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Social policy is the area affecting most the well-being and thriving of people, and it thus plays an important role in the campaigns and governance of all political parties. For illiberal actors economic and social policies are of particular importance because, as opposed to outright autocracies, illiberalism exists 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; to date, there is no concise comparative account that includes various welfare state regimes.

At a workshop organized on March 22, 2024, at the CEU Democracy Institute in Budapest, Dorottya Szikra (Research Fellow, CEU Democracy Institute; Head of Department, Centre for Social Sciences) discussed her working paper titled “Illiberalism and Social Policy: A four-country comparison” tackling these issues.

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


📒 Paper presented by: Dorottya Szikra (Research Fellow, CEU Democracy Institute; Head of Department, Centre for Social Sciences)

🗣️ Discussant: Éva Fodor (Professor, Central European University; Research Fellow, CEU Democracy Institute)

🗣️ Chair: Dean Gibson Schafer (Post-doctoral Fellow, CEU Democracy Institute)


Dorottya Szikra’s AUTHLIB Working Paper titled “Illiberalism and Social Policy: A four-country comparison” is available to download 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: Noin90650 via Shutterstock

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