|The composition and disintegration of historical élites|
|In my paper, I will discuss the results of a research into local élites. The scene of my research was Hajdúság, a region near the town Debrecen in the Eastern part of Hungary. In my work I use historical, anthropological and sociological methods. I rely on different written sources, documents of archives, statistics and mainly interviews.
First, a few notes about the notions I will use.
Local élite is the highest layer of society of a settlement whose members are at the top of the local community considering characteristics like income, qualifications, positions and prestige. They are people in leading positions who form opinions and give models to follow for the rest of the community. In fact, it means middle class élite because in Debrecen and its region there are no groups of society that could be classified as the very top of the social hierarchy of the whole population.
I call historical élite the local élite before 1945. It comprises of the families that played a key role in the local society until the Second World War. At the end of the war and after the war due to social and political changes they lost their status of élite.
In my present paper, I will focus on the historical élites, I will present their composition and disintegration. In the interviews I made with descendants of historical élite families, I asked questions about their memories of their families’ lifestyles, connections, the families’ positions in the local society and their lives after 1945. I also wanted to know what life strategies the members and descendants of the families had, how mobile they were and I examined whether the descendants of these families were able to get back to the local élite.
Based on my research, it is not characteristic of descendants of historical élite to return to the local élite. However, reconversion of descendants of historical élite families is very characteristic: despite their temporary loss of status these families were able to form such strategies that helped their descendants get into higher status in the community. In the communist era it was the most frequent behaviour to aim for intellectual occupations and acquire status that goes with it. It is characteristic of today’s descendants of historical élite families that they spread all around the country and in most cases their status can be classified as middle class.