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Research article2023Peer reviewedOpen access

Rural politics in undemocratic times: Exploring the emancipatory potential of small rural initiatives in authoritarian Hungary

Gonda, Noemi; Bori, Peter Jozsef


Constructing environmentally sustainable and democratic political regimes constitutes the most important po-litical project of our times - an era characterised by the proliferation of authoritarianism and the growing effects of climate change. Through the case of Hungary, an example of a modern authoritarian regime, this article discusses how agricultural initiatives such as Community Supported Agriculture, permaculture, and small-scale and regenerative farming can help situate questions of sustainable rural politics into a broader agenda of democratic governance. Building on qualitative interviews conducted in Hungary and the literature on socio-environmental transformations, authoritarian populism, authoritarian neoliberalism, and emancipatory poli-tics, our aim is to envision emancipatory rural politics grounded in democratic societal projects and sustainable ways of producing and living with the land. After laying out what we identify as the three rural pillars of the Hungarian authoritarian regime - unequal land relations, agricultural subsidies and agricultural commodity sales -, we argue for attention to what could become the rural pillars of sustainable democracy: emancipatory alli-ances, counter-knowledge claims, and emancipatory subjectivities. Efforts at building the latter aspects can help Hungarians (and others) reimagine democracy from the countryside, establish new collective relations, and embrace the unavoidable ambiguities of emancipatory rural politics.


Authoritarian populism; Authoritarian neoliberalism; Agriculture; Sustainability; Emancipatory rural politics; Hungary

Published in

2023, Volume: 143, article number: 103766

    Sustainable Development Goals

    SDG16 Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels

    UKÄ Subject classification

    Human Geography
    Environmental Sciences related to Agriculture and Land-use
    Political Science (excluding Public Administration Studies and Globalization Studies)

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