Culture Wars as Property Struggles: The Hungarian Academy of Arts in Post-1989 Hungary
While property is a common analytical category in political economy, it is often omitted from cultural analysis. To bridge this gap, this article examines the Orbán regime’s cultural flagship institution, the Magyar Művészeti Akadémia [Hungarian Academy of Arts, HAA] from a property perspective. By putting the 1992‒2011 trajectory of the Academy under a spotlight, a rarely examined prehistory of the current Orbán regime comes to the fore.
By deploying historical and social sciences literature alongside archival and interview-based primary research, it is here argued that the property perspective can transcend the “culture wars” explanations of postsocialist cultural polarization by highlighting the material roots of such conflicts. The case of the HAA serves to demonstrate that its cultural clashes were property struggles to obtain properties from the postsocialist state. In this quest, the Academy formed an uneven alliance with the national-protectionist elite bloc. By demonstrating how the HAA was bound to the competition of postsocialist elite blocs, its cyclical politicization can be best understood from the angle of the rapidly transforming property regime in post-1989 Hungary. In conclusion, the article proposes the postsocialist property regime of culture as a framework to analyze cultural and property clashes in tandem.