Political communication in Hungary 1990-2015

A couple of years ago, some thought that political communication had replaced, at least, surrogated governance; as if the efforts of the government and the political elites had focused much more on communication than on policy making and on the management of the country. On the other extreme, political communication does not seem to be more than lies, manipulation political parties and gov-ernments use to seduce people and persuade them to behave in opposition to their objective interests and values. According to the former approach, political communication can be everything, while ac-cording to the latter it is nothing compared to the real facts and hard interests. Such sweeping state-ments are questionable but demonstrate concerns about political communication, its status, effects, and apparent seduction towards politicians as well as citizens.

The present project wants to clarify the character and operation of political communication during the first twenty-five years of democracy in Hungary. We think that political communication has had di-verse status in Hungarian politics, it has gone through distinct stages of development and in order to understand the present and have a glimpse of the future one also has to look into the past.

We are planning to do that leaning on our past research results in the field but we also want to step beyond them.

Still, the present project is not a simple summary because, in the past, we mostly approached political communication from an instrumentalist point of view, as Jacques Gerstlé (2008) classifies directions in the field. That was true mainly regarding our campaign research projects. In other projects and pa-pers, we used further inspirations coming from philosophical, psychological and post-Habermasian paradigms. Now, we would like to take advantage of all those theoretical and methodological works in a new synthesis.

It is fairly timely because so far, no one has prepared a comprehensive and detailed overview of the past twenty-five years of political communication in Hungary. When it comes to the international lit-erature, obviously there is no overview on Hungary and even monographic descriptions on any coun-try are rare; Denton-Woodward (1998) being one of the exceptions. In Hungary, several valuable works have been published mainly on the Hungarian media, on specific questions like political and media agendas, on the media - politics relationship, on online politics etc. Previous studies on media have mainly investigated political communication in Hungary from the normative (Habermasian) perspec-tive. While theoretical works tended to concentrate on the preconditions and the essential features of the desirable public sphere, empirical studies aimed to demonstrate the discrepancies between the re-quirements and the practices. Institutionalism was also a dominant approach in the past researches (our works included); mostly daily papers and news media were pre-selected as the scope of the analysis and presented as the epicentre of the political discussion.

Instead of prioritising institutional, ethical or regulatory aspects, our proposal intend to put the flow of political communication into the focus of the research. It means not only a new perspective that goes beyond normative approach, but a problem and issue centric way of designing researches.

The main hypothesizes of the research

Hypothesis 1. Since 1990, political communication has gone through three stages in Hungary.

  • era of mass media (1990-1997),
  • era of political marketing (1997-2006)
  • era of the privatization of politi-cal communication (2006-)

Hypothesis 2. Political communication is constitutive of political communities.