Book Talk. Post-Communist Mafia State: The Case of Hungary, by Dr. Bálint Magyar

Thursday, February 25, 2016
Marshall D. Shulman Seminar Room (1219 International Affairs Building, 420 West 118th St.)

Please join us for a talk with Dr. Bálint Magyar, sociologist and former Minister of Education, Hungary, discussing his new book, Post-Communist Mafia State: The Case of Hungary. Professor Andrew Arato will be a discussant. Listen to the talk.

Introducing the concept of the post-communist mafia state, Bálint Magyar has established a new interpretative framework and vocabulary to describe the Orbán regime, which has become equally central to the main lines of argument in both scientific debate and public discourse. The Post-Communist Mafia State is an extended, revised, polemically reflective compilation of his Hungarian works on the subject prepared for the English edition.

“Systemic corruption on a national level under the mafia state is not the ordinary sort of everyday or underworld corruption, for at this ‘stage of evolution’ corruption suddenly becomes elevated from a secret deviancy to the rank of state politics, a general practice overseen centrally. Rather than oligarchs drawing the state under their control, it is a political venture that forms itself the right to appoint oligarchs. In other words, it is not an economic interest group that takes over supervision of certain segments of the political structure otherwise personally and organizationally detached from it, but a political venture that itself at the same time becomes an economic venture as well, capturing both the political and economic world, then to establish its mafia culture and influence by bringing to bear the whole arsenal of state powers at its command. The mafia state is the illegitimate extension of the entitlements of the head of the patriarchal family to the whole of the nation by instruments of public authority, a privatized form of the parasite state that redistributes wealth through legalized robbery. All that began between 1998 and 2002 (the first time Fidesz came to power) and has been brought to pass since 2010 is most closely related to what has happened to successor states of the former Soviet Union—Putin’s Russia, Azerbaijan, or republics in Central Asia—the difference being merely in the path of political evolution taken by Hungary since the change of regimes.”

Bálint Magyar is a Hungarian sociologist and a liberal politician (born in Budapest 1952). He earned his diploma in sociology and history at the Eötvös Loránd University of Sciences. Between 1977 and 1990 he studied the post-World War Two social and economic history of East European countries. An activist in the anti-communist dissident movement from 1979, he became a founding member and one of the leaders of the Alliance of Free Democrats in 1988, also serving as president from 1998–2000. He left the party in 2009. A member of parliament from 1990 to 2010, Magyar was minister for education from 1996–1998 and 2002–2006, as well as state secretary for EU programs for a year and a half, from 2007. A member of the Governing Board of the European Institute for Innovation & Technology from 2008–2012, he currently works at the Financial Research Institute in Budapest.

Professor Andrew Arato is the Dorothy Hart Hirshon Professor in Political and Social Theory, has taught at Ecole des hautes etudes, and Sciences Po in Paris, and the Central European University in Budapest, had a Fulbright teaching grant to Montevideo in 1991, and was Distinguished Fulbright Professor at the Goethe University in Frankfurt/M,Germany. Professor Arato has served as a consultant for the Hungarian Parliament on constitutional issues: 1996-1997, and as U.S. State Department Democracy Lecturer and Consultant (on Constitutional issues) Nepal 2007. He has been re-appointed by the State Department in the same capacity for Zimbabwe, during November of 2010 where he had discussions with civil society activists and political leaders in charge of the constitution making process. Arato's interests include the politics of civil society; constitutional theory; comparative politics of constitution making; religion, secularism and constitutions. He teaches also general courses in political sociology, social theory and sociology of religion.