BASEES Annual Conference 2022

Who can work on Sunday? Understanding flexible labour in the retail sector in Viktor Orbán’s Hungary

Fri8  Apr03:00pm(20 mins)
Auditorium Lounge


Luca Szücs


A distinctive feature of ‘Orbánism’ is that Viktor Orbán and his political party, Fidesz, took state control over domestic capital accumulation.  In the last 10 years, as a means for controlling access to capital accumulation, the government promoted ‘economic nationalism’ and introduced a series of economic interventions to positively discriminate in favour of national capitalists. This paper looks at a particular intervention, the prohibition of Sunday trading in the retail sector that is one of the main territories of Fidesz’s ‘economic nationalism’. The case of Sunday-ban regulation can be interpreted as providing symbolic and ideological support for the wider politico-economic restructuring that has been taking place in Hungary. This paper argues that the Sunday -ban can be seen as an economic intervention that speaks the language of political conservatism and that aims to boost domestic capital formation in the form of supporting small family businesses by allowing them to remain open on Sundays. Here, the encapsulated picture of the law about families working together reinforces the idea of the family as the most important source of economic security and an alternative to the welfare state. Drawing on ethnographic research conducted in so-called National Tobacco Shops, this paper analyzes how employers and employees perceived the changes and the ways in which quick changes in the law altered working conditions for them.