SASE Blog Chief Editor Gabor Scheiring Wins George Blazyca Prize

Gabor Scheiring has won the 2020 (awarded 2022) George Blazyca Prize for his book The Retreat of Liberal Democracy: Authoritarian Capitalism and the Accumulative State in Hungary (Palgrave Macmillan, 2020). The George Blazyca Prize is offered annually by the British Association for Slavonic and East European Studies for scholarly work of high quality in East European studies.

In their decision text, judges Alison Long and Nigel Swain write:

Scheiring’s The Retreat of Liberal Democracy: Authoritarian Capitalism and the Accumulative State in Hungary addresses one of the most pressing questions of Central and Eastern Europe today: why has Hungary, a member of the EU and NATO, embraced ‘illiberal democracy’? The answer is that significant sections of the Hungarian population have a material interest in it. The judges found Scheiring’s book to be a tour de force, combining political, sociological and economic analysis, always supported by extensive empirical evidence. He documents, with statistics and concrete examples, the extent of economic dependence, dislocation and precarity occasioned by post-socialist marketisation; the emergence of a new bourgeoisie dramatically divided between national elements supporting Fidesz and those, mainly from the historic political left, associated with the transnational economic sector, banking and academia; and an authoritarian state which preserves the façade of democracy to manufacture consent, portraying itself as the guarantor of unity and security against looming threats of international migration and terrorism. In his account, an abandoned working class seeks solace in neo-nationalism, the better-off are bought off with low taxes and generous family benefits, domestic companies are offered protection to pursue cheap-labour-based development; and transnational capital, although demonised politically, receives covert tax concessions to produce high(ish) technology exports. This work not only gives an important insight into the politics of Hungary, but offers a template as to how authoritarian regimes can develop within (ostensibly) democratic frameworks.

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