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  • Author or Editor: Krisztina Fehérváry x
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This article looks at the fate of the kind of home furnishing in Hungary known as “bourgeois” (polgári lakáskultúra) as a way to investigate the middle classes that have emerged since the fall of state socialism. In the 1990s, political discourse was full of speculation about the revitalization of a historic bourgeoisie, and the media regularly featured the material culture of such a historic class. Such furnishings were indeed highly valued among an urban intelligentsia, and seemed to represent evidence of a long history of Hungarian bourgeois taste, civilized values and refinement starkly at odds with socialist material culture, tastes and manners. However, I argue that for many of the emerging middle classes in the 1990s and 2000s, this form of furnishing was no longer a suitable expression of the kind of class position to which they aspired, nor for how it was being newly legitimized. As I show through my anthropological fieldwork among the aspiring middle classes in the former “socialist” town of Dunaújváros, even families who owned such furnishings sold them or demoted them to less prominent places in their homes. Although the socialist state had attempted to devalue inherited, antique furnishings in its promotion of modern lifestyles in the 1960s and 70s, it was not until the end of socialism that such furnishings began to fail to represent middle class respectability. New ideals for such a class were based on entrepreneurial achievements in the present rather than on inherited status, and new home décor was an important way in which this new middle class subjectivity was being constituted.

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