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Left Behind in the Hungarian Rustbelt

Left Behind in the Hungarian Rustbelt: The Cultural Political Economy of Working-Class Neo-Nationalism


Nationalism is back with a renewed force. Hungary is a virulent example of the new nationalist ascendancy. As the country was a former liberal star pupil, Hungary’s neo-nationalist turn has been puzzling researchers for years. This study goes beyond the entrenched polarisations in the literature by highlighting the dynamic interplay between culture, structure and identity. It proposes to conceptualise Hungary’s neo-nationalist turn as a Polanyian countermovement against commodification, globalisation and deindustrialisation. The article presents the results of a thematic analysis of 82 interviews with workers in four towns in Hungary’s rustbelt and highlights how the multiscalar lived experience of commodifying reforms violated an implicit social contract and changed workers’ narrative identities. In the absence of a class-based shared narrative and lacking a viable political tool to control their fate, working-class neo-nationalism emerged as a new narrative identity to express workers’ anger and outrage.


countermovement, cultural political economy, deindustrialisation, Hungary, narrative identity, neo-nationalism, working class

Cite as: Scheiring, Gábor. 2020. "Left Behind in the Hungarian Rustbelt: The Cultural Political Economy of Working-Class Neo-Nationalism." Sociology 54(6):1159–77.


Click here for the full-text article (accepted manuscript).

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© Created by Noemi Scheiring-Olah.