Democratic ideas, understandings, practices and attitudes among students in post-communist Hungary, 1989--2001

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Political Science


Ralph Ketcham


College students, Democratic, Hungary, Postcommunist

Subject Categories

Political Science | Social and Behavioral Sciences


For democratization to be sustainable and successful in Hungary, attention must be paid to the development of political participation and good citizenship. Further, for good citizenship to emerge, there must be a multiplicity of sources of civic virtue which reinforce one another. The study explores how the themes of the common good, political participation, deliberation, civil society, political culture, and political socialization (and civic education) relate to the development of democratic citizenship in post-Communist Hungary. Empirically, the thesis draws on a qualitative study of Hungarian secondary school students. Interviews were conducted throughout Hungary in the fall of 1996, with a shorter follow-up round conducted in Budapest in the spring of 2001. Students of this age were chosen as they had not undergone more than childhood socialization during socialism (they are the first 'post-communist' generation), and would thus have been among the first to receive--perhaps only implicitly--an education in democracy. The interviews of the study explore several questions concerning democratic citizenship in post-communism and how students themselves approach such questions. For the most part, the students' attitudes and approaches to democracy lead the researcher to conclude that the students are becoming 'minimal democrats', in terms of views of the common good, and the inclination to participate in public life (broadly defined) and to deliberate. Some tendencies toward, on the one hand, more authoritarian, and, on the other hand, more civic and participatory political culture exist alongside the dominating minimal democrat positions. The study finds that this is in large part a result of the shortcomings of Hungarian public education and political culture, as they do not explicitly support the strengthening of democratic life.


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