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An illiberal welfare state emerging? Patterns of social policy change in autocratizing context in Hungary and Turkey

iunie 17 @ 6:00 pm - 7:30 pm

An illiberal welfare state emerging? Patterns of social policy change in autocratizing context in Hungary and Turkey

By: Dorottya Szikra


Presentation at Babeș-Bolyai University, Cluj-Napoca


17 June 2024, 18:00

Location: Dostoievski (former Plugarilor) str., no. 34-36, room 7


Mainstream Western-centric welfare state research tends to assume a synergy between democracy and the welfare state. In my presentation, I will challenge this assumption by exploring welfare states in countries with declining democratic institutions and rising right-wing populist rule. Based on our comparative work with Kerem Gabriel Öktem (University of Bremen) I will discuss two extreme cases of democratic decline in the past decades, Turkey and Hungary. First, I will assess the welfare efforts in the two countries to understand which policy areas autocratic leaders prioritized and whether governments overall retrenched or expanded their welfare states during democratic backsliding. Second, I will explore the trajectory of welfare reforms in Hungary and Turkey with more detail by distinguishing three dimensions of social policy change: policy content (the direction of reforms), policy procedures (incl. timing, parliamentary procedures, role of veto players); and the discourses accompanying reforms. Based on the investigation of all major social policy reforms, I will argue that democratic decline facilitates rapid welfare state change but this does not necessarily mean retrenchment. Instead, we observe ambivalent processes of welfare state restructuring. Common themes emerging in both countries are the rise of flagship programmes that ensure electoral support, a transition towards top-down decision-making, and the salient role of discourse in welfare governance. Overall, similarities are stronger in procedures and discourse than in the direction of reforms. Although we did not observe an over-arching paradigmatic change in Turkish and Hungarian social policies under autocratizing rule, the increasing salience of authoritarian features modified their original welfare models.


Dorottya Szikra is Research Professor and Head of Department at the Centre for Social Sciences, Budapest, and Visiting Professor at the Department of Gender Studies, CEU Vienna. She is teaching Welfare State and Gender under Undemocratic Rule and Critical Theory on Policy and Practice in 2023/2024. She is the country-lead of the ERC project WelfareExperiences analyzing how different welfare systems can affect people’s mental health and chances of returning to work. Szikra is also associated with CEU Democracy Institute where she led a CIVICA reseach project entitled Welfare, Democracy, and Populism under the COVID-19 Crisis (WELDECO). Szikra’s main research field is welfare state and family policy development in Central and Eastern Europe. Between 2016 and 2020 she acted as the co-chair of the European Social Policy Analysis Network (ESPAnet). She has acted as a member of the editorial boards of various journals, including the European Journal of Social Security, the Hungarian on-line journal socio.hu and since 2020 the Journal of European Social Policy. Since 2021 she has served as a member of the EC commissioned High-Level Group on the future of social protection and of the welfare state in the EU. Her recent publications include (together with Kerem G. Öktem) 2022. An illiberal welfare state emerging? Welfare efforts and trajectories under democratic backsliding in Hungary and Turkey. In Journal of European Social Policy, online first; and (together with Cristina Rat and Tomasz Inglot) 2022. Mothers, Families or Children? Family Policy in Poland, Hungary, and Romania, 1945-2020. University of Pittsburgh Press.


iunie 17
6:00 pm - 7:30 pm
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Facultatea de Sociologie și Asistență Socială