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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2021

Food sovereignty for whom? Food poverty, innovative public work projects and the authoritarian state

Asztalos Morell, Ildikó


In Hungary, public work-based municipal projects played a major role in handling welfare challenges, such that the rise of a precarious rural underclass posited following the postsocialist disembedding of marginalised rural societies from the economy. Given the conditions of an authoritative populist state, this paper explores, using examples of case studies located in disadvantaged rural municipalities, innovative agrarian public work projects, as expressions of the relative freedom of action of local welfare states. Following the critical thinking inspired by Polányi’s theory (1944), it sheds light on these efforts, from countermovements to the neo-liberal disembedding of the economy from society including theories on food sovereignty movements. Thus, it reflects upon the degree to which these agricultural activities could be seen as part of a broader countermovement to the social disintegration of rural areas that emerged in the context of the transition to capitalism.


authoritarian state; food poverty; public work; disembedding; postsocialism; rural; capitalism; neoliberalism

Published in

Österreichische Zeitschrift für Geschichtswissenschaften
2021, volume: 32, number: 1, pages: 141–169

Authors' information

Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Urban and Rural Development

UKÄ Subject classification

Public Administration Studies
Agricultural Science

Publication Identifiers


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