Tuesday, December 01, 2009

The Americanisation of Eastern Europe

continues apace....

With rising unemployment, rising poverty, huge disparities of wealth and a massive increase in violent crime, is it any wonder that a majority of Hungarians (and not just my wife, Zsuzsanna), believe that things were better before neoliberalism came to the country in 1989?


Anonymous said...

Lovely article by Zsuzsanna.

I am myself nostalgic for my own childhood in the Co. Durham coalfield under social democracy. Is it natural for everyone who had a reasonably happy time to be nostalgic about their childhood? Of course, but that does not mean that some periods are not better than others. When I saw industries closed, communities destroyed and working-class culture transformed into competitive individualism my disgust and sadness were not simply products of watching my childhood recede.

With regard to the other article about the shooting, in an excellent book called 'Going Postal', Mark Ames describes how workplace and school/college shootings became everyday phenomena after Reagan's economic 'reforms'. Whilst there was only one recorded incident before that watershed, there were 43 recorded incidents in one summer in 2003. These incidents are products of immense pressure placed on individuals in a culture based on competitive individualism, cost-efficiency and profit; they begin to see each other as a threat.

- questionnaire

olching said...

Thanks to questionnaire for the book tip.

The Americanisation of CEE is apparent in so many ways. I went to a cinema this year in Budapest and they weren't showing one Hungarian film.

Talk to any Hungarian under the age of, say, 25 about Miklos Jancso or Bela Tarr and you get a muted response.

That, too, is part of the 'success' of the Americanisation. Not only does it exert cultural and social hegemony in the present, but it also erodes traces of the past.

Nick said...

Judging by the opinions of many of my friends (as well as my wife) the same thing applies in Croatia.

Elmo Lindström said...

Exactly what aspect of America that Hungary is copying do you not like?

Yes, I agree that some aspects of America like the health care system leave a lot to be desired. However, what is wrong with the idea of a constitutionally restrained democracy as well as a strong emphasis on self-improvement and entrepreneurship. Many think of the "American Dream" as being about becoming rich, when actually it was about having enough money to live of and being self-reliant.

Irimias said...

Talk to any Hungarian under the age of, say, 25 about Miklos Jancso or Bela Tarr and you get a muted response.

Actually, Jancsó has much more of a following among Hungarian under-25s than you're making out. Admittedly, this almost exclusively derives from the half-dozen or so films he's made since 1999's 'The Lord's Lantern in Budapest', which feature him in a supporting role as 'Uncle Miki', but he's still very much in the spotlight.

As for Béla Tarr, the mere fact that he makes films that are seven hours long and move at the pace of a sleep-deprived snail might explain why his appeal is marginal in the extreme, not just in Hungary but everywhere else. Brilliant though 'Sátántangó' is (and yes, I've seen it), I'd be interested to know just how many public screenings it's had in Hungary. In Britain, I believe the total is still in the low single figures.

jack said...

@Elmo Lindström

Actually the concept of the "American dream" was created by Hollywood film moguls who were East European refugees from Czarist Russia.

There was a 98 documentary for US TV called Hollywoodism narrated by famous film critic Neal Gabler his book the documentary is based on.

Undergroundman said...

Looks like the same psychopathologies are breaking out in Poland too. In Warsaw a random sniper has been arrested today

Neil Clark said...

thanks for all the comments:

questionnaire: totally agreed.It's interesting that Gabor Demszky, the Mayor of Budapest, and leading figure in the fanatically neoliberal SZDSZ party, who criticised the Hungarian people's mentality a few years back (ie they weren't into 'competitive individualism' as much as he'd like)-was responsible for a statue of Reagan being erected in the City Park.

karl: yes, random,violent crime is rising throughout the region. But hey, let's not mention it too loudly because it doesn't fit with the dominant neoliberal narrative which wants us to believe that since 1989 everything has been fantastic in eastern europe.

Anonymous said...

Neil, yes, you're absolutely right, the denial of the rise in crime in the capitalist nations is certainly a neo-liberal motif. However, let's not forget that the liberal-left also deny the problem. Stanley Cohen's 'moral panic' thesis has been an orthodoxy in criminological theory since the 1960s. Crime is not a real problem, they say, it's exaggerated by the media in order to justify authoritarian populism, and the pathologies that Karl points out are atypical of modern life.. Right and left liberalism offer different solutions, but they both collude in the same misleading proposition; crime and other social pathologies are not serious problems and therefore liberal-capitalism is not in serious trouble. Business as usual.

- questionnaire