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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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Memory transmittance and political formation in the family


Private family memory and public collective memory play equally important roles in young people’s political formation. Both of them may serve as a reference point, defining young people’s perception, which means that they could either strengthen or weaken each other. On the one hand, if family identity is refused, public discourses of collective memory may function as a ground for criticizing family memories. On the other hand, if family identity is accepted, then family memories may serve as a critical basis for evaluating institutionalized narratives. However, identification with the family memories is embedded into the complex emotional climate and communicative patterns of the family. If these patterns are distorted, then family memories become alienated, resulting in a rupture in the chain of remembering. As the previous chapter indicated, in Hungary family memories of the 20th century traumas are particularly important, as mostly it is them that are capable of providing tools for a democratic way of overcoming memory vacuum. Without living family memories the chances of the emergence of an alienated, indifferent or radical political culture grows high.

In a certain sense families provide ‘cultural tools’ which play a central role in unsettled times and function as a latent frame of interpreting reality in more settled times (Swidler 1986). At the same time the transmission of family memories has its own difficulties as well. Memory and political culture are always embedded in the context of other dimensions of one’s identity.11 Therefore, in order to understand the...

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