Journal of International and Global Studies


Nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) occupy a very ambiguous role in society. Historically, NGOs have been both heralded as democracy in action and criticized for being complicit supporters of neoliberalism. Now, in certain contexts, they are rendered as enemies of the nation. In this article, we examine the evolution of nongovernmental organizations in Hungary, a nation where this transformation is exceedingly clear. Hungary provides a pertinent case example to explore the manner in which civil society as an amorphous, ill-defined category becomes a stand-in for whatever the state needs to protect its interests. The current discourse on NGOs in Hungary plays out during and in the aftermath of what has been dubbed the “refugee crisis” of the summer of 2015. Therefore, in this article we explore how the civil sector evolved in Hungary following the end of the Soviet era, the nongovernmental response to the refugee crisis, and the manner in which NGOs and individual volunteers have been characterized in political discourse as “enemies of the state,” due to the government’s anti-migrant stance. As a result of public rhetoric and policy changes, the civil sector in Hungary has no choice but to either shrink considerably or reframe their activities as decidedly anti-government.

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Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-Share Alike 4.0 International License.