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Dorottya Szikra – Illiberalism and Social Policy: A four-country comparison


Social policy is the area affecting most the wellbeing and thriving of people, and it thus plays and important role in the campaigning and governance of all political parties. For illiberal actors economic and social policies are of particular importance because, as opposed to outright autocratic ones, they exist under democratic or quasi-democratic circumstances. Illiberal actors have to build popular legitimacy, and they do so primarily through economic and social promises and welfare policies. Despite the central importance of social policies to illiberal actors, this area is still under-researched and hitherto no concise comparative account exists that would include various welfare-state regimes.

To fill this gap, Dorottya Szikra selected four countries that are members of the EU and experienced illiberal rule in the past decades. Austria, Italy, Hungary, and Poland also belong to three different welfare regime types, which allows for a cross-regime comparison. Her working paper asks the following research questions: What kind of social policies do illiberal actors pursue? Are their social policy reforms popular? Is there an illiberal style of social policymaking?

The paper employed qualitative text analysis of party manifestos and policy documents between 2008 and 2023. The findings indicate a gradual “leftist” turn by illiberal parties in economic and social policies that are, however, focused on performance. Somewhat paradoxically, illiberal actors fight gender wars alongside increased attention to female constituencies.


Download the paper HERE.


Suggested citation: Szikra, Dorottya. 2024. “Illiberalism and Social Policy: A four-country comparison.” AUTHLIB Working Papers 3.

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