Beneath the surface of illiberalism

Okładka raportu Adama Balcera Pod powierzchnią illiberalizmuOver the last years, the support for right wing national populists increased substantially in more than half of the EU member states, due to very different local reasons, as has been demonstrated by various elections, opinion polls and referenda. Right-wing national populism is strongly intertwined with ethnic nationalism – as opposed to civic nationalism. Certainly, civic nationalism cannot be mechanically presented as a positive antithesis of ethnic nationalism.

Nevertheless, it is not an accident that civic nationalism constrained by the rule of law protecting the individual rights and national minorities gained the status of official nationalism in Western countries after World War II.

National populists try to present themselves as the defenders of nations against supranational and federal European utopias. However, the main ongoing confrontation is between ethnic nationalism promoted by national populists and civic nationalism which constitutes the key pillar of the EU. It means that the acceptance of the main proposals of national populists in regard to the definition of the nation will signify the beginning of the end of the EU.

Against this background, Poland and Hungary are unique cases in Europe because they are ruled by single party governments of “soft” right wing national populists, namely the Hungarian Civic Alliance (Fidesz) in Hungary and Law and Justice (PiS) in Poland. We believe that in order to better understand the phenomenon of PiS and Fidesz, we need to analyse also the historical trajectories of nation-building processes in both countries, the identity politics of both parties and their politics of memory how they are framed by various intellectual and political traditions.

Particularly taking into account, that nation-rebuilding has become the spécialité de la maison of PiS and Fidesz. In this study, we focus on three specific domains in which the shift in the understanding of the nation is most visible – namely in the attitudes towards the state, democracy and the West. We finish by formulating lessons that stem from these two case studies and can serve as a ‘warning call’ for the rest of Europe


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Adam Balcer


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The report has been published in cooperation with the Heinrich Böll Foundation in Warsaw

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