Jan-Werner Müller is a fellow at the Institute of Human Sciences in Vienna and also a professor at Princeton. His books include Contesting Democracy: Political Ideas in Twentieth-Century Europe, and his book What is Populism? will be published in September. He spent March 2017 as a visiting fellow at CEU’s Institute of Advanced Study.
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, long a pioneer in anti-liberal government in Europe and an admirer of Donald Trump, is making a wager that a crackdown on universities is the latest addition to the increasingly sophisticated repertoire of right-wing populism—with implications that go far beyond Hungary’s borders.
On one side of the new conflict are those who advocate more openness: toward minorities at home and toward engagement with the world on the outside. On the other side we find the Le Pens, Farages, and Trumps: close the nation-state off by shutting borders and thereby, or so they promise, take back control; but also, preserve the traditional hierarchies that have come under threat on the inside.
The rhetoric of the rapidly growing Alternative for Germany party and its supporters indicates a potentially profound shift in German political culture: it is now possible to be an outspoken nationalist without being associated with—or, for that matter, without having to say anything about—the Nazi past.
In 2011, Jarosław Kaczyński, the leader of Poland’s right-wing Law and Justice Party (known as PiS), announced he wanted to create “Budapest in Warsaw.” Since his party’s resounding election victory in October, the conservative politician has kept his promise. The new Law and Justice government has done everything it can to emulate the authoritarian course of Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán: already, it has attacked the constitutional court, undermined Poland’s independent civil service, and set out to bring the public media under government control.
Réka Szemerkényi, Ambassador of Hungary to the United States: Jan-Werner Müller paints a rather distorted picture of Hungary. While everyone is free in their particular selection of quotes and personal interpretations, factual correctness is not a matter of choice.
Jan-Werner Müller: Ambassador Szemerkényi claims that my piece contains factual errors, but then fails to identify any. Instead, she attributes an argument to me that I did not make.
Until the refugee crisis, European politicians had largely turned a blind eye to Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orbán. Now, as Orbán explained in a speech to party faithful last month, the crisis has given him a “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity” to destroy Europe’s “liberal identity” and replace it with his preferred “Christian, national” one. This is a project that should disturb anyone who cares about the future of democracy in the European Union.