The Decade of Intellectuals

Monday, 8 October 2018, 4:00pm - 5:30pm, IWM library
Regime change has occurred in different ways in East Central Europe. One way was a combination of a huge umbrella movement and elite negotiations. Another was an eruptive non-violent revolution. In the case of Hungary, political change was driven by a relatively small counter-elite group which negotiated the terms of transition with the power holders. I will discuss the rise and fall of this counter-elite during the “decade of intellectuals” between, 1981 and 1993.

Never before or after did intellectuals play such a decisive political role in the modern history of Hungary. On the other hand, the political role of intellectuals has changed even within this decade. Theories of intellectuals will be applied to describe the nature of their political activity. In the first part of the decade, their activity as dissidents can be described as truth-tellers and holders of moral capital. In the second part the behaviour of negotiators will be analysed as founders and legislators of a ‘new beginning’. Finally, the last part of the decade represents diverging avenues toward the role of professional politician or the ‘movement-intellectual’. Who were these people? Exactly how many of them participated in the political activism before, during, and after the regime change? What did they think of themselves, how can we describe their ideas, discourses, and strategies? To what extent did an elite-driven regime change contribute to the establishment elitist democracy in the post-transition era?

These questions will be discussed in the light of historical documents, interviews with participants, and theories of intellectuals and social change.

András Bozóki is Professor of Political Science at the Central European University in Budapest.   Currently he is a Visiting Fellow at the IWM.

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