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Conservative Ideology in the Making


Iván Zoltán Dénes, historian of ideas, Professor, Chair at the Department of Political Theory and History, Faculty of Jurisprudence and Political Science, University of Debrecen

Translated by Judit Pokoly

The fifty years or so preceding the watershed of 1848–49 witnessed the emergence of liberal nationalism in Hungary, along with a transmutation of conservatism which appeared then as a party and an ideological system in the political arena. The specific features of the conservatism, combining the protection of the status quo with some reform measures, its strategic vision, conceptual system, argumentation, assessment criteria and values require an in depth exploration and analysis.

Different conservative groups were in the background or in opposition from 1848 to 1918, while in the period between the two World Wars, they constituted the overwhelming majority of ruling parties. During the one-party system, from 1949 to 1989, the liberals and conservatives—like all other political groups—were illegal, a status from which they could later emerge upon the change of the political system.

The inheritance of the autocratic system frozen up and undigested by the one-party state was thawed after the peaceful regime change, the constitutional revolution and its discrete components began to be reactivated, including the enemy images of earlier discourses. "Liberal” and “conservative” had become state-party stigmas in line with fascist, reactionary, rightist, and bourgeois. In reaction to that, at first conservative then liberal, intellectual fashions and renascences unfolded in the 1980s. The attempts by liberal and conservative advocates to find predecessors did not favor an objective approach.

The first step toward objectivity is establishing distance from the different kinds of enemy images and their political idioms. This is a pressing need because, although several pioneering works have appeared on different variants of the Hungarian liberalisms and conservatisms, there are no serious unbiased syntheses. This work is urgent because the political poles of the constitutional revolution and the ensuing period have up till now been described in terms of different conspiracy theories.

Contents

Foreword; Introduction; Conservatism; The Liberal Challenge: Nation-Building through Reforms; The Conservative Answer: Law, Order, and Stability What to Preserve, What to Give Up, and What to Modernize? (1839–1842); Separation vs. Unification (1842–1843); Law and Order : Which Kind? (1843–1844); Journalists’ Offensive: Issues and Arguments (1845–1847); Programs (1846–1847); Conservative Politics in Defense (1847–1848); Myth in the Making; Epilogue, Bibliography, Index

"This meticulously researched book belongs on the shelf reserved for 'memory studies,' one of the principal presuppositions of which is that present sociopolitical interests and power relationships determine not only what is remembered but how it is remembered. Dénes argues that Hungarian conservatives, including those of the present day, have substituted a myth of political wisdom and national responsibility for the truth concerning their predecessors, those who flourished during the Age of Reform leading to the 1848–49 revolution and war for independence". - Slavic Review

2009
268 pages + 24 with black and white photos
ISBN 978-963-9776-57-9 cloth $45.00 / €33.95 / £30.00

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