Dynamics of an Authoritarian System

Hungary, 2010–2021
$105.00 / €88.00 / £75.00
Publication date: 
July, 375 pages, 31 figures, 21 tables

This conceptually synthetic and empirically rich book demonstrates the vulnerability of democratic settings to authoritarianism and populism. Six scholars from various professional fields explore here the metamorphosis of a political party into a centralized authoritarian system. Viktor Orbán and his Fidesz party needed less than ten years to accomplish this transformation in Hungary. In 2010, after winning a majority that could make changes in the constitution – two-thirds of the parliamentary seats, they evolved and stabilized the system, which produced again the two-thirds majority in 2014, 2018, and ultimately in 2022. The authors reveal how a democratic setting can be used as a device for political capture. They show how a political entity managed to penetrate almost all sub-fields of the economy to arrive at institutionalized corruption, and how the centralized power structure reproduces itself.

With the help of a powerful empirical apparatus—among others analyses of more than 220,000 public tenders, redistributions of state subsidies, and the interconnectedness of those privileged with the political elite — the authors detail the functioning of a crony system and the network aspects of political connections in the rapid enrichment of politically-linked businesses. Their studies demonstrate the role of political capture in this redistribution and how this capture leads to a new social stratification.


Paths to Political Capture and Institutionalized Corruption in Hungary, 2010–2021
System evolutions in comparative perspective
Political-economic context of systemic evolution
From political dominance to political capture
Diffusion of political capture into autonomous national, local and grass-roots institutions
Forced resource redeployment as instruments of self reproduction of the evolving system
Politically selective resource distribution and those most privileged by forced resource redeployment
The domestic and external factors of persistent self-reproduction during evolution

Redistribution and Integration
Welfare redistribution, social integration and inequalities
Project-based redistribution
Recombinant redistribution

Cronyism in the Orbán Regime
An Empirical Analysis of Public Tenders, 2005–2020
Data and Indicators
The Orbán Regime and MGTS+ companies: descriptive statistics
Models and estimations

Political Connectedness in Hungarian State Capitalism:
The Case of the “Fidesz-Connected” Mészáros Group of Companies
Methodology: data collection and processing
Fidesz-connected entrepreneurs on the list of the 100 wealthiest Hungarians
Regulatory and procurement advantages or favors
Lőrincz Mészáros: family and business


"This is a dazzling book, researched in depth, elegantly presented and brilliantly argued. I am not aware of any other book that analyses the workings of the Orbán regime as comprehensively and as insightfully as this volume. This impressive book brings the Orbán dictatorship into full focus and should be in every serious university library."
“This book is a valuable account of the inner workings and dynamics of the Hungarian political regime since Fidesz’s landslide 2010 electoral victory. It makes a significant contribution to our understanding of how and why Fidesz was able to capture the Hungarian state and economy since 2010.”
“Orbán’s government has gradually infiltrated into all strata of Hungary’s social-political-economic life. The particular strength of the presentation and analysis of that process in this collective work consists in the variety of approaches and research methods applied by the authors: theoretical dissection, case studies, and econometrics supporting each other and integrated into a convincing whole.
“The authors of this book succeed in a task that is very difficult to accomplish: writing a book with high political relevance, great conceptual clarity, and enormous data sets. All three elements are present throughout and none get in the way of the other. Good books meet one of these standards, very good ones, two, and outstanding ones all three. Dynamics of an Authoritarian System is an outstanding book.”
“Orchestrated illiberal attacks on constitutional democracies are often discussed by representatives of various disciplines. But systemic problems require systemic analyses—something the authors of this volume master in an exquisite manner. They bring together concepts of different academic fields, offering a clear analysis of the interconnectedness of political capture and institutionalized corruption, and revealing how political capture diffuses into different social subfields. A must-read for anyone who wishes to gain a comprehensive picture of the maladies of constitutional democracies threatened by authoritarian or hybrid regimes.”