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[VIDEO] Book symposium: From the crisis of liberalism to the rise of illiberalism in Hungary

Note from LeftEast editors: This book symposium took place on 21 May 2021 as part of the online conference ‘Thirty Years of Capitalist Transformations in Central and Eastern Europe: Inequalities and Social Resistance’ organised by the Faculty of Sociology and Social Work, Babes-Bolyai University from Cluj-Napoca, Romania.

Four books were presented at the panel:

The Rise of Hungarian Populism: State Autocracy and the Orbán Regime (Emerald Publishing, Bingley, 2019) Attila Antal, Eötvös Loránd University, Hungary

The Retreat of Liberal Democracy: Authoritarian Capitalism and the Accumulative State in Hungary (Forthcoming, Palgrave Macmillan, London, 2020). Gábor Scheiring, Bocconi University, Milan, Italy

The Revolt of The Provinces: Anti-Gypsyism and Right-Wing Politics in Hungary (New York, Berghahn, 2018). Kristof Szombati, Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology, Halle-Saale, Germany

Movement of the People: Hungarian Folk Dance, Populism and Citizenship. (Indiana University Press, Bloomington, October 2021) Mary N. Taylor, Graduate Center of the City University, New York, US

The collapse of liberal democracy in Hungary represents one of the most paradigmatic cases of the contemporary rise of illiberal culture and politics. An erstwhile ‘poster boy’ of democratic transition, under the leadership of Viktor Orbán’s Fidesz party, Hungary emerged as hybrid, competitive authoritarian regime and a regional stronghold of illiberal politics. While many argue that Hungary represents a unique example, conditioned by a historical legacy of nationalist anti-liberalism, political economic analyses have shown that the country fits well into the international trend of democratic backsliding in the context of neoliberal globalisation. In many respects, Hungary has been a vanguard case, adapting avant-garde neoliberal policies, which explains why the illiberal countermovement is also deeper. The four recent books presented in this book symposium address the question of illiberalism from a culturally sensitive, multidisciplinary perspective drawing on insights from political economy, economic sociology and anthropology. The books contribute to our understanding how the thirty years of capitalist transformation in Hungary is linked to the rise of the new right-wing cultural hegemony, the stability of illiberal rule, and the authoritarian restructuring of the institutional landscape. The panel will touch upon several of the themes of the conference, such as ‘the limitations and external enablers of current varieties of capitalism’, ‘the emergence of neoliberal subjectivities’, and ‘the uneven record of forms of mass resistance to the dislocations produced by the market economy’. The presenters are from different institutions. The presentation of the four books is followed by a roundtable discussion with the authors and the chair of the symposium.

Panel convenors: Gábor Scheiring & Kristof Szombati

Discussant: Don Kalb, University of Bergen