Rethinking “democratic backsliding” in Central and Eastern Europe – looking beyond Hungary and Poland

Licia Cianetti, James Dawson, Sean Hanley

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This essay introduces contributions to a special issue of East European Politics on “Rethinking democratic backsliding in Central and Eastern Europe”, which seeks to expand the study of democratic regression in CEE beyond the paradigmatic cases of Hungary and Poland. Reviewing these contributions, we identify several directions for research: 1) the need to critique “democratic backsliding”, not simply as a label, but also as an assumed regional trend; 2) a need to better integrate the role of illiberal socio-economic structures such as oligarchical structures or corrupt networks; and 3) a need to (re-)examine the trade-offs between democratic stability and democratic quality. We also note how insights developed researching post-communist regions such as Western Balkans or the post-Soviet space could usefully inform work on CEE backsliding. We conclude by calling for the study of CEE democracy to become more genuinely interdisciplinary, moving beyond some narrowly institutionalist comparative political science assumptions.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)243-256
Number of pages14
JournalEast European Politics
Issue number3
Early online date18 Jul 2018
Publication statusPublished - 2018

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