Populism in Hungary and Poland
Updated: Sep 4
Situations of Dependency, Mechanisms of Dependency Governance, and the Rise of Populism in Hungary and Poland
Dependency theory is back! It's so great to see this book and my chapter on dependency just published.
In 2019, dependency theory celebrated its 50th birthday: Cardoso & Faletto's classic, Dependency and Development, had been published in 1969 originally, and in 1979 in English - the same year as Peter Evans' book, Dependent development, had come out, who wrote a blazing endorsement of this new book.
On this occasion, Aldo Madariaga and Stefano Palestini organized an international workshop in Chile. Chile is crucial for dependency theory: it is the home of ECLAC (or CEPAL in Spanish), a research institute that played a key role in laying the foundations of critical development economics and dependency theory. Ruled by Pinochet between 1973 and 1990, Chile was the archetypical model country of radical neoliberalism, the developmental orthodoxy that emerged in response to the various versions of dependency theory and import substitution in semi-peripheral economies (and to the corresponding social-democratic compromise in core capitalist countries). It seemed that Chile was doomed to its highly polarizing, unequal growth model until a heterogeneous popular movement successfully pushed for a new constitutional referendum in 2019.
I was lucky to be there in Santiago for this workshop celebrating dependency theory when the uprising was at its height, which I will never forget. Chile will now have a new popular constitution. Will dependency theory see a similar comeback as Chile's awakening? I don't know, but I am certain that it's one of the most powerful analytical tools to understand what's happening at the (semi)peripheries of global capitalism, be it Europe's Eastern periphery, or Latin America.
The rise of populism has cast doubt on the sustainability of the marriage of liberal democracy and neoliberal capitalism. There is an urgent need to understand how developmental bottlenecks foster populist social coalitions. This paper builds on the dependency research program to demonstrate how the commonalities and differences in Poland’s and Hungary’s dependent integration into the global economy gave rise to two varieties of populism. While the two countries employed different industrial policies leading to different levels of domestic economic disintegration, they were more similar in the dimension of social policies before the populist breakthrough, giving rise to profound social disintegration in both countries. The disillusionment of the working class with the dependent liberal regime destabilized the social coalitions that were sustaining liberal democracy. The severe disintegration of the economy in Hungary also induced support for national-populism in the domestic business class, leading to a new compromise with transnational capital in the technological export sectors. Poland did not experience such economic disintegration; thus, the alliance between the domestic business class and national-populists is more ambivalent. Hungary’s populism redistributes significant resources upward, while Poland’s populism is more open to redistributive demands of the popular classes.
Cite as: Scheiring, Gábor. 2021. “Situations of Dependency, Mechanisms of Dependency Governance, and the Rise of Populism in Hungary and Poland.” Pp. 183-206 in Dependent Capitalisms in Contemporary Latin America and Europe, edited by A. Madariaga and S. Palestini. Cham: Palgrave Macmillan.