Blog of The Paradox of Realism Research Group

Liberalism vs. Realism: the Hungarian perspective

2016. April 05. 9:20
Liberalism vs. Realism: the Hungarian perspective

Being the co-ordinator of the comparative module of The Paradox of Realism Research Group, I focus on the parallelisms and differences of the political thinking in Hungary in the last two decades with the current theories of political realism. I graduated from Eötvös Loránd University, Hungary, and the University of Sheffield, UK, as a political scientist. Currently, I am in for defending my dissertation on the ideology and political thinking of the socialist era in Hungary. As a junior research fellow of the Institute of Political Science, Hungarian Academy of Sciences I study political philosophy of liberalism and its theoretical and practical repercussions.

The comparative module of The Paradox of Realism project concentrates on two different, but historically interconnected topics. The first one is the high times and decline of liberal political philosophy in Hungary after the 1989 regime change. In the early 1990s, it seemed, liberal postulates had been left without other contestants and the political culture would develop into a Western-like liberal society. By the mid-2000s the liberal project had failed and a kind of realist viewpoint began to surmount in politics. Taking into account of this “realist turn” in Hungarian political discourses, my research aims to outline a realist turn in Hungarian political philosophy and political theory.  By doing this, first of all, a general account of Hungarian political philosophy of the abovementioned period (1990s and the early 2000s) is needed. Second, I study the “realist turn” of Hungarian political thinking comparing to the assumptions of contemporary realist theories. As one of the hypotheses of our project states, “realist turn” in Hungary is more about discussions and controversies on the nature and the limits of (democratic) politics than debates about the role of morality in political theory.

Besides the research of the comparative module of our project, I pore over the political theory of modus vivendi. As some of its theorists have already expressed, modus vivendi theory is intent on balancing between Rawlsian constructivist and morality-laden liberalism and a kind of Hobbesian perspective of the anthropology of “real world politics”. John Gray, one of the promoters of realist liberalism, recommends a neo-Hobbesian way of social coexistence which is undeniably less ambitious than Kant-based liberalisms. Being a post-liberal (or post-Enlightenment) theory, modus vivendi is more a practice-oriented and open-ended theory than philosophical constructions based on high morality. At the same time, as Gray writes, modus vivendi is not the theory of “anything goes”, and it is necessary to have a solid political foundation of social co-existence.