At this year’s roving conference of the Hungarian Sociological Association (MSZT), held on 17-18 November at the Corvinus University of Budapest, participants were welcome to attend 4 panels and 32 sections, including several in English, in addition to the plenary session. The chosen motto – From crisis to crisis – was a good indication of the theme of the event. ‘We are living in constant crises, this puts individuals and communities to the test, so we definitely have to pay attention to this’, said Beáta Nagy, University Professor of the Department of Sociology of the Corvinus University of Budapest, President of the MSZT. She added that it had long been a priority to make the roving conference a serious professional event, and this goal has been achieved. This year’s meeting attracted more than 230 speakers and panellists with a variety of topics, but many of them, unfortunately, had to be turned down. There was great interest among the students, too, many of them came to listen to the lectures.
The crisis of globalisation and the migration turn
The first speaker at the plenary session was Attila Melegh, Associate Professor of the Corvinus. As it is well-known, he released his book titled The Migration Turn and Eastern Europe in this year, and in this book, the author gives a historical and sociological analysis of how globalisation has affected the intensity of migration in a given demographic and economic context, and why Eastern Europe is in a special situation. The book specifically addresses the changes and controversies in the related discourses on demography. Migration has been on the rise since 1980: according to World Bank figures, in 1980 almost 94 million people lived in a country other than their country of birth, and by 1990 this number had risen to 136 million, and by 2020 to 280 million. Melegh said that since the 2000s migration has continued to increase at a very rapid pace and it is still growing. Globalisation and its decline, marketisation, have mobilised a lot of people and have created strong social competition, and societies are no longer able to manage the resulting tensions.
What happens to migration in times of deglobalisation?, asked the speaker. He says that we need to look at changes over a historical period, how a five-year period, for example, affects the processes occurring 15 years later. The way foreign capital flows in a country also plays an important role in migration – global opening and expansion will not work without regulation in this field. These regulators will obviously be set by those who play the hegemonic role in world politics. According to Melegh, migration surged because of globalisation, and the process will not be reversed, even though deglobalisation is already in progress. In Eastern Europe, the opening of capital markets after the regime change was very much above the world average, and migration and the openness of capital markets created a continuous crisis feeling. A separate question is what kind of migrant groups we can talk about and to what extent they can be linked. In any case, after the end of the bipolar world order and the recent creation of new blocs, the situation is that severe tensions have become so widespread that there are armed conflicts in almost 60 countries. This is why the number of asylum seekers is increasing. (According to Melegh, refugees make up 10 percent of emigrants. Unfortunately, he said, non-state actors have emerged in armed conflicts, too – as he said, there is not only one Wagner group in the world and many criminal groups are also acting violently.
The researcher spoke specifically about the demographic and care crisis in the sense that the number of people over 65 is growing at an extraordinary rate, especially in Europe: Health spending is growing faster than economic growth, while redistribution is stagnating and falling around the world. In Eastern Europe, in particular, redistribution has decreased, further accelerating the marketisation of these sectors. ‘Meanwhile, societies around the world are now coming to the end of an era in which household-based peasant farms disappear, although in Asia and Africa this process is still ongoing’, the speaker said. This is a problem in caring for the elderly, too, as it contributes to the care crisis, and so does the migration of women providing the care: they do not care for their family members, but go to a better-off nearby country to care for the elderly for money. He added one shocking fact: almost half of the world’s population has no universal social security.
Migration as a source of income
Among the invited speakers, Endre Sík, university professor, sociologist and senior researcher of TÁRKI, was the first to speak about the fact that global migration has led to the creation of various organisations involved in it – human traffickers make a living from it, but the UNHCR and various NGOs are also interested in ensuring that migration is maintained. He added that migration is on the rise, but unfortunately the number of related discourses is not. ‘However, self-serving, interest-based political profiteering on migration is on the rise, even when migration is actually not increasing’, the researcher said.
Ágnes Erőss, a researcher of the the HUN-REN Geographical Institute, who has been conducting research in Transcarpathia since 2016, said that people do not want to leave their homeland if there is a strong local community, if they can count on their neighbours and if they trust the political leadership of the country. It also matters to those who stay whether it is worth working for the community. Then she showed some videos she made in Transcarpathia last September. ‘Men have long been gone to work elsewhere. Dad’s not home, we’re used to it, women have to do the men’s work at home’, says one interviewee, resignedly. ‘When the war started, my son said he would go, but he would not go alone. But how could I go? This is my life’, says a mother. ‘It took us a few days to understand that this is not a joke, this is a real war. That was on Thursday, and my son left on Sunday’, another Hungarian woman from Transcarpathia says in the video with deep sadness.
Noémi Katona, a lecturer of the Department of Sociology at the Corvinus University and assistant research fellow of the HUN-REN Centre for Social Sciences said that families are less and less able to care for their elderly relatives, but there is little political discourse on this. In the researcher’s opinion, while the government’s political rhetoric prioritises support for families, in reality it places the burden of caring for the elderly on families by providing only minimal public support. One sign of this is that the constitution has enshrined the compulsory nature of parental care and emphasised the role of the church over that of the state. In Katona’s opinion, the state cannot and will not spend money on this, and in fact the extent of the crisis in care in Hungary, which has created a large informal market, is never mentioned.
Source of images : MSZT Facebook page, Saci Lukács