Hungary’s regime is proof that capitalism can be deeply authoritarian
Blaming citizens for their alleged populist or anti-democratic turn is misleading. Without the active involvement of the economic elite, both foreign and domestic, authoritarian capitalism could not have emerged in Hungary.
Viktor Orbán secured his third definitive victory on April 8 in Hungary’s parliamentary elections. Although Hungary was praised a decade ago for being a prime case of successful democratisation and free market reform, now it is another example of liberal institutions sliding towards autocracy.
The fierce anti-migrant hate campaign was the most visible sign of the length to which Orbán was prepared to go to ensure his majority. Since 2010 Orbán has been using the momentum created by popular anger at the failures of liberal policies to build up his own system: authoritarian capitalism. A system that is deeply illiberal but capitalist: private property and the profit logic still dominate, but the state bureaucracy and its institutions are subdued to the enrichment of the preferred national economic elite.
Borrowing from Bourdieu, it abolishes the left hand of the state and uses its right hand to repress dissent and discipline citizens. Understanding the success of the authoritarian turn in Hungary offers lessons for the future of democracy and liberal, tolerant, open politics worldwide.
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(Cover photo source: Wikimedia Commons/Elekes Andor)