Meet the KU Select 2020 Author in the Field of Political Science: Bálint Magyar

This interview presents the co-author of the forthcoming analytical and typological work on post-communist regimes around the world to be published by CEU Press in 2020.

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Toward the expected transition to the Open Access of The Anatomy of Post-Communist Regimes: A Conceptual Framework, as part of the KU Select 2020 program in Politics that Knowledge Unlatched has recently launched, Philipp Hess, responsible for its publisher relations, has arranged for an interview with Bálint Magyar, who together with Bálint Madlovics, has co-authored this book, slated to be imminently published by CEU Press.

1. Would you mind telling us a little bit about yourself and what your book is about?

The book is co-authored by myself, Bálint Magyar and a young colleague of mine, Bálint Madlovics. I’m a sociologist and Research Fellow at the Financial Research Institute in Budapest. Formerly, I was an activist of the Hungarian anti-communist dissident movement, founder of the liberal party of Hungary (SZDSZ), Member of the Hungarian Parliament for twenty years, and Minister of Education twice. I’ve written and edited numerous books on post-communist regimes since 2013. My co-author, Madlovics is a political scientist and economist. He contributed a chapter to one of my edited volumes on Hungary, and has co-authored past and upcoming publications on post-communist regimes since 2015.

Our book is a comprehensive attempt to break with the traditional analysis of post-communist regimes. Our starting point is that after the collapse of the Soviet Union the newly gained dominance of liberal democracy as a political regime was accompanied by a new dominance of liberal democracy as a descriptive language. Concepts of political science, sociology, and economics which had been developed for the analysis of western-type polities were applied to the various phenomena in the newly liberated countries. We argue that the language of liberal democracies blurs the understanding of the current state of post-communism. Using the same analytical categories for the western and the post-communist region inevitably resulted in conceptual stretching and brings in a host of hidden presumptions, many of which simply do not hold for post-communist countries. In the book, we try to systemically renew the vocabulary of the analysis of post-communist regimes. We have created categories as well as a whole new grammar for the region’s political, economic, and social phenomena. At the same time, we tried to create a book that is user-friendly: with a large number of tables, figures, and bullet points to facilitate usage.

2. How did you get to know Knowledge Unlatched and how are you in contact with us?

Our publisher, CEU Press nominated us for the KU Select List in 2020. We are particularly grateful to the team of the Press who urged us to take the opportunity that KU offers. Indeed, there was no need for much persuasion; we were exhilarated to hear about KU, its mission, and to learn that our book has a chance to reach so many people worldwide.

3. What was your motivation to join to publish your book OA and be part of the Knowledge Unlatched Collection?

It’s natural that if someone has something to say about a topic they want to reach as many people as possible. I also highly value the dissemination of knowledge as a former Minister of Education. At the same time, I can see the crisis of traditional publishing which results in a lower number of copies sold, and so on. A vicious circle, causing many books of value to be ‘buried alive’. Open access is a way to solve this problem. KU combines the benefits of costly publishing and the widest accessibility, to intellectual goods. Being part of the Knowledge Unlatched Collection means our book won’t be buried but people all around the world can read it at once.

4. And leading on from the last question, what would you like to see as an impact from your participation in the KU Program?

KU provides invaluable help in enabling the newer options of disseminating knowledge. Our book is accompanied by a website, which contains additional material including a variety of seminars with PPTs and a 3D model for post-communist regime trajectories. Making these, as well as the text of the book freely available, courtesy of libraries supporting KU, makes the multifunctionality of access an achievable goal. With the help of the KU Program, I’d like to see our work to be available to everyone who may want to use it: the poor and the rich, students and professors, academia and the general public.

Pablo Markin

Community Manager, Open Research Community

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