Open Access Journal

ISSN: 2183-7635

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Captured by Political Power: More-Than-Neoliberal Urban Development and Planning in Post-Socialist Hungary

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Abstract:  By critically reflecting on the concept of “post-socialist neoliberalism” proposed by this thematic issue, we argue against the widely assumed hegemony of neoliberalism, not just in the post-socialist context, but anywhere. We suggest taking features that do not fit in the narratives of neoliberalism seriously and highlighting more-than-neoliberal rationales, too. We present cases from the literature focusing on post-socialist and illiberal contexts, especially in Hungary. As the critical reading of the literature and the secondary and primary data about Hungary shows, narratives of capitalist class domination and accumulation can be less than adequate. The maintenance of clientelist or neopatrimonial relations dominated by political power with politically created rents is a separate issue. Therefore, instead of assuming “in the last instance” determination by neoliberalism, which is only camouflaged with theoretically irrelevant contextual issues, we argue for the examination of neopatrimonial relations besides neoliberalism to better understand the mechanisms behind urban development. In doing so, we can explain how power is maintained without actual development, how corruption as a mode of rule is politically accepted, and why political struggles need to consider other aspects besides fighting capitalist class domination.

Keywords:  elite capture; illiberalism; market capture; neoliberalism; neopatrimonial; post-socialist; state capture; urban development; urban planning


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© Gergely Olt, Adrienne Csizmady, Márton Bagyura, Lea Kőszeghy. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license (, which permits any use, distribution, and reproduction of the work without further permission provided the original author(s) and source are credited.