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Photo: “State Duma, Hotel Moskva, Moscow Kremlin and Bolshoy Kamenny Bridge“, by, licensed under CC BY 4.0. Hue modified from the original

Bluhm, Katharina, and Mihai Varga. “Conservative Developmental Statism in East Central Europe and Russia.” New Political Economy 25, no. 4 (July 10, 2019): 1-18.


Russia, Hungary and Poland have been at the forefront of the illiberal counter-movement to neoliberalism. However, while there is increasing knowledge about how ‘populism’ as a discursive strategy has brought illiberals to power, especially in Poland and Hungary, we know surprisingly little about the socioeconomic programme and guiding principles of illiberals. In this article, we argue first that there is such a programme and that – notwithstanding the differences between countries – it features a similar programmatic core in the three countries that took shape in conservative think tanks and guides socioeconomic policy recommendations. Second, this programmatic core is best understood not so much as populism, but as a combination of economic nationalism – subordinating the economy to national interests and to the imperative of protecting national identity – and conservatism, reorienting economic policies to serve the traditional family and undo the perceived wrongdoings of post-communist elites, in particular, privatisation. We call this core conservative developmental statism. Thus illiberalism is reducible neither to populism nor to the whims of the power-holders of the day, and in these countries it needs to be seen in a wider context in which rightwing intellectuals have been working in parallel with politicians to give illiberalism a conservative content.

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.