The „age of society": Social insurance and labour policy in Hungary at the turn of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries
Through an analysis of the making of Hungary's 1891 compulsory health insurance Act and the its compulsory accident insurance Act of 1907, this study attempts to interpret the establishment of the institution of social insurance as an element in the evolution of Hungarian mass society. Relying on analyses of the history of similar West European institutions it depicts the birth of compulsory insurance as the making of an institutional system which no longer dealt with social tensions locally – as had been the case before, in poor-relief – but on a mass scale, building on new techniques of administration. The most important noticeable difference between the makings of the two laws discussed lies in the following: while, due to the lack of considerable influence of the yet insignificant industrial and commercial interests, the first one resulted from the work of experts following western, above all, German patterns as well as from the benevolence of the majority of the political elite, the second law evolved out of a debate in which employers and employees alike wished to have the lion's share in the making of the law through their respective interest organisations.
Nonetheless, the most important part in the shaping of the insurance institution was still played by the ministerial apparatus and the political decision-makers. Although not standing equally far from employers and employees, first of all, they pursued their own goals as well as their ideas based on western patterns and did not wish to serve the interests of either party.
The implementation of the 1891 Act on health insurance
The subject of the paper is the first Hungarian law on social security, passed in 1891, which made the health insurance of all industrial employees compulsory in Hungary. The law closely followed the Bismarckian and Austrian insurance laws, not only in time but with respect to its contents as well. However, while the implementation of the law worked relatively smoothly in those countries, it struggled with various difficulties in Hungary.
Consequently, the proportion of those actually insured was far lower than the same proportions in Germany and Austria at the time. The paper first attempts to place the beginnings of Hungarian social security within the European ideas of the solution of the social issue, then goes on discussing the law by precisely defining the range of the insured, not omitting the important issue of insuring day-labourers. Then it discusses the organisational aspects of insurance, such as the establishment of the new savings bank system, and the deficiencies in the organisation of collecting contributions. This latter difficulty, besides the inadequacy of medical care was in itself enough to prevent a significant part of the industrial population from becoming insured, and/or from receiving adequate care if ensured. Workers' mutual benefit societies were the most important bases of political organising activity in contemporary Hungary. That is why it was an important aspect of making the law to prevent workers from organising themselves. The paper discusses the measures within the Health Insurance Act to impede political organisation. Finally, the conclusion mentions that further research may focus on the connection between the governmental objective of increasing economic, especially industrial, competitiveness, and the development of workers' insurance.
An attempt to deal with the housing problem in rural Hungary village between the two World Wars. A history of the National Cooperative for Constructing Small Flats in Villages
In the first half of the twentieth century, authorities regarded the housing questions as one of the socio-political problems of the Hungarian country that once tackling it, they could find remedies to several other social evils. In part having influenced by German social thinkers, they looked upon proper housing, especially in the form of a family house with an allotment sizeable enough for self-sufficient food production, as a means that in addition to improving health care it has the potential to maintain and revitalise familial unity, tranquillity and old patriarchal relations as well as to refrain the head of the family from drinking, instructing him and his dependants in hard work. In order to achieve these goals, two laws were made in 1907; however, after the outbreak of the First World War they were compelled to discontinue the reforms. Intending to resume them, as part of the land reform of the early 1920s they distributed about 300 000 building sites. Those allotted, however, either lacked the financial means to be able to start building or, in a number of cases, erected buildings failing to meet public sanitation requirements. As a result, the government realised that the situation called for its intervention and after several aborted attempts they created the National Cooperative for Constructing Small Flats in Villages. An Organisation essentially under state control, it provided loans primarily for the previous beneficiaries of the land reform. Looking at the work of this organisation as well as its counterparts, in the essay I wished to assess the extent to which Hungarian social politics was able to attain its goals, especially considering the relative scarcity of funds as well as the almost complete disregard for the needs of social care.
Treasury and consortium: Balance-sheets of the Hungarian gold rente conversion, 1881–1884
The 1881:XXXII Act of Austria-Hungary resolved that the gold rente with 6% interest return squalling 400 million gold forints in nominal value put in circulation in the second half of the 1870s be converted into bonds with 4% interest at the nominal value of 545 million forints. In 1881 the Rotschild consortium first took over bonds with 4% interest at the nominal value of 80 million forints on two occasions (i.e. 160 million altogether) to sell. Then it took over 40 million as the 19th June 1881 an instalment, and finally, another 40 million forints as the 29th September 1881 instalment. The issuing of the bonds was suspended in the wake of the intervening Paris Stock Exchange crisis at the beginning of 1882, and the next sale took place only as late as 1883 and 1884: between 17th and 24th April 1883 70 million, on 26th and 28th May 1884 another 100 million, finally from 22nd to 24th September 1884, the remaining new gold rente worth more than 124 million in nominal value was put in circulation. The study makes an attempt to draw up a balance of the gold rente conversion both from the viewpoint of the Treasury and the consortium (distinctly discussing one of its members, the Hungarian General Credit Bank) focusing on the way it could have been perceived by the individual actors themselves and as we today, adding up these perspectives, can analyse the conversion. At first the state finance hoped for a profit from the conversion to exceed even savings on the interest, then renouncing it for pressure of the deadline required by law for announcing the conversion. Despite a successful start, when the consortium re-started the transaction, following the intervening panic it could reckon only with a diminishing difference of exchange caused by a modest boom. Yet, for the very reason that the transaction was prolonged it was able to gain profit from each option as a result of the interest income from the papers taken over. The consortium kept depositing the syndicated reserves in a way that thanks to the international currency arbitrage, both when the actual conversion and/or the final redemption took place it was able to make the greatest exchange profit.
