The Continued Relevance of the Concept of Propaganda

Propaganda as Ritual in Contemporary Hungary

We will argue in this paper that the concept of propaganda is still relevant in the context of post-communist Hungary. More particularly, we will suggest that, in contrast to the period 1998–2010 when modern political marketing methods were applied widely, the political campaigns launched under Viktor Orbán’s second government (2010–present) have marked a paradigm shift in the history of political communication in Hungary, best described as the revival of old-school propaganda. First, drawing on a distinction by Gunther and Diamond between proto-hegemonic and pluralist parties in the political realm, we will attempt to establish a theoretical dichotomy between political propaganda and political marketing in the communicative domain. Then we will demonstrate – through an analysis of three campaigns launched during the past three years – that the communication of the ruling protohegemonic Fidesz party and its Christian Democratic coalition ally meets criteria of classic political propaganda. Finally, we will apply neo-Durkheimian media theory to describe the selected political campaigns as communication rituals and attempt to show that political propaganda may, under specific circumstances, actively involve, engage and mobilize target audiences.

Released: Replika 95, 79–96.