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Péter Radó & Bálint Mikola – Illiberalism in Power: Educational and Cultural Policies


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?

In this AUTHLIB Working Paper, Péter Radó and Bálint Mikola address these questions through the analysis of educational and cultural policy changes in two crucial cases of illiberals in power: Hungary after 2010 and Poland after 2015. The paper distinguishes between overt and hidden policy agendas; that is, initiatives and aspirations that are driven by values and social or economic goals versus policies serving purposes that cannot be openly represented because they contradict widely accepted ethical norms or constitutional principles.

Through the analysis of legislative changes, party programs, and party discourse, complemented with semi-structured expert interviews, the study finds that, despite sharing similar policy agendas, Fidesz and PiS have considerably differed in the extent to which they transformed values-based political narratives to educational and cultural policies while in government. While the main feature of educational and cultural policies in Hungary has been radical concentration of political power for its own sake, in Poland they rather served the ideological goals of the illiberal culture war. The paper concludes that these differences were caused by the latitude afforded to these parties by their respective legislative majorities, that in turn resulted in very different governance contexts for policymaking.


Download the paper HERE.


Suggested citation: Radó, Péter and Bálint Mikola. 2023. “Illiberalism in Power: Educational and Cultural Policies.” AUTHLIB Working Papers 2.

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