Scholars generally agree that an epochal shift took place in Hungarian politics and society after Orbán returned to power in 2010. In Europe his party has become a pariah. He has institutionalized a system rooted in emotional "populism" or "neo-nationalism" while pursuing economic policies combining high dependence on transnational (especially German) corporations with consolidating a domestic bourgeoisie. The "migrants' crisis" of 2015 and the fragmented character of the opposition played into his hands in successive elections (and may yet do so again in 2022). This Panel includes analyses of the political economy of Orbán's Hungary and the results of qualitative research into the emotional dimensions of collective life and processes of "othering" in an era of deep disillusionment, tying together material and immaterial aspects of the regime.
My paper will examine rather Orbán’s politics, while eschewing attempts to label them. Since he first appeared on the national political scene in the Spring of 1989, he has proved himself an astute political actor, devoid of scruples, with an unsentimental understanding of what modern regimes need to retain power. The paper will, first, explore what features of the Orbán regime might qualify it as a ‘pariah state’ before, second, interrogating why he ‘gets away with it’. Orbán promotes ‘illiberal democracy’ and exploits the guilty secrets of real-world liberal democracies in justification while consistently ensuring deniability.