Studia Politica, vol. XX, no. 3, 2020

Institutional Reforms of post 1989 Eastern European Cultural Production

Special issue coordinated by CLAUDIU TURCUȘ (Babeș-Bolyai University)


CLAUDIU TURCUȘ (Babeș-Bolyai University) The Haunting Ghost and the Invisible Hand. Film Industry and Book Publishing Between State-Socialism and Market-Oriented Cultural Product

This article introduces the topic of the transformation of the cultural industries in several former East European communist countries. In the first part it delivers a critical overview of the essential contributions to research in the field and outlines the historical and methodological context in relation to which the four articles in this special-themed issue have taken convergent or polemical stances. The second part offers a descriptive-correlative reading of the articles signed by Jan Hanzlík, Radu Toderici, Balász Varga, and Adriana Stan and Cosmin Borza, focusing on how they investigate the postsocialist transformations of several East European film industries and of the Romanian book industry. The answers that the four case studies try to provide to this wide phenomenon combine (1) an analytical approach to the ideological discourses that have formed the basis of the political agendas specific to the cultural field, and (2) an examination, from a cultural studies perspective, of the mechanisms of reforming the public institutions responsible for financing cultural production in Eastern Europe. The first component engages in a hermeneutic of debates (media, cultural, political) that have built a postsocialist imaginary predicated on synchronization with the socio-economic values of the West. The second part contains elements of political economy and explores, on the one hand, legislative changes in the public financing realm, and on the other hand, the way in which the capitalist reconfiguration of cultural institutions, privatizations, and the myth of the free market have created an impact on the production, promotion and distribution of films and books.

Keywords: East European film and book publishing industry, Europeanisation, transnationalism, anticommunism, capitalist transition, neoliberal policies, cultural elites.

CLAUDIU TURCUȘ (Babeș-Bolyai University),

BALÁZS VARGA (Eeötvös Loránd University), From Proto-Capitalism to Post-Socialism: The Case of the Hungarian Film Industry

The post-socialist transformation of the Hungarian film industry is usually discussed in the context of state-run studios and state funding. These explanations focused on the role and importance of regulation and institutional aspects of change, highlighting the changes in the production system (the development of independent production companies) and the transition from direct state control and funding to public funding (the setup of a new institution, the Motion Picture Foundation of Hungary). The transformation, as in the case of other Eastern European film industries, is usually interpreted as a crisis and a major break. This article will nuance this mainstream interpretation of the transformation of the Hungarian film industry with the examination of features that connect the two eras (i.e. late socialist and early post-socialist periods). Instead of the linear logic of succession and transition, it will focus on the ambiguities of change and continuity, showing that although the changes were fundamental, many things connect late socialist years and early post-socialist period. The article claims that the transformation could not be described as a simple one-way shift from a centralized state-socialist system to the market-oriented film industry and the system of public funding. Considering the trends of marketization and ‘proto-capitalization’ of the late 1980s in the Hungarian film industry and the post-socialist survival of the state socialist studio system, the article will show the double-face of the transformation.

Keywords: Hungarian state-socialist film industry, post-socialist cultural market, proto-capitalism, public funding, market-oriented transformations.

BALÁZS VARGA (Eötvös Loránd University),

ADRIANA STAN (Babeș-Bolyai University), COSMIN BORZA (Sextil Pușcariu Institute of Linguistics and Literary History, Romanian Academy), Deetatization of Culture, Privatization of Politics. The Case of the Publishing Houses in Postcommunist Romania

