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Embedded Contention – Civil Society and Social Movements in Hungary

Daniel Mikecz
Centre for Social Sciences, Hungarian Academy of Sciences
Daniel Mikecz
Centre for Social Sciences, Hungarian Academy of Sciences
Open Panel

Abstract

For the dissidents of the communist bloc civil society embraced the political involvement of the broader society, an independent public sphere, the freedom of association and political pluralism. The concept resembled the one of Adam Michnik, who saw the elaboration of a second public sphere as an appropriate strategy against the omnipotence and omnipresence of the communist regime, since even in the softer regimes, no single association, media, institution of science or higher education could exist beyond the supervision of the reigning power. This strategy proved to be successful particularly in Poland, where the opposition could mobilize wide masses of the working class as well. Whereas in Hungary the second public sphere remained much more an alternative niche for intellectuals, however it played an important role in the mobilization campaigns in the late ‘80s. According to this still prevailing liberal concept, the civil society monitors the state, transmits the distinct social interests, creates forms of participation and fulfills those tasks which the state can’t complete alone. In Hungary, the civil organizations are the main scene for participatory politics, due to – among other things – the limited amount of resources, the apolitical political culture, the peculiar role of intellectuals. Bearers of western movement themes and mobilization patterns until the recent years were civil organizations of exclusive intellectual circles (like Védegylet), even the radical righteous movement seeks to gain legitimacy through voluntary activities (righteous environmentalism). In my paper I’d like to investigate to which extent social movements are embedded in the civil society concept, how this liberal concept influenced the protest forms (cf. petitions of noted intellectuals), mobilization patterns and strategies of social movements, and whether an independent movement sector exists at all. In my investigation I’d like to rely on my previous empirical researches and on the Hungarian and international literature of the topic. Furthermore I''ll examine the recent developments in the movement sector, namely, whether the protests against the new Hungarian media law changed the nature of Hungarian contentious politics.