The beginnings of the Saxon Raiffeisen movement in Transylvania
The paper is an attempt to show why mutual loan societies of the Raiffeisen type in Hungary came into existence in that form, how they were connected to the national movement, and whether they played a part in the changes of the political program. The most important objective of the establishment of the societies of the Raiffeisen type was the establishment of competitiveness through the strengthening of creditability. The cooperative form, based on the unlimited liability of the members, restricting its activities on one town made it possible to simplify credit assessment and to continuously follow with attention the position of the debtor. The number of the member institutions of the Nagyszeben General Savings Bank, operating as the central bank of the cooperatives increased rapidly. The development of their stock of deposits and loans outstanding is indicative of an increasing decree of collecting the savings of the rural population, and, at the same time, an improving supply of credit. Although their weight remained slight in regional and national comparisons, they offered favourable possibilities of credit and deposition. Their social embedding was a factor in their success. The initiators of the movement, first of all dr. Carl Wolff and Josef Bedeus, jr. believed that the active participation by the local elite was necessary for a fruitful operation. Accordingly, the leadership of the societies usually included the pastor and the leaders of the local presbytery, mainly respected farmers and professionals (doctors, teachers, etc.). Nor did the enterprise lack national contents, its achievements demonstrably having an effect on the transforming national program of the Saxons. The principles of the Raiffeisen mutual loan societies strengthened the communities. The restricted operation, the mutual liability of the members, and the active participation of pastors and other figures of note rendered the organisation easy to fit into the rural Saxon institutional network, increasing its competitiveness to the outside, and stabilising it on the inside.
Modernity, modernism, and identity crisis: the fin de siècle Budapest
Carl Schorske's typology taken as basis, the dialectics of modernity and modernism can be illustrated in three, chronologically subsequent stages, dividing history according to the metaphors of city as virtue', 'city as vice', and 'city beyond good and evil'. The magnification of city as virtue in time laid the basis of the relationship to modernity, when liberalism and nationalism were still working in close fusion with one another. This is what rached its peak at the time of the Millennium, in 1896. The optimistic love of city was expressed most clearly by historicism and the cult of historicizing. Blaming the city gained ground along with fast urbanisation and the progress of market capitalism both on the right (conservatism) and on the left (liberalism, socialism). On the right, it sprouted anti-liberalism (political anti-Semitism and exaggerated nationalism), on the left it resulted in socialliberalism intent on reforms. The latter was exemplified by the activity of Mayor Bárczy, with the „sociologists", that is, the sociologist political intellectuals around Huszadik Század working in the background. Finally, alienation originating from Nietzsche also appeared, calling serious modernist cultural movements to life, such as the literary movement of the journal Nyugat, or the scholarly movement represented by the aesthetes (philosophers and art-critics) of Vasárnapi Kör. They gave voice to the attitude of alienation, which was in stark opposition with liberalism (as well as assimilation), but, at the same time, turned away from traditional Hungarian nationalism, and appropriated rebellious ideas. The second and third generations of the Jewish middle classes as well as the modernist artist-intellectuals in Budapest, coming from the provincial nobility, deeply felt this profound crisis of identity.
New middle class — old values (The recruitment and mobility of Piarist monastic teachers)
The paper examines the reconstruction and mobility of the members of the Piarist Order, trying to find out how the Order was able to become a decisive factor in 19–20th century Hungarian secondary school education and thus in (small)town public life so quickly and so durably. A survey of those joining the Order between 1876 and 1930, and the full membership of the order in 1930 yields the following result. On the one hand, it is clear that the Piarist Order was extremely, even beyond the degree usual in clerical institutions, open towards the lower layers of society, such as peasants and the lower middle classes. Long range developments indicated a gradual increase of peasants at the expanse of the lower middle classes, especially artisans. What makes it particularly interesting is that according to mobility routes so far defined, children of peasants were only in exceptional cases able to join middle class professional/social groups, the classic way for them leading through the lower middle classes, just in the process of being pushed to the background. Thanks to this openness, more than 80% of the Piarists, operating the elite secondary schools of the time came from lower social groups, below the middle classes. The atmosphere created by the openness caused by high mobility and the high prestige of the Order together were probably the main factors behind the fertile adaptability of the Order to the rapidly changing conditions of Hungarian society, and this is probably what resulted in its leading position in education.
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