Project description

In the last years the insights of political realism have played an increasingly important role in the scientific understanding of Hungarian politics​ . A revealing example is the frequent use of Richard Bellamy's concept of "political constitution" in the literature about the constitution-making and the remodeling of the powers of the Constitutional Court after 2010. 

Unlike the formerly accepted anti-majoritarian, moralizing and liberal approaches to the legitimacy of  constitutional review (Dworkin 1996, Scheppele 2005, Halmai 2012, Kis 1999a, 199b), the new government tried to justify their rather restrictive interpretation of the power of the Constitutional Court by referring to their own mandate provided by an overwhelming electoral majority. Because of their huge proportion of seats in the Parliament, the government parties were given constitution-making power and they were always ready to use it when facing the interventions of the Constitutional Court. This fact made the boundaries of ordinary (law-making) and constitutional politics (constitution-making) somewhat vague in the everyday practice of Hungarian politics since 2010, and it is exactly the distinction that is questioned by Bellamy from a theoretical point of view. That is why so many scientists were keen to apply it to Hungarian politics in normative or descriptive ways.

Contemporary ​ Hungarian ​ political theory also turned to issues that are usually related to political realism. Sometimes they explicitly address the central theme of contemporary political theory: the critique of liberalism (G. Fodor 2008, Megadja 2014). Other times they emphasize the endogenous nature of the political process (Körösényi 2010), the creativity of political agency (Lánczi 2009), the importance of political leadership ​ (Boda 201​ 4, Körösényi - Pakulski 2012), the contextuality and perspectivism of political knowledge (Gyulai 2011, Mándi 2012, Schlett - G. Fodor 2006, Szabó 2011, Szűcs 2010). What ties these, sometimes very different, texts together is their commitment to the idea of the "autonomy of politics" and, thereby, the denial of any normative approaches to politics that seek the justification of politics beyond it. Niccolo Machiavelli, Max Weber, Joseph Schumpeter, Carl Schmitt, Hannah Arendt, Tilo Schabert, Chantal Mouffe, among others, became the theoretical benchmarks of these realist developments. What also deserves attention is the fact that some of the authors discussing realist themes in their theoretical writings are empirical political scientists as well, thus their attention to the nature of politics seems to be as much a reflection on their empirical works as a genuinely theoretical reconsideration of the liberal conceptions of modern democratic politics. However, there seems to exist a ​ paradox of realism in Hungarian context.

By paradox we mean that although realist insights enriched our understanding of the reality of political processes and realist themes figured prominently in contemporary Hungarian political theory, but, until recently, hardly anyone tried to connect them to the mainstream of realist political theory (Bellamy, Gray, Williams, Newey, Shklar, Mouffe, Waldron etc.) in a systematic manner. This lack of a more systematic survey is all the more unfortunate because the affinity of Hungarian political theorists is indeed quite conspicuous with the critique of "high liberalism" and the re-assertion of politics in contemporary political realism. (Galston 2010, Sleat 2013; but for a critique of the conservative character of modern see Finlayson 2015.)

By resolving this paradox, we could do more than just filling a theoretical lacuna: a systematic investigation of the theoretical foundations of the "realist turn" would ​ provide us with more sophisticated means of understanding the real processes of Hungarian politics and might ​ shed new light on the unresolved questions and blind spots ​ of our basic assumptions of politics.