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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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Situating Hungarian modernization: the Central European experience of modernity


Modernity can be approached from many angles: from an economic point of view the essence of modernity is capitalism; from a political point of view it is representative democracy; from a cultural point of view it is the Enlightenment; from a social point of view it is functional differentiation. These dimensions of modernization have implied different forms of reflection, they have been crystallized in various social sciences. Among the different self-reflections of modernity, sociology plays a particular role as it claims to grasp not only a specific sphere of action but to understand modernity as such. Sociology was originally born as the inheritor of the philosophy of history, with a specific aim of becoming the self-reflection of modernity. Obviously, since the beginning of sociological thought many divergent branches have emerged and the majority of them have left behind this synthesizing heritage as a ‘non-scientific’ or ‘over-ambitious’ ballast. Only critical theories and sociologies embrace this perspective until today. Originating from Marx’s social criticism they not only reflect on the emerging new forms of social integration but also seek the horizon of the emancipatory potentials and dangers of these phenomena. Even if this intention is not explicit in some cases, implicitly it is present among the background presumptions of various versions of social criticism. As emancipatory and pathological features can be identified only through a comprehensive glance, social criticisms indirectly express various horizons of modernity.

Beside being a form of expert knowledge, various forms of social criticism are...

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