Some Peculiarities of the Social Structure in Hungary after the Democratic Transition Cover Image

A társadalomszerkezet változásainak néhány jellegzetessége a rendszerváltás Magyarországán
Some Peculiarities of the Social Structure in Hungary after the Democratic Transition

Author(s): Tibor Valuch
Subject(s): History
Published by: AETAS Könyv- és Lapkiadó Egyesület

Summary/Abstract: Hungarian society underwent significant changes in the 20th century, especially in the second half of the century. After the regime change in 1989–90, the 1990s largely witnessed the return of bourgeois social conditions. The paper discusses how the social stratification and the social structure of Hungarian society changed in the nineties and later, and tries to grasp the main elements of this transformation. A social organization based on law, freedom, democracy and autonomy replaced the centralized, authoritarian order. Hungarian economy was radically transformed from a planned economy with quasi-market elements to a market economy. But which were the specific factors that influenced or determined the social position of individuals? In the decade following 1989, under market conditions, educational background, specialized training and applied knowledge, that is, any convertible knowledge, became more valuable. Symbolic capital, such as network, creativity, the spirit of enterprise and the ability to adjust, also took on a new significance. The amount of previously accumulated capital, or the lack of it, notably influenced the position of individuals or groups; property became a determining factor once again. Income and wealth inequalities were gradually increasing. Positions obtained in the formal and informal economies often merged, either because the former ceased to exist altogether or because the informal activity was transformed into an individual or joint enterprise. This led to the emergence of a stratum of entrepreneurs. By the midnineties, the number of individual or joint entrepreneurs exceeded one million, a third of whom were involved in a dysfunctional enterprise. Many of those who had been forced into private enterprises got there as a result of widely tolerated tax evasion. On the one hand, it seems that the social transformation leading to marketization and the emergence of the private sector, which had started even before the democratic transition, continued even in the 1990s. On the other hand, the social positions in Hungarian society were rearranged. The decrease in the number and ratio of wage-earners also proved to be a lasting trend. The elite was growing, its composition became more heterogeneous while its power was limited by legal and political constraints. The stratum of those who can be described as the “big bourgeoisie”, including the economic elite, expanded considerably. The middle classes became narrower and more segmented. The groups we can call petty bourgeois also multiplied significantly. The individual village farmer assumed greater importance. The city and village proletariat still remained a large segment of Hungarian society. Hidden unemployment became open and massive. Generally speaking, social mobility had clearly decreased by the end of the twentieth century.

  • Issue Year: 2013
  • Issue No: 4
  • Page Range: 101-118
  • Page Count: 18
  • Language: Hungarian