The essay gives an overview of the rise of radical neoconservative discourses in East Central Europe in the wake of the seemingly successful completion of the transition agenda, culminating in NATO and EU accession. It describes the main directions of criticism aiming at the “liberal consensus,” held to be dominating the ideological frameworks of these countries in the 1990s. Offering the metaphor of Kulturkampf as a heuristic model to interpret the interplay between political claims and the battle for hegemony in the public sphere, it revisits some of the central battlegrounds of contention: that of memory politics, the critique of political correctness, and the debate around the reception of Western institutions and intellectual paradigms. Taking a closer look especially at the Polish, Hungarian, and Romanian discussions, the essay also identifies some of the most important ideological references of the “neoconservative revolution” envisioned by these ideologues, such as decisionism, the radicalization of the majoritarian principle toward a plebiscitary understanding of democracy, the reliance on the voluntary activism of an uncivil society, and, finally, a paradoxical antielitist sort of authoritarianism. All in all, while the most spectacular manifestation of this phenomenon is no doubt in Hungary after 2010, the essay argues that it should not be considered a local anomaly but rather a more general and, to a large extent, systemic problem of the postcommunist “transition societies,” which had a very clear image of the short-term trajectory to follow in order to reach the European framework but had far fewer ideas, let alone social consensus, of the type of democratic culture they wanted to create as a result of the transition.
Balázs Trencsényi; Beyond Liminality? The Kulturkampf of the Early 2000s in East Central Europe. boundary 2 1 February 2014; 41 (1): 135–152. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/01903659-2409703
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