The Retreat of Liberal Democracy


A book launch and conversation with Dr Gábor Scheiring, author of the book The Retreat of Liberal Democracy: Authoritarian Capitalism and the Accumulative State in Hungary.

15th April 2021

Why is the world facing a wave of democratic backsliding? Is contemporary capitalism causing this spread of authoritarian regimes?How does neoliberalism weaken democracy in the name of expanding it?

Not long ago, most Western politicians and scholars assumed such questions would be unnecessary, as capitalist institutions and democracy would reinforce each other in creating a long wave of post-Cold War global development. They treated countries where this was not happening, like Hungary after 2010, as anomalies. In his important new book, recent ISRF Fellow Dr Gábor Scheiring shows why this view is wrong. A former member of Hungary’s parliament as well as a political economist, he shows that Hungary is not an anomaly but an exemplary case of development under current international rules. Viktor Orbán’s illiberalism is a strategic way to build a new accumulative state, furthering domestic capital accumulation without challenging the dominance of international capital. Dr. Scheiring’s analysis offers both a unique perspective on Hungary and a clear understanding of the politics of global capitalism in the 2020s.  

Dr Scheiring offers an overview of his book. Two experts on the topic respond: Professor Chris Hann, a Director of the Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology and a Fellow of Corpus Christi College, Cambridge who has worked in Eastern Europe as an economic anthropologist since the 1970s, and Dr Sherrill Stroschein (UCL), Reader in Politics and author of Ethnic Struggle, Coexistence, and Democratization in Eastern Europe. Questions follow, moderated by Professor Christopher Newfield, ISRF Director of Research.

This is the fifth in the ISRF’s series of Book Launches.