The paper addresses the process of postcommunist denationalization by focusing on the privatization of cultural institutions, as it occurred in the case of major Romanian publishing houses in recent decades (Editura Politică/ Humanitas, Univers, Minerva, etc.). Our approach acknowledges the leading role of humanist intellectuals in launching and legitimizing devices of privatization immediately after 1989, a curious phenomenon which reasserted the larger pattern of literature-centrism developed in the former socialist cultures. These intellectuals’ enthusiastic siding with principles of market capitalism, from their new positions of book publishers and cultural managers, paved the way for the rapid implementation of neoliberal policies. At the same time, leading the process of privatization helped these intellectual groups gain the upper hand in the public narrative on main ideological topics, such as the memory of communism, the interwar far right, and the path towards Westernization. Our analysis traces several empirical stages of this particular privatization of culture: 1) the legislative frame of denationalization and market liberalization; 2) the publishing policies and the promotion of certain book collections; 3) the dissemination of anticommunism that enabled publishing houses themselves to serve as political platforms. Overall, we aim to explain how this intellectual enterprise failed to ensure direct economic and cultural profits but was spectacularly successful in establishing a long-term recipe for neoliberal restructuring in several areas of society.

Keywords: privatization, publishing houses, postcommunism, neoliberalism, book industry.

ADRIANA STAN (Babeș-Bolyai University),, COSMIN BORZA (Sextil Pușcariu Institute of Linguistics and Literary History),

JAN HANZLÍK (University of Economics, Prague, and Charles University, Prague), Czech Film Policy after 1989: Between Neoliberal and National Mercantilist Discourse

After 1989, the Czech film industry underwent a transformation from an integrated state-funded monopoly to numerous largely privatized and disintegrated film institutions and activities that had to struggle for their existence in the new capitalist economy. The change was accompanied by debates regarding the state funding of cinema, which developed from early naïve neoliberal discourse through struggles for the internal stability of public financing of film to eventual endorsement of national mercantilist discourse that supports Czech national cinema’s competitiveness on international markets. The analysis presented in the article and focused on recent discourse of Czech Film Fund revealed that current Czech film policy is largely in line with film policies of Western European countries. Yet, in contrast to non-post-socialist countries, it is conspicuously devoid of centre-left agenda in terms of equality and diversity on the labour market in the film industry. It also puts little emphasis on the reinforcement of social cohesion through cinema. As contemporary Czech society is becoming increasingly politically polarized, the accentuation of these issues could be beneficial for the state and its inhabitants for years to come.

Keywords: Czech cinema, film industry, film policy, film funding, post-socialism, neoliberalism, market competition.

JAN HANZLÍK (University of Economics, Prague, and Charles University, Prague),

RADU TODERICI (Babeș-Bolyai University), The Decade of the Auteurs: The Institutional Reorganization of the Romanian Film Industry in the 1990s

Romanian cinema in the 1990s was defined, among others, by its failed attempt at institutional reorganization, due to which fewer and fewer films were released towards the end of the decade – a process which culminated in 2000, when not a single feature film was released. However, before this virtual collapse of the Romanian film industry, sixty or so films were financed and produced. By taking a look at their opening credits, one would be perhaps surprised to notice mostly familiar names – directors and writers which were highly prominent during the communist era. In cinema, as in other cultural fields, the cultural elites managed, at the beginning of the 1990s, to use their cultural capital gained during the communist years in order to take over the industry. The films made during this transitional period were ideologically conservative, rich in anticommunist rhetoric and – paradoxically – financed and produced using a state-sponsored infrastructure developed two decades earlier, during Nicolae Ceaușescu’s regime. Taking into account the long-lasting institutional transformation of the Romanian film industry and the critical reception of Romanian films before and after 1989, this article tries to offer a context for the processes taking shape in the 1990s and to suggest the main causes for the postcommunist reconfiguration of the cultural field, due to which mainly one kind of anticommunist rhetoric gained visibility during this decade.

Keywords: Romanian cinema of the 1990s, film studios, cultural elites, auteur theory, politics of authorship, anticommunism.

RADU TODERICI (Babeș-Bolyai University),

KALLING HECK, After Authority: Global Art Cinema and Political Transition, New Brunswick, Newark, London, Rutgers University Press, 2020 (LUCIA SZEMETOVÁ, University of St. Andrews)

THOMAS AUSTIN, ANGELOS KOUTSOURAKIS (Eds.), Cinema of Crisis. Film and Contemporary Europe, Edinburgh, Edinburgh University Press, 2020 (MĂDĂLINA POJOGA, Babeș-Bolyai University)