Academic journal article Studia Politica; Romanian Political Science Review

From Liberal Democracy to Illiberalism New Authoritarian Regimes, Hungarian Illiberalism and the Crisis of "Real Existing Liberalism"

Academic journal article Studia Politica; Romanian Political Science Review

From Liberal Democracy to Illiberalism New Authoritarian Regimes, Hungarian Illiberalism and the Crisis of "Real Existing Liberalism"

Article excerpt


The refugee crisis of the summer of 2015 has revealed the imbalance of Europe and the dissimilarity of the sovereignty concepts of each state, which until then have mostly only been revealed by the critical literature of transitology1. Not only has it become clear that, as opposed to the interpretation of Fukuyama, "history was not over" - meaning that liberal democracy is not without rivals - but with the redefinition of Russian authority in the last few years, geopolitical realignments2 and accordingly, changes in European dependency relationships have started to emerge. The incompletion of history is enhanced which was not considered less existent by the Hungarian public opinion for a long time, and which underlined with the referred essay by Faared Zakaria in 1997: "The Rise of Illiberal Democracy" published in Foreign Affairs. Zakaria's writing describes the characteristics of the illiberal democracies3 in an axiomatic way; however, the opening writing of the discourse resulted in more uncertainty than how much was unravelled by it.

The issue has been on the agenda again particularly because of the halt and the backlash of the democratization processes taking place in the former Soviet and post-communist areas. In the same way as the concept of liberal democracy proves to lack homogeneity, that of illiberal democracy has been established as varying from country to country as to its meaning, as well. The possible heterogeneity of the concept, thus the possibility of a universal description of the related countries can be seen in the thematic issues of the Journal of Democracy, a journal comprising of the main Western supporters of democracy, which are to be discussed in detail later.

The following research will in many places allude to the contents of the aforementioned journal related to democratization; however, when presenting Hungarian illiberalism, it will rely less on the terminologies of Western political science, instead, it will opt for the ideas of David Ost4 and Ivan Krastev5, interpreting the 2010 Hungarian regime change as an answer to the crisis of the "enlightened, rationalized liberalism". By way of introduction, it is important to pinpoint: regarding Hungarian illiberalism, the emphasis is placed on its description within the aforementioned framework, rather than on the additional critical interpretations linked to the regime of Viktor Orbán that transgress the theoretical framework. The new post-2010 political constellation can be interpreted with an approach of political history and legal theory, within a distinct terminological (and critical) framework, but in this article, I only aspire to introduce a new interpretation.

In my view, without the critical reading of waves and theories of democratization, characteristics related to authoritarian/populist regimes or hyphenated democracies6 are less intelligible: their social base, the swapping of the hegemonic political thinking of the post-regime change Hungary and responses of the regime to the substantial crisis of post-communist liberalism. Accordingly, this article is divided into two sections: in the first segment, the dilemmas surrounding democracy research and the nature of the new authoritarian regimes will be analysed; in the second part, the crisis of enlightened liberalism will be tackled. In the same section, the distinctiveness of Hungarian illiberalism will be investigated, then as a conclusion, the investigation of the post-2010 mainstream political thinking will follow.

Theories of Democracy and Measurement of Democracy

The only thing which is even more difficult than determining (the variedness of) the concept of democracy is deciding on the criteria by which its quality and power are measured. Deciding on a certain theory for an interpretative background will significantly affect the criteria on the basis of which the latter two are measured. In pursuance of the theory of egalitarian democracy, it is the citizens' legal, political, as well as the possible greatest social and economic equality that provide identical weight to the citizens, and render a regime democratic7. …

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