Civil Movements in an Illiberal Regime

Political Activism in Hungary
$65.00 / €62.00/ £53.00
Publication date: 
September, 238 pages

Dániel Mikecz addresses in this study the tensions between oppositional civil society and party-political actors. As successive elections demonstrate the increasing confidence of the illiberal regime of Viktor Orbán, left and liberal parties of the opposition have faced a prolonged crisis in credibility. At the same time, the civil society has not been immobile, and bottom-up initiatives, social and political movements, and non-governmental organizations have gained momentum in the public sphere. The ruling power is also active in the extra-parliamentary political arena. Through national consultations, Peace Marches, and other means, Orbán’s governing Fidesz party has mobilized voters outside of election campaigns and has implemented a so-called movement governance. The study offers a vivid examination of this top-down or astroturf mobilization of the regime.

Mikecz identifies the different patterns of activism and creates a coherent typology. He describes in detail each kind of activism based on opinion surveys, protest surveys and content analysis. The categorization and comprehensive exploration of civil movements provide a deep understanding of the mechanisms of illiberal postcommunist regimes.

List of Tables 
1 Introduction 
2 The Context of Activism: Civil Society and Political Participation in Hungary 
From Civil Society to Civil Movements 
The Political Opportunity Structure of the Hungarian Illiberal Regime 
3 Protest and Politics after the Illiberal Turn 
New Waves of Protest and Political Participation after 2010 
Structural Contrasts between Civil and Political Action 
Institutionalization Processes 
4 Patterns of Activism in Hungary 
Civil Ethos Activism
Experience-oriented, Altruistic Activism 
Advocacy Activism 
Exclusive Political Activism 
Populist Political Activism 
5 Conclusions 


“Civil Movements in an Illiberal Regime is a must-read for everybody interested in a so far under-researched topic: the drivers, types, and dynamics of civil society and contentious collective action in illiberal regimes. Analyzing rich evidence of social and political conflict in Viktor Orbán’s regime, the book demonstrates that despite the rulers’ repressive measures, and the anti-political tradition and low trust in the effectiveness of civic activism, collective contention does exist in post-2010 Hungary. An empirically based classification helps the readers to make sense of contentious activities, from supporting homeless people and refugees to resisting authoritarian education reforms. For its coherent and potentially generalizable analytic framework and encyclopedic wealth of examples of resistance to democratic backsliding, the volume will be a valuable discussion material in undergraduate and graduate courses as well as training sessions of civil society organizations.”
“Dániel Mikecz explains the importance of a space for civil society in any kind of democratic society, and shows how activists’ efforts to fill that space was critical to the democratic transition in Hungary. He then deploys a full complement of theoretical and methodological tools to inventory the composition of active groups in a democratic space under great pressure from an increasingly authoritarian government. Civil Movements is indispensable for making sense of the current moment in Hungary and for understanding what it takes to build a stable democratic polity.”