Illiberalism, polarisation, social resilience, and resistance

Concepts in dynamic tension


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Illiberal regimes undermine human rights norms that entail equal legal protections of citizens and social groups. Illiberal actors often intentionally drive social polarisation in hopes of bolstering their support and securing their political position. This strains liberal democratic-oriented social resilience and provokes resistance to the illiberal regime. The articles in this special issue, looking at the regimes and societies of Central and Eastern Europe—where the establishment and operation of illiberal regimes is conspicuous, where ‘pernicious polarisation’ (Somer, McCoy, & Luke, 2021) that strains social resilience is often striking, and where resistance is crucial to halt or reverse illiberalisation—address this nexus of concepts. In this introduction, we review the four key concepts that undergird the special issue’s articles. 

Author Biographies

Michael C. Zeller, Central European University

Michael Zeller is an Associate Researcher at the Democracy Institute, Central European University, working on the ‘Building Resilience against Violent Extremism and Polarisation’ (BRaVE) project. He is a doctoral candidate in the Department of Political Science at Central European University. He is also the Head of the Organisation Research Unit at the Centre for the Analysis of the Radical Right (CARR). His research focuses on social movements and contentious politics, particularly far-right socio-politics.

Zsuzsanna Vidra, Central European University

Zsuzsanna Vidra is a research fellow at the Democracy Institute, Central European University (Hungary) and a senior lecturer at Eötvös Lóránd University (ELTE PPK), Intercultural Psychology and Education (Hungary). She holds a Ph.D. in sociology from École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales (France), an MA in Sociology from ELTE (Hungary) and an MA in Nationalism Studies from the Central European University (Hungary).