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Buzogany, Aron, and Mihai Varga. “The Ideational Foundations of the Illiberal Backlash in Central and Eastern Europe: The Case of Hungary.” Review of International Political Economy 25, no. 6 (January 30, 2019): 811-828.


While the spread of neoliberal ideas through networks has attracted much attention worldwide, the ideational content of the recent counter-waves to liberal democracy has still received relatively little consideration. This article focuses on the ideational dimension behind the current illiberal backlash in Central and Eastern Europe. We ask how political conceptions critical of the Western liberal paradigm came about and what their main components are in Hungary, a country which is often seen as the avant-garde of the ‘illiberal backsliding’ in the region. The article shows that political illiberalism in Eastern Europe has intellectual underpinnings forged in conservative intellectual networks that have grown disillusioned with liberal democracy and neoliberalism long before the current illiberal political wave. Combining the reception of Western critiques of liberalism with a critique of post-communist liberals’ perceived lack of willingness to break with the communist past, these intellectuals have slowly but continuously extended their networks and influence since the 1990s. Our analysis suggests that the contestation of liberalism is not reducible to political parties and instead should be approached as a broader phenomenon.

The Illiberalism Studies Program studies the different faces of illiberal politics and thought in today’s world, taking into account the diversity of their cultural context, their intellectual genealogy, the sociology of their popular support, and their implications on the international scene.