"But we are still mothers": Gender and the construction of need in post-socialist Hungary

Lynne Haney

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    This paper examines the gender regime of the welfare state transition underway in contemporary Hungary. I analyze this welfare restructuring within three state terrains and trace shifts in regime policies, institutional practices, and client strategies from late state socialism to the present. I argue that these shifts denote fundamental alterations in the social conception of need and in the nature of claims to state assistance. In the last two decades of state socialism, the Hungarian welfare apparatus was organized around maternal guarantees that accorded women benefits based on their contributions as mothers. These social guarantees provided female clients with a sense of entitlement and practical resources for use in their domestic struggles. In post-socialist Hungary, this maternal discourse is being dislodged by a new language of welfare designed to target and treat poverty. As the welfare system is oriented toward poor relief, women's needs have been materialized and their maternal identities displaced by new class identities and stigmas. With these shifts, the practical and discursive space for women to maneuver has contracted - prompting female clients to resist and reassert their previous status as entitled mothers. The data presented in this paper are drawn from archival, interview, and ethnographic research conducted in Budapest, Hungary from October 1993 to April 1995.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)178-244
    Number of pages67
    JournalSocial Politics
    Issue number2
    StatePublished - 1997

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Gender Studies
    • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)


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