Eszter Bartha


By drawing on Kideckel (2002) and Todorova and Gille (2010), this article seeks to (1) explore forms of workers’ new subalternity in the new capitalist regimes in East Germany and Hungary, and (2) argue that nostalgia for the socialist regimes functions as a means and claim of the “little man” to express social criticism. Under state socialism, workers constituted the emblematic class of the regime. After the collapse of the socialist regimes in Eastern Europe, workers faced the double challenge of the decline of the political weight and significance of the working class and the devaluation of production work in a postindustrial society. The essay analyzes the postsocialist experience of East German and Hungarian workers in three main dimensions: (1) the experience of post-Fordist development in the factory, (2) the subjective evaluation of the standard of living, and (3) interpersonal relations. Lastly, I examine the social and political attitudes of the workers in the mirror of their postsocialist experience. I argue that Hungarians had a more direct experience of peripheral development than East Germans. While East Germany’s more successful integration into the capitalist world economy was accompanied by a change of mentality and the appearance of postmaterialistic values, in Hungary nationalism seemed to be the only alternative to capitalism, which had disappointed and effectively impoverished many people. This explains the ambiguous evaluation of the socialist Kádár regime, as the vision of greater social and material equality came to be confused with a longing for a strong state, order, and an autocratic government.

Cite this paper

@inproceedings{Bartha2014EszterB, title={Eszter Bartha}, author={Eszter Bartha and Erzs{\'e}bet Szalai}, year={2014} }