Democratic Decline in Hungary: Law and Society in an Illiberal Democracy, 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

Democratic Decline in Hungary

Law and Society in an Illiberal Democracy, 1st Edition

By András L. Pap


176 pages

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Paperback: 9780367312978
pub: 2019-03-28
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pub: 2017-08-02
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This book shows the rise and morphology of a self-identified `illiberal democracy’, the first 21st century illiberal political regime arising in the European Union. Since 2010, Viktor Orbán’s governments in Hungary have convincingly offered an anti-modernist and anti-cosmopolitan/anti-European Unionist rhetoric, discourse and constitutional identity to challenge neo-liberal democracy. The Hungarian case provides unique observation points for students of transitology, especially those who are interested in states which are to abandon pathways of liberal democracy.

The author demonstrates how illiberalism is present both in `how’ and `what’ is being done: the style, format and procedure of legislation; as well as the substance: the dismantling of institutional rule of law guarantees and the weakening of checks and balances. The book also discusses the ideological commitments and constitutionally framed and cemented value preferences, and a reconstituted and re-conceptualized relationship between the state and its citizens, which is not evidently supported by Hungarians’ value system and life-style choices.


"Fittingly described by the author as ‘a diary of a constitutional scholar,’ this book offers an important critical account about key constitutional and political developments that shaped the emergence of ‘illiberal democracy’ in Hungary in 2010-11. The analysis reflects an impressive breadth of knowledge coupled with deep commitment to the principles of liberal democracy. The book should be of great interest to scholars, students, and policy-makers interested in the future of democratic government in post-Cold War Europe."

Zsuzsa Csergo, Queen’s University, Canada

"Pap’s fascinating and timely Democratic Decline shows how defensible laws and democratic processes can be used to construct illiberalism. Most interesting is how the Hungarian 'System of National Cooperation,' an ideology that puts the national above the political community and has parallels with other European populisms, impacts an incredible range of policies that serve to privilege Christian, middle-class families and protect the state against individual rights claims."

Stephen Deets, Babson College, USA

"As one of the first and most corrosive expressions of the antiliberal Zeitgeist proliferating across today’s world, Viktor Orbán’s "illiberal democracy" should be of concern to every politically responsible citizen in every struggling Western democracy. To understand what is at stake, no English-language work is more timely and more illuminating that András Pap’s original and biting analysis of Hungary’s plunge into constitutional antiliberalism."

Stephen Holmes, New York University School of Law, USA

Table of Contents


Part I. Chronology and explanations: what happened in Hungary in 2010–2012

Chapter 1. Democratic U-turn, the chronology of building an illiberal democracy

1. Meanwhile in Hungary: An illiberal democracy in the making

2. The legislative juggernaut

3. Dismantling rule of law guarantees

4. Expanding the electorate and gerrymandering

5. And the new constitution…

6. Constitutional partnership or cemented clientelism?

7. Immediate responses

Chapter 2. Causes and explanations

1. Values and political culture

2. Orbán and his strategy: The rhetoric and politics of the "dark side"

3. A little help from the constitutional structure…

4. Economic hardship

Part II. The microfabric of the Hungarian illiberal democracy’

Chapter 3. Illiberalism as constitutional identity

1. Terminology and conceptualization

2. Illiberalism and the emergence of a new political community: The System of National Cooperation

3. Illiberalism and the System of National Cooperation

4. Illiberal democracy as constitutional identity

Chapter 4. Intimate citizenship and value preferences in the new constitution

1. The SNC as a workfare state

2. The SNC as a Christian state

3. Family in the SNC

4. Equality of intimate citizenship in the SNC

5. Reproductive rights in the SNC

5. Paternalism and essentialism in the SNC

6. Conclusions

Chapter 5. Illiberal multiculturalism: deceptive premises, misguided policies

1. Illiberal transnationalism: The nation and the constitution in internal and external homelands

2. Illiberal multiculturalism: The nation and the minorities

3. Conclusion

Chapter 6. Communitarians, dignity, and privacy: personhood and transparency in the System of National Cooperation

1. Communities as primary agents of dignity

2. Liberal instruments for illiberal objectives: privacy as a tool to obstruct public accountability and to protect the dignity of government institutions and officials

3. Privacy as a tool for ethnic discrimination and marginalization

4. Concluding thoughts

Chapter 7. Closing Remarks


About the Author

András L. Pap is Research Chair and Head of Department for the Study of Constitutionalism and the Rule of Law, Hungarian Academy of Sciences Centre for Social Sciences, Institute for Legal Studies; he is SASPRO-Marie Sklodowska-Curie Fellow, Institute of Sociology, Slovak Academy of Sciences, Bratislava, Slovakia; Professor of Law, Law Enforcement Faculty, National University of Public Service; Recurrent Visiting (Adjunct) Professor, Nationalism Studies Program, Central European University, Budapest, Hungary.

About the Series

Comparative Constitutional Change

Comparative Constitutional Change

Comparative Constitutional Change has developed into a distinct field of constitutional law. It encompasses the study of constitutions through the way they change and covers a wide scope of topics and methodologies. Books in this series include work on developments in the functions of the constitution, the organization of powers and the protection of rights, as well as research that focuses on formal amendment rules and the relation between constituent and constituted power. The series includes comparative approaches along with books that focus on single jurisdictions, and brings together research monographs and edited collections which allow the expression of different schools of thought. While the focus is primarily on law, where relevant the series may also include political science, historical, philosophical and empirical approaches that explore constitutional change.

Xenophon Contiades is Professor of Public Law, School of Social and Political Sciences, University of Peloponnese and Director of the Centre for European Constitutional Law-Themistocles and Dimitris Tsatsos Foundation, Athens, Greece.

Thomas Fleiner is Emeritus Professor of Law at the University of Fribourg, Switzerland. He teaches and researches in the areas of Federalism, Rule of Law, Multicultural State; Comparative Administrative and Constitutional Law; Political Theory and Philosophy; Swiss Constitutional and Administrative Law; and Legislative Drafting. He has published widely in these and related areas.

Alkmene Fotiadou is Research Associate at the Centre for European Constitutional Law, Athens.

Richard Albert is Professor of Law and Nicholson Scholar at Boston College Law School.

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
LAW / General
LAW / Constitutional
LAW / Government / General
LAW / Judicial Power
POLITICAL SCIENCE / Political Freedom & Security / Civil Rights
POLITICAL SCIENCE / Government / Legislative Branch
POLITICAL SCIENCE / Political Ideologies / Democracy
POLITICAL SCIENCE / Government / Comparative
POLITICAL SCIENCE / Political Freedom & Security / Human Rights
POLITICAL SCIENCE / Government / Judicial Branch