Crucibles of Political Loyalty: Church Institutions and Electoral Continuity in Hungary

Overview

This book investigates one of the oldest paradoxes in political science: why do mass political loyalties persist even amid prolonged social upheaval and disruptive economic development. Drawing on extensive archival research and an original database of election results, this book explores the paradox of political persistence by examining Hungary's often tortuous path from pre- to post-communism. Wittenberg reframes the theoretical debate, and then demonstrates how despite the many depredations of communism, the ...

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Overview

This book investigates one of the oldest paradoxes in political science: why do mass political loyalties persist even amid prolonged social upheaval and disruptive economic development. Drawing on extensive archival research and an original database of election results, this book explores the paradox of political persistence by examining Hungary's often tortuous path from pre- to post-communism. Wittenberg reframes the theoretical debate, and then demonstrates how despite the many depredations of communism, the Roman Catholic and Calvinist Churches transmitted loyalties to parties of the Right. Contrary to conventional wisdom, Church resistance occurred not from above, but from below. Hemmed in and harassed by communist party cadres, parish priests and pastors employed a variety of ingenious tactics to ensure the continued survival of local church institutions. These institutions insulated their adherents from pressures to assimilate into the surrounding socialist milieu. Ultimately this led to political continuity between pre- and post-communism.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Wittenberg weighs in on a long-standing puzzle: Why, like a watermark on the printed page, do partisan loyalties survive within a society across generations and notwithstanding vast historical change — in France, for example, from back across the Fifth, Fourth, and Third Republics, back even to the French Revolution, and maybe before? ...This is a rigorous explanation for a hard case, with relevance for other authoritarian transitions..."
Robert Levgold, Foreign Affairs

“Jason Wittenberg’s study of the relationship between religiosity and voting practices in Hungary since the Second World War is an impressive attempt to bridge the methodological divide in the social sciences between number-crunching and narration...A formidable piece of scholarship and a highly stimulating spur to further research. It asks probing questions and includes keen observations, and it is to be hoped that political scientists as well as other scholars will continue to deploy a broad methodological arsenal to follow up on them.”
James Bjork, H-Net Reviews

"Political scientists have long claimed that some public attitudes are surprisingly durable in the face of significant political, economic and social change and even when well-established regimes are dedicated to their eradication. However, the evidence for such claims is usually spotty; attitudes are rarely linked to behavior; and the mechanisms of reproduction are usually under-specified. Jason Wittenberg's careful analysis of local political struggles over the course of Hungary's transitions to both communism and postcommunism is a welcome exception to these generalizations. He provides strong evidence not just of the durability of public beliefs and their linkages to political behavior, but also the processes by which these beliefs and behaviors maintain themselves through the passage of time and in an unusually hostile political environment." Valerie Bunce, Cornell University

"Methodologists extol the merits of combining quantitative and qualitative methods, but serious analyses taking such advice are rare. This book is a wonderful exemplar of what can be learned from combining the two methods. The puzzle of why pre-Communist political cleavages manifested themselves again in post-Communist Hungary, as if 40 years of Communist rule did not matter, is both important and fascinating. The answer in terms of church institutions is equally important. Wittenberg's marshalling of different types of evidence makes the answer compelling."
Nathaniel Beck, New York University

"Where the Catholic and Calvinist Churches outsmarted the Communist Party, Jason Wittenberg's compelling study shows, right wing voting in Hungary reemerged even after a half-century of rapid modernization and authoritarian rule. Wittenberg's stunning combination of archival discovery and statistical savvy makes this methodologically sophisticated book a veritable page-turner."
David D. Laitin, Stanford University

"Wittenberg has successfully mixed a reading of the everyday party documents with a cutting-edge study of voting patterns to produce a convincing overall work. It is one of a few, and certainly one of the best, works on the persistence of political loyalties in authoritarian societies."
Roger Petersen, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Foreign Affairs
Wittenberg weighs in on a long-standing puzzle: Why, like a watermarkon the printed page, do partisan loyalties survive within a society across generations and notwithstanding vast historical change — in France, for example, from back across the Fifth, Fourth, and Third Republics, back even to the French Revolution, and maybe before? Even more striking is the mystery of how the loyalties prevalent in central Europe in the early twentieth century, particularly on the political right, survived the long communist interlude only to resurface almost intact in our own day. In Hungary, he locates his explanation in the role of the churches (Catholic and Calvinist). Local priests and pastors, lay leaders, and believers, by playing a skillful cat-and-mouse game with the regime and its tamed church leadership, preserved their earlier mass allegiance, including the potential political configurations within it. In so doing, they provided a parapet behind which many avoided assimilation into the new socialist order. This is a rigorous explanation for a hard case, with relevance for other authoritarian transitions, but it is less convincing in the wider world of partisan persistence.
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Product Details

Meet the Author

Jason Wittenberg is assistant professor of political science at the University of California, Berkeley. He has published articles in the American Journal of Political Science, Organization Science, Political Analysis, Slavic Review, and the System Dynamics Review.
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Table of Contents

1. Explaining political persistence; 2. Electoral persistence and volatility in Hungary; 3. The churches first confront communism; 4. The battle for souls, 1948–56; 5. The battle for souls after 1956; 6. Church community and rightist persistence: statistical evidence; 7. Conclusion.

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