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Socialist Entrepreneurs: Embourgeoisement in Rural Hungaryby Ivan Szelenyi
Synopses & Reviews
Among the East European nations, Hungary has been noted in recent years for permitting, even encouraging, family entrepreneurship in agriculture. In this highly empirical study, Ivan Szelenyi and his collaborators explore this phenomenon, affording a rare view of the reemergence of private sector activity in a socialist society, and offering new insights into the very origins of capitalism.
In the years since the government relaxed its policy of forced collectivization, approximately ten percent of rural Hungarian families have taken up entrepreneurial opportunities in agriculture. Why they have chosen this course—and why ninety percent of family have chosen to remain in proletarian or cadre positions—are central questions in Szelenyi’s inquiry.
The theory advocated here is one of “interrupted embourgeoisement.” Those people who, during the years of Stalinism, found occupations in which they could successfully resist the dual pressures of proletarianization and cadrefication are the ones now able to reenter the interrupted embourgeoisement trajectory. As a result, the communist “revolution from above” has been challenged by a somewhat unexpected “revolution from below,” in the process producing a socialist mixed economic system that seems to be as different from Soviet—style communism as it is from Western capitalism.
“This is a very, very important work, combining rich primary research by Szelenyi and four colleagues with a major ‘step toward a theory of articulation of a state socialist mixed economy.’ . . . Using surveys from 1972-73 and 1982-84, the authors traced life histories to identify variables that showed why families responded differently to proletarianization, formation of a new working class, or embourgeoisement.”—World Development
About the Author
Ivan Szelenyi is distinguished professor in sociology at the graduate school of the City University of New York. Robert Manchin is research associate at the Institute of Sociology, Hungarian Academy of Science. Pál Juhász and Bálint Magyar are research associates at the Institute on Cooperatives, Budapest, Hungary. Bill Martin is lecturer at La Trobe University, Melbourne, Australia.
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