Kis was born in Budapest, Hungary. He graduated from Philosophy at the Eötvös Loránd University in 1967. Kis was inspired by the ideas of György Lukács, and became marxist in the 1960s. He joined the Hungarian Communist Party (MSZMP) too. In 1973 he was dismissed as a researcher at the Institute of Philosophy at the Hungarian Academy of Sciences after co-authoring a book criticizing Marxist socialism from leftist point of view. He was excluded from the MSZMP as well.
On radical leftist and human-rights-liberal basis, he strongly opposed the communist regime in Hungary, he helped to create the first opposition journal Beszélő which was first issued in December 1981. He was the Editor-in-Chief of this underground journal until the democratization of the country in 1989. He was also member of the democratic opposition party Alliance of Free Democrats (SzDSz).
After the fall of communism in 1989-1990, the SzDSz entered the democratic Parliament and Kis was elected as the party leader in 23 February 1990. He remained in this office until 23 November 1991, when he left active politics and returned to an academic career. However, he remained in the SzDSz. He welcomed the coalition of the SzDSz with the Hungarian Socialist Party (MSZP)
In 1992, he became a professor at the Central European University. Since 1996, he has also been a visiting professor at New York University. He left the SzDSz in 2002, when the socialist prime minister, Peter Medgyessy proved to be a former officer of the communist secret service (officer D-209).
Kis has written numerous articles and books on political science, such as Politics as a Moral Problem. Despite having left the political arena years ago, he continues to take controversial positions on several issues.
- Biography at the New York University Website
- Gale Stokes, The Walls Came Tumbling Down(New York: Oxford University Press, 1993), 88-89.
- Kis János- Hungarian Wikipedia-article: http://hu.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kis_J%C3%A1nos