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Illiberal governments have been widely associated with democratic backsliding, the erosion of the rule of law, and executive aggrandizement. However, their impact on the various domains of knowledge production has not received enough scholarly attention. Through what policies do illiberal actors ensure the reproduction of their narratives? Do illiberal political leaders see education and culture as vehicles that serve ideological purposes or do they consider them as another arena where power, positions, and material resources are at stake? An AUTHLIB Working Paper titled “Illiberalism in Power: Educational and Cultural Policies” by Péter Radó and Bálint Mikola addresses these questions through the analysis of education and cultural policy changes in two crucial cases of illiberals in power: post-2010 Hungary, and Poland after 2015.

Discussing the paper at a workshop organized on February 1, 2024, at the CEU Democracy Institute in Budapest, the authors distinguished between overt and hidden policy agendas, i.e. initiatives and aspirations that are driven by values, social or economic goals vs. policies serving purposes that cannot be openly represented because they contradict widely accepted ethical norms or constitutional principles. Through their analysis of legislative changes, party programs, and party discourse, complemented with semi-structured expert interviews, they found that despite sharing similar policy agendas, Fidesz and PiS considerably differ in the extent to which they transformed educational and cultural policies during their reign. While the main feature of educational and cultural policies in Hungary has been radical political power concentration for its own sake, these policies in Poland rather served the ideological goals of the illiberal culture war. Radó and Mikola conclude that these differences were caused by the latitude afforded to these parties by their respective legislative majorities, indicating that whether illiberals have a supermajority in parliament influences the extent to which they can abuse their power.


📒 The AUTHLIB Working Paper titled “Illiberalism in Power: Educational and Cultural Policies” is presented by Péter Radó (Research Fellow, CEU Democracy Institute) and Bálint Mikola (Postdoctoral Research Fellow, CEU Democracy Institute)

🗣️ Discussant: Ágnes Kende (Research Affiliate, CEU Democracy Institute)

🗣️ Chair: Zsolt Enyedi (Professor, Central European University; Senior Researcher, CEU Democracy Institute)


⬇️ Download the paper HERE 

📰 Read a summary of the key findings HERE

The AUTHLIB consortium does not take collective positions. Views and opinions expressed are those of the authors. They do not necessarily reflect those of the European Union or UK Research and Innovation. Neither the European Union nor the UK Research and Innovation can be held responsible for them.


Photo credit: torcsabi via Shutterstock

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