MetaTOC stay on top of your field, easily

Civil society, radicalism and the rediscovery of mythic nationalism

Nations and Nationalism

Published online on


The article argues that contrary to the widely held view that traces the recent rise of illiberalism in Hungary and Eastern Europe to a weak civil society, the past decade has witnessed a surge of civil society activism. But rather than working exclusively towards strengthening and complementing liberal political institutions, civil society has also provided fertile soil to the spread of right‐wing populism, radicalism and xenophobia. The analysis suggests that civil society organisations have in fact played an important role in the right‐wing radicalisation of contemporary Hungarian politics. Conservative civic groups have been instrumental in reinvigorating the symbolic vocabulary of a mythic nationalism that was widespread at the turn of the nineteenth and twentieth century as well as in the 1930s. The resurrection of nationalist, irredentist and anti‐Semitic symbols and paraphernalia (e.g. greater Hungary car stickers) has been a major vehicle for increasing the public visibility and political impact of these groups. The article shows through case studies of specific organisations how this seemingly anachronistic symbolic repertoire has found new resonance in contemporary Hungarian public life.