Hungary’s U-Turn: Retreating from Democracy

Issue Date July 2015
Volume 26
Issue 3
Page Numbers 34-48
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For two decades Hungary, like the other Eastern European countries, followed a general policy of establishing and strengthening the institutions of democracy, rule of law, and a market economy based on private property. However, since the elections of 2010, when Viktor Orbán’s Fidesz party came to power, Hungary has made a dramatic U-turn. This article investigates the different spheres of society: political institutions, the rule of law, and the influence of state and market on one another, as well as the world of ideology (education, science and art), and describes the U-turn’s implications for these fields and the effect it has on the life of people. It argues against the frequent misunderstandings in the interpretation and evaluation of the Hungarian situation, pointing out some typical intellectual fallacies. It draws attention to the dangers of strengthening nationalism, and to the ambivalence evident in Hungarian foreign policy, and looks into the relationship between Hungary and the Western world, particularly the European Union. Finally, it outlines the possible scenarios resulting from future developments in the Hungarian situation.

About the Author

János Kornai is Allie S. Freed Professor of Economics Emeritus at Harvard University and Honorary Professor Emeritus at Corvinus University of Budapest. His many books include The Socialist System (1992), From Socialism to Capitalism (2008), and most recently Dynamism, Rivalry, and the Surplus Economy (2013). A longer version of this essay with additional explanations and citations is available on the author’s website.

View all work by János Kornai