverse social history throughout the 20th century. Sopron is situated near the Austrian border and has a long history as a city since the age of the ancient Roman Empire. It has been a traditional regional center since the Middle Ages, which resulted in having an economically strong, well informed bourgeoisie. Accordingly, the town was heavily involved in the early processes of modernization, taking part in its emancipatory potentials and pathologies as well. Sopron invested into industrialization, applied the latest technical innovations and organized itself as an autonomous political community, while facing the negative consequences of alienation and exploitation. In the interwar era, however, accord- ing to the general patterns of Hungarian modernization, these processes became ambiguous as the forced nation building hindered them. During the state socialist period what...

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