Academic journal article European Quarterly of Political Attitudes and Mentalities

University Students' Democratic Values and Attitudes towards Democracy in Hungary

Academic journal article European Quarterly of Political Attitudes and Mentalities

University Students' Democratic Values and Attitudes towards Democracy in Hungary

Article excerpt

1.Introduction

University students have played an important role in revolutionary changes throughout Hungarian history (1848, 1956). Members of this age cohort are embedded both in the traditional values of their families and in the new ideas of youth organizations, and are therefore very sensitive to societal changes. Although sitCorresponding ins at universities are quite a current phenomenon in Western societies, and there have been organized such actions also in East-Central Europe (e.g. in 2009 in Vienna1 or in Zagreb2), this form of direct action has happened first time in Hungary in 2012. Students protested against the Hungarian Government's planned cuts in the state subsidies to finance college tuition in Budapest on 10 December 2012. After a sitin at Eötvös Loránd University's (that is the biggest university in Hungary) lecture hall more than 1 000 students rallied, blocking bridges over the Danube in freezing weather, and marched to Parliament. The protest later became a nationwide movement and students organized similar actions in different Hungarian cities over the course of several week. Two years later, in late October 2014, anti -government demonstrations were held in Hungary, which were triggered by the government's announcement of a proposal to include the taxation of Internet usage in the Taxation Law. On 26th of October thousands of (mostly young) people gathered. On 28th similar events took place in multiple cities in Hungary. Reuters estimated the number of people approximately 100,000 at the second demonstration. These events (2012, 2014) can be considered as 'rebellion', a point at which the lurking deep dissatisfaction breaks up. Since our data covers a period between 2011 and 2015 our analysis can bring interesting new results on changes in patterns of democratic citizenship in Hungary.

Analyzing university student's attitudes is relevant because among social institutions univers ities are one of the most important socialization agents for democratic education. As well as serving the interests of individuals, the higher education also accomplishes community goals in contemporary societies. Many scholars argue that universities have a civic mission to serve public good and to create democratic citizens (Barnett 2007, Ehrlich 2000, Biesta 2009). It is also mentioned that university is a civic mission itself (Barber 1991). According to Shapiro (2005), the fundamental requirement of university education is creating democratic citizens and Nussbaum also talks (2002) about the necessary representation of deliberative democratic citizenship in higher education. Galston (2001) has argued that student's participation in university community may increase their chance to become politically engaged and to acquire basics skills to serve public good. These arguments suggest that universities play an important role in democratic citizenship education and the training of citizens inside the university has also an impact on democracy outside the university.

Hungary was the first country in the East Central European region that succeeded in building and stabilizing democratic institutions following the collapse of communism in 1989/1990. We build on the literature about the empirical and theoretical framework of measuring democratic attitudes to answer the question if 25 years after the collapse of communism we can witness the emergence of a new generation of active Hungarian democrats? Has this period allowed for forging a coherent vision of democracy, accepting and interiori zing democratic values and commitments? Or instead, does the Hungarian case underline Orit Ichilov's statement that he wrote in 1990: even if a generation grows up and matures in a democratic system, this does not guarantee that a democratic political culture will take root in society (Ichilov 1990:11 - 20)? Based on the empirical framework, the study shows empirical results on democratic commitment among Hungarian students.

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