The fading mirage of the “liberal consensus”: What's Wrong With East-Central Europe?

James Dawson, Seán Hanley

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85 Citations (Scopus)
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In 2007 Ivan Krastev argued that EU-enforced ‘liberal consensus’ in East Central Europe was giving way to illiberal, but ultimately benign, populism. Post-accession ‘backsliding’ in Hungary suggests a stronger illiberal challenge. However, we argue, democratic malaise in ECE is better understood as a long-term pattern of ‘illiberal consolidation’ built on an accommodation between technocratic, economistic liberalism and forces of rent-seeking and cultural conservatism. This configuration generates a mirage of liberal-democratic progress and mainstream moderate politics, which obscures engrained elite collusion and limits to cultural change. Bulgarian-style hollowness, rather than Hungarian-style semi-authoritarianism, better exemplifies the potential fate of ECE democracies today.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)20-34
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Democracy
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 27 Jan 2016
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science


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