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Hungary’s Crisis of Democracy

The Road to Serfdom

Peter Wilkin

Hardback
eBook
To make sense of this the author draws upon two traditions of thought, world systems-analysis, which situates Hungary in the context of its incorporation in the modern capitalist world-system after the fall of communism; and anarchist social thought which provides a unique way of seeing the actions of states and political elites. In so doing the book argues that the events unfolding in Hungary cannot be explained on the basis of Hungarian exceptionalism but must be situated in the broader political and economic context that has shaped the development of Hungary since 1990. The form of capitalism introduced in Hungary and across the region of East and Central Europe has systematically undermined the strong state and social security that had existed under communism, and when added to the failure of the left and liberals in the region it has paved the way for far-right and neo-fascist political movements to emerge claiming the mantle of defenders of society from the market. This represents a fundamental threat to the enlightenment traditions that have shaped dominant modern political ideologies and raises profound problems for both the EU and NATO. « less more »
Lexington Books
Pages: 250Size: 6 1/4 x 9 1/4
978-0-7391-8791-3 • Hardback • August 2016 • $90.00 • (£60.00)
978-0-7391-8792-0 • eBook • August 2016 • $89.99 • (£60.00)
Peter Wilkin is a reader in social science at Brunel University.
Chapter 6 Social Movement protest 2: Milla and virtual politics
Chapter 7 The European Union, NATO and the Hungarian crisis
This book explains Hungary’s current democratic crisis by situating it within the semi-periphery of the modern world system, arguing that the Fidesz party’s political dominance involves an attempt to create a developmental state in the face of social crises brought about by neo-liberalism, an attempt that is simultaneously constrained by that ideology. Wilkins provides a remarkably lucid account of world systems theory, combined with a good overview of elite theory, the latter emphasizing Scott’s concept of the “anarchist squint.” The main topics covered include the communist legacy’s influence on the composition of the political elite that oversaw the democratic transition; Fidesz’s party evolution from neo-liberalism to its current status as the hegemonic party of the Right; the rise of Jobbik in the context of Hungary’s fascist past; the role of digital governance and media wars in Fidesz’s rise to power; Milla’s strengths and weaknesses as a liberal capitalist democratic opposition movement; and the key external role played by the EU and NATO. Apart from making a strong case for analyzing political change in the context of international political economy, the book’s main strength is providing a clear, detailed overview of political developments in this unfortunately quite relevant case of democratic failure. Summing Up: Recommended. Upper-division undergraduates through faculty.
CHOICE


This is a very timely book in the wake of the recent controversy over the referendum result in the UK. Peter Wilkin’s book examines the specific example of Hungary which has endured its very own crisis of democracy. Wilkin situates the Hungarian case study in the context of the transition from communism to capitalism across Central and Eastern Europe. The consequences of this have been dramatic in terms of the growth of far right and fascist movements in Hungary and elsewhere. In fact, as Wilkins points out, many of the problems faced by Hungary are a consequence of successive governments embracing the neo-liberal reforms prescribed by the EU as a condition for membership. Clearly, the socio-economic and political impact of those preconditions is being widely felt, particularly in Hungary. This broader process requires more sustained research but Wilkin’s book is essential reading for anyone seeking to understand the nature of socio-political change in contemporary Hungary, and beyond.
Mark Hayes, Southampton Solent University


This is a forcefully argued book that goes well beyond the state of democracy in Hungary. Wilkin illuminates the irresolvable tensions between capitalism, the state and democracy; sheds light on the inherent contradictions of liberalism; and provides a riveting thesis on the current crisis facing the EU and the wider modern world system. Through an 'anarchist squint' we get to understand political developments, media reforms, and social movements in Hungary as part of a much broader trend in (il)liberal democracy since the end of the Cold War. A fascinating read.
Lina Dencik, Cardiff University, Lecturer


The 1956 Hungarian Revolt was an inspiration to the nascent New Left. Now, as Peter Wilkin’s insightful volume describes, Hungary’s present ‘conservative revolution’ prefigures a different and more disturbing global political development. Hungary’s Crisis of Democracy studies the former Soviet satellite’s transformation to neo-liberalism and its current evolution into Fidesz’s chauvinistic nationalisms and the rise to prominence of the overtly fascist Jobbik movement. This analysis of the rise of xenophobic populism aided by the policies and failings of neo-liberal institutions themselves has vital, political relevance well beyond Hungary’s borders, and is given particularly urgency following the Brexit referendum.
Benjamin Franks, University of Glasgow, Lecturer in Social and Political Philosophy


A truly excellent and thoughtful volume which provides a remarkably coherent understanding of Hungary’s transition and subsequent political events up to the present day. Using modern world system’s analysis and critical elite theory, Peter Wilkin delivers a sophisticated account of the geopolitical, economic, cultural and political logics shaping Hungary’s trajectory. As a result, the book places Hungary’s transition within the wider regional and global context providing a much deeper understanding of the transformational processes involved in Hungary’s economic and political transformation. It does more than simply provide a narrative of major contemporary political events within the country, it genuinely moves the debate forward through analyzing such events in the context of the global capitalist system. The book is timely and provocative and raises questions not only for the future trajectory of Hungary, but for the European Union in general.
John Glenn, University of Southampton


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