Democracy and Civil Society in Visegrad 4: the Competing Understanding of Civil Society with Special Focus on Hungary

Krisztina Arató

In recent years the development of the understanding and practice of democracy has undergone significant changes in East Central Europe. The are major debates both in politics and political science about the nature of there changes i.e. whether these new forms of democracy can be understood within the paradigm of democracy or these are hybrid regimes, moreover, wider questions are raised about how democracy can be measured. Civil society is part of the paradigm of democracy and its weakness in ECE has been evidential in political science since the system changes in the 1990s - until recently the strenghtening or at least the mere acceptence of civil society as part of a democratic polity was consensual among political parties in the region. Hungary underwent significant changes in this respect: in 2014 and early 2017 the third Orbán government questioned this consensus. Since political debates show that government politicians use an entirely different understanding of civil society and its functions, the paper intends to find out with the help of the interpretive approach of political science, how this alternative understanding is different from the mainstream one and how it shows a different understanding of democracy and politics.

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