Academic Solidarity and the Culture War in Orbán’s Hungary

Academic Solidarity and the Culture War in Orbán’s Hungary

By Zsolt Enyedi, Central European University

Recently, it has become customary to be concerned about the impact of the culture wars on academic freedom in established liberal democracies. In fact, the contexts in which culture wars can inflict the most profound damage are autocratizing settings. In these contexts, the supporters of liberal democracy are treated as traitors and can no longer count on the solidarity of those colleagues whose priority is to fight globalization and stop progressive cultural change.

This logic is well illustrated by the debates that followed the Hungarian government’s decision to force Central European University (CEU) to move its educational programs to Austria 1 In 2017, the license for operation of foreign universities in Hungary was made dependent on the existence of intergovernmental treaties (Enyedi 2018). Because the government was unwilling to sign such an agreement with the State of New York (where the university originally had been registered), CEU was forced to discontinue its programs in Hungary. 2 This dramatic situation—involving the movement of hundreds of students, faculty, and administrators across a national border—presented a moral, intellectual, and political challenge to the academics in the country, particularly those studying political science.

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