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

Szombati, Kristóf. “The Consolidation of Authoritarian Rule in Rural Hungary: Workfare and the Shift from Punitive Populist to Illiberal Paternalist Poverty Governance.” Europe-Asia Studies 73, no. 9 (2021): 1703-1725.


This essay analyses the consolidation of authoritarian rule in Hungary by focusing attention on the ruling party’s workfare programme, which has become the cornerstone of rural poverty governance. It is argued, on the basis of ethnographic research carried out by the author and the secondary literature, that workfare successfully tamed the angry politics born out of the dislocations caused by neoliberal restructuring. It consolidated post-peasant hegemonies by tying the ‘deserving poor’ into clientelistic relations with mayors. This ‘illiberal paternalism’ constitutes an alternative to neoliberal regimes of poverty governance.

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.