Zsolt K. Horváth
The Metapolitics of Reality: Documentary Film, Social Science Research and Cognitive Realism in Twentieth-Century Hungary1
The article explores how, given the absence of a proper public sphere, twentieth-century Hungarian social research began to use the notion of “reality” in populist socio-reports, the documentary films of the 1970s, and sociological debates. These discussions all shared the assumption that contemporary political elites ignored the “real” conditions of society. Thus it was the duty of social research (socio-reports or sociology proper) to reveal these facts in a manner that was free of ideology. Whereas in North America and Western Europe during the 1960s and 1970s the notion of a directly accessible “reality” had been thrown into question, in Hungary scholarship insisted on this kind of cognitive realism because of social and political reasons. As they argued, “reality” was to be interpreted not as a universal epistemological category, but according to particular terms of the sociology of knowledge. This article explores how the detection of “reality” and “facts” became an ethical vocation within these interrogatory frameworks.