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Socialist Popular Culture and Youth Culture during the Long 1960s in Hungary


In this dissertation, the author examines the spread of popular culture in Hungary during the long 1960s, with particular emphasis on how the Hungarian government's policy on popular culture affected Hungarian youth culture. Drawing on literature and theory from consumption, popular culture, and youth culture, the author uses a variety of primary source documents to demonstrate that throughout the 1960s, the Hungarian state socialist government promoted cultural consumption in a way that spoke to popular demand while couching this consumption within the rhetoric of modern socialism. Cultural products were depoliticized and increasingly subsumed into the market reforms that were being implemented during this period, meaning that culture, too, had to answer in some way to consumer demand. As consumption and mass media became associated with modernity, the government argued that products of popular culture were in keeping with their efforts to build socialism not because of their content, but because these products were consumed in a socialist manner. The introduction of Hungarian socialist popular culture also served as a way to provide an alternative to Western variants, which were becoming increasingly available in the era of peaceful coexistence. All of these elements can be seen in the discussion of Hungarian youth culture, where many aspects of youth culture were allowed, and even promoted, and the government argued that the consumption of youth culture was acceptable as long as it was symbolic of young people's search for something new. This argument can be clearly seen in Hungarian beat music, which was representative of the complex relationship between the state, the musicians, and the youth audience. This relationship that led to the creation of a distinct, Hungarian version of popular music that met youth demand and at the same time served the interests of the socialist government. The contents of this dissertation provide a unique perspective on current literature on state socialist consumption and culture, arguing that in the long 1960s in Hungary, the government achieved a measure of success in its attempt to create a distinct type of socialist popular culture.

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