Championing change in rural Hungary: the role of emancipatory subjectivities in the construction of alternatives to illiberal authoritarian populism

15 Marzo 2018
Paper

How is state-supported land grabbing since the early 2010s by Hungarian oligarchs enabling the maintenance of the authoritarian populist regime in Hungary?

This paper discusses how state-supported land grabbing since the early 2010s by Hungarian oligarchs is enabling the maintenance of the authoritarian populist regime in Hungary, and how focusing on subjectivities understood as the ways in which people are brought into relations of power can help scholar-activists to start thinking about emancipation within such context. Scholar-activists interested by the rise of authoritarian populism in Europe and beyond need to pay attention to Hungarian authoritarian rural politics.

Indeed, it is in the countryside that FIDESZ, Orbán’s party, won the 2010 elections by pledging to stand up for the rights of Hungarian smallholder farmers. Furthermore, and more importantly, the authoritarian populist regime’s central pillar, the one that maintains it, is agricultural land grabbing by and for national oligarchs who are close to the government. Stated differently, the Hungarian case highlights the need to discuss the link between domestic grabbing of agricultural lands facilitated by the Hungarian State on one side, and authoritarian populism on the other: how do they enable each other, with what effects, and more importantly: how to envision emancipatory rural politics in a context in which land and natural resources increasingly belong to those who are behind and benefitting from the authoritarian system?

Constructing alternative political avenues requires new analytics to detect and fight oppressions in this and similar contexts. Based on a pilot research carried out in Hungary in 2017, this paper focuses on two aspects: (i) the rural subjects created by authoritarian rural populism; and (ii) the conditions in which the norms that influence the constitution of subjects may be broken. The hypothesis is that emancipatory subjectivities understood as those counter-conducts that challenge the subjectivation processes through speech and/or action need to be given attention because they may be conducive to challenging Hungarian authoritarian rural politics.

This paper was presented at the Emancipatory Rural Politics Initiative (ERPI) 2018 Conference: "Authoritarian Populism and the Rural World"

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