Performing the nation: the Janus-faced populist foundations of illiberalism in Hungary

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review


Hungary once represented a school-book case of transition to democracy. Now it offers insights into both contemporary Europe and theories of populism and nationalism. Resisting the traditional linear perspective to transition and a ‘demographic’ view of democracy, this article explores the relationships among democracy, populism and nationalism. This article operationalises performative and post-foundational theory of populism as a logic of articulation to explain Fidesz and the party leader Viktor Orbán’s illiberal measures, dichotomies between them and us, ultimately leading to nationalism and xenophobia. It shows how revolution, ‘illiberalism’ and migrants have served for populist meaning-making and are related to the political polarisation in Hungary. This article enhances the understanding of democracy by discussing the performative features of nation-building, populism and law-making in contemporary politics and finally the ‘Janus-face’ of populism. It sees 1989 as a populist moment of constitution of the foundations of a new era but also of the people central to democracy, and recognises attempts to generate similar moments in the 2010s.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Contemporary European Studies
Issue number3
Pages (from-to)308-321
Number of pages14
Publication statusPublished - 25 Jul 2018
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed

Fields of Science

  • 517 Political science
  • populism
  • 5200 Other social sciences
  • European Studies
  • Hungarian Studies
  • Nationalism
  • populism



  • 2 Invited talk

Bi-Polar Hegemony and Populism in Hungary (Invited talk at U. of Newcastle)

Emilia Palonen (Speaker)

2 Aug 2018

Activity: Talk or presentation typesInvited talk

The 17th Thesis Eleven Forum Annual Lecture ‘Populism and Democracy in Contemporary Europe’

Emilia Palonen (Keynote speaker)

31 Jul 2018

Activity: Talk or presentation typesInvited talk

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