The Republikon Institute co-organized an online book presentation of the work of Dániel Mikecz "Nothing About Us Without Us - Demonstrations, Political Activism during the Orbán Regime" with the Napvilág Publisher and the Institute of Political Science of the Center for Social Research. At the roundtable-discussion Andrea Szabó (Senior Research Fellow at the Institute of Political Science), Bálint Misetics (activist and expert of social politics) and the author Dániel Mikecz (Head of the Republican Institute, Head of Political Science) participated. The discussion was moderated by Balázs Böcskei (Research Director of the Idea Institute).
Andrea Szabó opened the discussion and briefly introduced the main topics and the structure of Mikecz’s book. She emphasized the book’s rich literature review and the importance of its research topic, as this topics had been rarely analyzed by previous works. Mikecz creates seven categories of different types of activism: activism based on the liberal civic ethos, transactional activism, experience-driven, altruistic activism, trade union activism, particular civil activism, populism, radical right-wing activism. Szabó highlighted that it is especially important how the author managed to analyze the situation of civil activism in Hungary in an international context, as the domestic changes of civil activism are connected to international tendencies. She also added that the fact that the author discusses the tendencies of volunteering in Hungary even during in the current pandemic situation, and as the author uses the date of recent public polls, make this work very topical. Moreover, according to Szabó, it is also interesting how the author observes the workings of the right-wing subculture in Hungary. During the roundtable discussion, Szabó emphasized that since 2010, the former “Western-like” and positive civic movement has been getting a general negative meaning in Hungary, mainly because of the mainstream political communication.
According to Bálint Misetics, civil society and the political sphere should be separated more in literature, as civil activism is often over-politicized and can be misused to legitimize the work of political actors. He stressed the importance of the book for analyzing the entertainment function of demonstrations, especially among radical right-wing groups. One other thing Misetics stressed was that, as the author also writes, most of the protesters in Hungary are returning activists, and most of them are highly educated citizens, which shows the limited nature of civil movements in Hungary. According to Misetics, only the recent demonstrations of teachers and the so-called “slave law demonstrations” were exceptions to this trend. Misetics claimed that demonstrations in Hungary rarely aim at distributional conflicts, thus attract a very small part of the society.
Dániel Mikecz, author of the book, emphasized that two main factors have influenced the tendencies of civil activism in Hungary in the last ten years. First, the global changes, such as the development of communication technology, the spread of social media, the fact that it is much easier now to share images that can evoke greater emotions. Moreover, the attachment of citizens to traditional institutions (such as to parties, trade unions, or local communities) has generally decreased everywhere, so forms of participation are individualized, meaning that many demonstrators go to demonstrations alone. However, what has become characteristic of civil activism in Hungary is the emergence of government-critical demonstrations. Mikecz highlighted that no institutions are being created in Hungary that could mobilize a larger layer of the society or could achieve long-term. According to him, demonstrators in Hungary are mostly mobilized by the feeling of solidarity, entertainment factors, or outrage; and a larger crowd can be mobilised if the demonstrators think they are right, even if they believe their actions will not have long-term success. He also added that civil activism is very low in Hungary, especially in comparison to the neighbouring countries.
Co-founded by the Europe for Citizens Programme
of the Europen Union