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Scholar studies Generation Y in Hungary

JACK ROONEY | Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Professor and visiting scholar Tamás Karáth gave a lecture Tuesday entitled “Young and Broker in Hungary: Post-Communism and Generation Y” in which he analyzed the effects of generational transition and communism in his native Hungary.

Karáth is a professor of Medieval English Literature at the Institute of English and American Studies of Pázmány Péter Catholic University in Hungary. This semester, he is a visiting scholar at the Nanovic Center for European Studies.

His lecture addressed the situation facing the youth of Hungary based on a recent survey, Youth 2012, which gathered demographic information on Hungarians ages 15 to 29. Karáth said the toughest issue facing Generation Y in Hungary is living in a democratic society run by a generation new to democracy.

“There is a paradox of socialization for these youngsters that they are expected to behave democratically,” Karáth said. “They are expected to grow up through the maturity of a democratic society while they did not really receive any inherited democratic values from the parent and grandparent generations.”

Karáth divided his presentation into four parts, focusing on terms and definitions, generational patterns in Hungary, the Youth 2012 study and its implications for Generation Y around the world, and how Generation Y defines itself as members of the generation enter college and adulthood.

Karáth said while Hungarian youth displayed unique social characteristics because of their post-communist society, they still share a common bond with the global Generation Y.

“Indeed, the survey confirmed that there are striking differences in maturity, activity profiles and the autonomy level of this age group,” Karáth said. “However, certain findings in areas of media use, technology and communication strategies confirmed certain characteristics between the Hungarian Generation Y and the global Generation Y.”

Karáth paid special attention to the term “post-communism” and defined it at the outset of the lecture. He said it was important to note the specific meaning he was using in his lecture.

“Now, what we mean by post-communism varies greatly from country to country,” Karáth said. “Present-day democratic practices and the tradition of these democratic practices varies significantly between the countries. Also, post-communism might be different according to the type or nature of the communism that those countries had experienced before the transition. So it is important, in order to clarify this idea within Hungary, to see both sides of the transition before and after the change.”

Karáth said the transition from communism to democracy is reflected in the generational gap evident today.

“The transition has often been interpreted in terms of generational relations. All over Europe, there is a sense of a very critical Generation X, Generation Y age group, which are today’s youngsters,” Karáth said. “We can see a very drastic confrontational attitude of post-transition youngsters and pre-transition establishment, and the generation that is associated with the establishment.”

Karáth said 34 percent of Hungarians ages 15 to 29 could not imagine living anywhere but Hungary, while 24 percent of the same age group could envision themselves leaving for more than five years, even forever. These mobility statistics give Hungarians reason to be relatively hopeful about the future, Karáth said.

Karáth also said 29 percent of the individuals in Hungary’s Generation Y do not trust democracy, a number that is far below the European Union average of 49 percent. Karáth characterized this figure as a product of the paradox of socialization.

Contact Jack Rooney at jrooney1@nd.edu