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Domonkos Sik – Populist Juggling with Fear: The Case of Hungary

By December 9, 2023No Comments

Hungarian Parliament hue changed: Photo: “Budapest: Hungarian Parliament“, by Jorge Franganillo licensed under CC BY 2.0. Hue modified from the original

Sik, D. (2023). Populist Juggling with Fear: The Case of Hungary. East European Politics and Societies37(4), 1291-1313


In this article, the interrelatedness of contemporary populism and fear is analysed. It is argued that contemporary populism is burdened with the uncertainties and contingencies of late modernity. Therefore, it is not capable of merely “instrumentalizing” fear (i.e., relying on fear as an instrument of ideological goals). Instead, populism is forced to “juggle” with fear in a continuously changing, unpredictable constellation. In the first section, the ideal type of instrumentalizing fear is introduced. In the second section, this ideal type is developed into the model of juggling with fear based on theories of late modernity: the impact of the narrowing of political agency, the reconfiguration of the public sphere, and the interiorization of uncertainty are analysed. In the third section, this ideal type is further explored through a case study of illiberal Hungary: the empirical patterns of juggling with quotidian and virtual fears reveal the micro-mechanisms and the broader consequences.

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.