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András Bozóki Nationalism and Hegemony: Symbolic Politics and Colonization of Culture In this chapter the cultural politics of the Orbán regime will be interpreted in the context of the regime as a whole. In post-2010 Hungary, cultural policy cannot be viewed as one of the governmental sectors separable from the prime minister’s concept of power and symbolic politicking. The autocratic worldview and nationalist political culture represented by him are closely related to what his underlings perform under the rubric “cultural policy.” The essence of cultural policy is expressed by the notion of nationalism. This approach does not much tolerate alternative worldviews and artistic expressions ; it seeks to achieve hegemony, if not cultural monopoly. Representatives of the regime do not enter debates on cultural and political values—they simply disregard the opposing views and aim to represent their own hegemonic approach which is identified with “the nation.” The cadres appointed as chiefs of a sector act according to the prime minister’s expectations. Yet, culture is a terrain that cannot be totally controlled. Not only because of the widespread use of electronic communicational means but also because culture is peculiar; it is inherently diverse and autonomous in terms of its creation and reception, and potentially unconventional in providing new modes of perception and thinking. Institutions can be seized, a cultural administration can be unseated, but culture cannot be replaced with the help of hate campaigns, propaganda, or symbolic politicking. For the Orbán regime, symbolic politicking is a means of dismissing culture and legitimizing its own dominance. In this essay I will discuss the specifics of this phenomenon. i6 Maffia II 00 book.indb 459 2016.12.07. 15:47 460 TWENTY-FIVE SIDES OF A POST-COMMUNIST MAFIA STATE Farewell to Liberal Democracy The policies of the right-wing Fidesz government coming to power in 2010 covertly suggested that in times of crisis it is appropriate to limit the rule of law in a democratic state. It is the sovereign deciding about a state of emergency, as Carl Schmitt once observed,1 and it soon became obvious that, for Prime Minister Viktor Orbán and his staff subscribing to authoritarian politics, sovereignty is more important than democracy. If the mainstream European idea of democracy is liberal, then the new antiliberal politics would rely not on this version but democracy’s “sovereign,” “eastern,” “majoritarian,” “authoritarian” cousin, limited and deviating from the interpretive framework of international conventions.2 It was in this spirit that Orbán’s underlings in the cultural sector expressed their views—such as the statement “I don’t care a damn about this democracy!” by the president of the Hungarian Academy of Arts (Magyar Művészeti Akadémia [MMA]), the head of state’s highest ranking cultural gatekeeper.3 The government enjoying a two-thirds parliamentary majority due to a distorted election scheme has curtailed the democratic rule of law in the name of “national sovereignty.” It has cut back on the freedom of the press, education, and religion; limited the purview of institutions serving to protect the constitution and human rights, the freedom of assembly, the autonomy of the courts, the legal process of plebiscite and popular initiatives , the rights to strike and to belong to trade unions, as well as axed social insurance as a civil right. These amendments have gone beyond a state reform profoundly affecting societal relations, and thus may be dubbed a form of refeudalization. Not only has the autonomy of the governmental sector been eliminated; in effect, all groups in public employment have been integrated into a state bureaucratic order or chamber. The outbreak of the economic crisis in 2008 offered the prime minister the opportunity to redefine the political situation as revolutionary, that is, as a state of emergency, and thereby to justify his personal need to expand his dominance. Orbán replaced the constitution with what was called a Fundamental Law, which essentially states that the citizens are ready to adjust to a new order, as he named the “System of National Cooperation” (Nemzeti Együttműködés Rendszere [NER]).4 In 2011 a coup directed from above i6 Maffia II 00 book.indb 460 2016.12.07. 15:47 461 Nationalism and Hegemony took place in Hungary.5 A liberal constitutional concept premised on the neutrality of the state was replaced by a confrontational notion of the state built on the dichotomy of “good” versus “bad” and “friend” versus “enemy.” The keywords...


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