Rolling Transition and the Role of Intellectuals

The Case of Hungary
$115.00/ €97.00 / £82.00
PDF version is freely available (Opening the Future program).
Publication date: 
618 pages, 28 tables, 14 figures
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Utilizing a new and original framework for examining the role of intellectuals in countries transitioning to democracy, Bozóki analyses the rise and fall of dissident intellectuals in Hungary in the late 20th century. He shows how that framework is applicable to other countries too as he forensically examines their activities.

Bozóki argues that the Hungarian intellectuals did not become a ‘New Class’. By rolling transition, he means an incremental, non-violent, elite driven political transformation which is based on the rotation of agency, and it results in a new regime. This is led mainly by different groups of intellectuals who do not construct a vanguard movement but create an open network which might transform itself into different political parties. Their roles changed from dissidents to reformers, to movement organizers and negotiators through the periods of dissidence, open network building, roundtable negotiations, parliamentary activities, and new movement politics.

Through the prism of political sociology, the author focuses on the following questions: Who were the dissident intellectuals and what did they want? Under what conditions do intellectuals rebel and what are the patterns of their protest? This book will be of interest to students, researchers, and public intellectuals around the world aiming to promote human rights and democracy.

List of Tables
List of Figures


Chapter I. The Role of Intellectuals: Theories and Interpretive Frameworks

Chapter II. The Political Context: Censorship and Co-optation

Chapter III. Dissident Intellectuals: The Culture of Critical Discourse

Chapter IV. From Moral Principles to Political Action

Chapter V. Regime Change and Elite Change

Chapter VI. Negotiated Revolution: The Strategy of the Opposition

Chapter VII. Intellectuals as Legislators

Chapter VIII. Interpreting Democracy: The New Movement Intellectuals

Chapter IX. Rolling Transition: Rotating Agency 
(Co-author: Ágnes Simon)

Interviews with some participants of the transition

“The book is the prime example of systematic research leading to an original and inclusive synthesis. Strong points of the book include the empathic examination of the threats, traps and opportunities due to the institutionalization of free, loosely coordinated activities of dissident intellectuals.”
“The democratic transitions from communism to capitalism in east central Europe have shaped the contemporary world in an enduring but ambivalent manner. On the one hand bringing the end of communism in a peaceful and negotiated manner and largely avoiding bloodshed and upheaval that were wrought elsewhere was a seminal achievement. On the other hand it also created an opening for populist politics which criticized the “incompleteness” of the transition and sought to undermine democratic institutions. In Rolling Transition, András Bozóki offers the most comprehensive, lucid and penetrating account of this ambivalent transition to date, focusing on Hungary. He shows that the democratic transition was not a single event, but a protracted process lasting almost 20 years, and, paradoxically, partly initiated by the communist regime’s attempt to co-opt the intellectuals. This constant movement, replacement, splitting and reforming contributed to the peaceful nature of the transition,... more
"This is an extraordinary book that is sure to be regarded as a landmark study. It is very ambitious and equally long and offers a powerful account, both extensive and intensive, of the complex Hungarian transition to democracy between the years 1977 and 1994—from the post-Helsinki reemergence of semi-autonomous civil society groupings to the second free election in postcommunist Hungary, normally considered by political scientists to mark the 'consolidation' of democracy."
“This marvelous book is a comprehensive and at times riveting account of the significant role intellectuals played in the Hungarian transition from state-socialism to democracy. Along the way it reconceptualizes the idea of transition and offers a novel and compelling model of regime change. No one who reads this book will view the collapse of Hungarian state socialism, or for that matter the possibilities elsewhere for democratic transitions, in quite the same way again.”
“Bozóki provides a sweeping and compelling account of the transformation of Hungary from the late communist period through the democratic transition and the early post-transition period. It is a major contribution to the tradition of the critical sociology of intellectuals in the spirit of Karl Mannheim’s 'Ideology and Utopia' and Konrad and Szelenyi’s 'The Intellectuals on the Road to Class Power'.”
"The book successfully answers the questions of who were the intellectuals who played the most influential and comprehensive role in Hungary’s transition from state socialism to democracy, what they wanted, and what they were against. Beyond the questions, the book analysed the ideas, strategies, rotations, and activities of Hungarian intellectuals before, during, and after the transition with great success. The book is invaluable for its detailed account of the Hungarian intellectuals’ uphill struggle and their significance, its theoretical and empirical conceptualisation of regime change, and its meticulous filling of this gap in the English-language literature."