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Poznań, Poland - Morasko Kampus, room: 1.44
Illiberalism in Hungary: successes and contradictions of the "work-based society"
In the last years scholars and the wider public have focused on the authoritarian features of illiberal regimes. While an attention to practices that marginalize, discipline and control dissenting social groups and oppositional forces is warranted, I find the case for authoritarianism overstated and the use of umbrella terms like ‘authoritarian neoliberalism’ potentially problematic. Coercion plays an important role in generating coveted parliamentary supermajorities and in protecting capital accumulation from popular mobilizations. An overemphasis on coercion, however, conceals the fact that illiberal elites have introduced policies that enjoy widespread support. In this paper I will rely on my earlier work in rural Hungary to show that citizens credited the Fidesz party for restoring the moral order and redressing what were widely considered as excesses of liberal governance. I argue that the flagship public works program generated support for the ruling party in the critical 2010-2014 period. While this program exhibits disciplinary and coercive characteristics, it also contributed toward the reintegration of surplus populations into local communal fabrics. In the last part of the paper I shift my attention to the contemporary period and argue that Fidesz has been much less successful in finding a sustainable solution to one of the chronic problems of dependent capitalism: flexible accumulation in the export-oriented manufacturing sector, which is placing increasing strains on the social reproduction of working-class households and possibly eroding Fidesz’s legitimacy. I end by suggesting that this contradiction in Hungary’s “work-based” socio-political model is worth examining more closely in the future.