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In the Name of the Conservative People: Slovakia’s Gendered Illiberal Transformation

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Abstract:  Over the past decade, Slovakia has witnessed the dismantling of public human rights institutions and gender equality policies and incessant efforts to limit sexual and reproductive rights. While these processes have been mostly discussed in relation to the transnational anti‐gender movement, this article conceptualizes them as part of an illiberal turn. We argue that recent rhetorical, institutional, and policy processes in Slovakia have been enabled by a discursive shift positing a new subject: conservative people and their rightful demands. Our argument is bolstered through two analyses. Quantitative content analysis of media articles published between 2002 and 2020, firstly, traces the increased emphasis on the signifiers “conservative” and “liberal.” This examination demonstrates that the anti‐gender discourse in the 2010s accelerated and normalized this specific discursive frame. Furthermore, it underscores how the carriers of the conservative label shifted away from institutions towards individual politicians and, more importantly, toward a collective subject—people. Qualitative discourse analysis, secondly, focuses on the anti‐gender discourse, understood here as a Laclauian populist practice. It posits three types of demands entangled in an equivalential chain—demands dealing with cultural recognition, material redistribution, and political representation. This analytical approach enables us to show how the construction of the conservative/liberal divide goes beyond the struggles for so‐called traditional values, but is embedded in broader socioeconomic processes, and how it led to calls for political representation of the “conservative people” and for a “conservative” (in fact illiberal) transformation of political institutions.

Keywords:  anti‐gender politics; gender; illiberalism; populism; Slovakia

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.17645/pag.v10i4.5538


© Zuzana Maďarová, Pavol Hardoš. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0), which permits any use, distribution, and reproduction of the work without further permission provided the original author(s) and source are credited.