Viktor Orbán’s advisors: András Lánczi

It always amazes me that in Hungary university professors often teach subjects which they themselves never studied formally. Sociologists who majored in languages, financial experts who studied law, and in András Lánczi's case, someone who double majored in English and history and who ended up being the director of the Political Science Institute at Corvinus University.

Lánczi began his career modestly enough: after graduation he taught at Imre Madách Gymnasium (1981-1986). Then he joined the editorial staff of a well known publication entitled Világosság that began publication in 1960. A cursory look at the available issues on the internet confirms the self-described mission of the publication: to enlighten people about religion. Hence the title of the publication: "Light."

In 1991 Lánczi moved on to university teaching. He taught at ELTE, at the University of Miskolc, at János Kodolányi College, and Gáspár Károli (Hungarian Reformed) University. His fields of research are (1) political philosophy with special attention to twentieth-century philosophical schools and trends; (2) the intellectual history of Hungarian political thinking, with a concentration on the interwar period; (3) modern theories of democracy; and (4) epistemological questions of political science. As you can see, Lánczi's interests are far-flung. He has been publishing profusely in the last twenty years or so and is advertised as a popular writer on political philosophy. Perhaps his best known work is his Conservative Manifesto (2002). He is the leading exponent of neo-conservatism in Hungary.

Lánczi is considered to be one of Viktor Orbán's close friends and advisers. If the prime minister relies on Zoltán Balog, the Calvinist minister, for spiritual guidance, Lánczi is most likely the source of some of his "philosophical musings." Most of the analysts considered Orbán's speech at Tusnádfürdő/Băile Tuşnad confusing and basically wrong. Lánczi, on the other hand, who may have been responsible for some of its content, described it as "a speech delivered by a thoughtful man."

In an interview that appeared in Népszabadság (July 27, 2011) Lánczi agrees with practically everything Viktor Orbán told his audience in Romania. He thinks that Orbán's warning about "a new epoch" that is drastically different from what we have now is most likely correct because the prime minister brought up convincing arguments in defense of his theory. And here we can catch one Lánczi contribution to Orbán's thought processes. According to Lánczi, "in the last two hundred years the left was only thinking in terms of progress and growth…. The prime minister's answer to this dogma is that it is untenable."

I can't assess Lánczi's worth as a political philosopher, but he doesn't seem to be familiar with political events of recent years. For example, he thinks that it was Viktor Orbán who first came up with an extra levy on the banks, a practice that the whole of Europe will follow soon. However, he is wrong. The first bank tax, eight percent over and above the normal level of taxation, was introduced during the first Gyurcsány government in 2005.

He seems to be unfamiliar with basic economic concepts. When he was asked during the Népszabadság interview about Orbán's change of mind concerning the deficit, Lánczi's answer was quite unintelligible. According to him "for a responsible prime minister the most important question is what will happen to Hungarian society. Not only the Hungarian state is indebted but also the Hungarian people. He has to defend the interests of the Hungarian people." What that has to do with  Viktor Orbán going to Brussels in June 2011 with the idea of raising the deficit to 7.3% and coming back from Brussels having accepted the 3.8% originally negotiated between the European Union and Gordon Bajnai, don't ask me. When Lánczi was asked about "the re-industrialization" of Hungary, he again was in total sync with Orbán. He seems to believe that no real work is being done in Hungary. Only "speculation."

The reporter conducting the interview brought up two opposing views of the content and tone of Orbán's speech in Tusnádfürdő. Political scientist Gábor Török called it a "religious disputation," while Gáspár Miklós Tamás, a political philosopher, and Péter Hack, a legal scholar, described it as a speech that had only one real goal: to lay the foundations for the next austerity package.

Lánczi naturally disagreed. Both assessments are wrong because "this speech was much more contemplative than a traditional political speech." Orbán often makes speeches that "are not connected to daily politics and this is a genre that not too many people understand. While his political opponents don't want to understand it in any other way but a tactical speech." I suspect the "contemplative" aspect of Orbán's speeches that are allegedly not connected to daily politics has something to do with Lánczi's influence.

As far as the assessments of Gáspár Miklós Tamás and Péter Hack are concerned, I don't agree with them either. What I'm afraid of is that Orbán truly believes every word he says. He really thinks that his foresight will save Hungary from the destruction the rest of Europe will suffer in the near future. Just as most likely Lánczi believes that neo-conservative ideas will triumph while the liberals' world will collapse.

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Johnny Boy
Guest

“Most of the analysts considered Orbán’s speech at Tusnádfürdő/Băile Tuşnad confusing and basically wrong”
This statement is wrong too: only left-lib analysts, who are the minority of ‘analysts’ considered it wrong, but they can never consider anything said by Orbán not wrong.

Johnny Boy
Guest

“He really thinks that his foresight will save Hungary from the destruction the rest of Europe will suffer in the near future.”
Well, at least then he believes he does the best he can. He doesn’t lie “morning, day and night”.

Johnny Boy
Guest

“Just as most likely Lánczi believes that neo-conservative ideas will triumph while the liberals’ world will collapse.”
At least in Hungary that has already happened.

Member

Johnny: “at least then he believes he does the best he can”
bit.ly/inagiT
So did Benito Mussolini.

Member
Johnny Boy: “only left-lib analysts, who are the minority of ‘analysts’ considered it wrong” and that would include the heads of neighbouring nations, Hungarians in Romania. Again, Jphnny Boy supports his party propaganda and politics while avoiding any factual criticism. Johnny Boy: “least then he [Orban] believes he does the best he can. He doesn’t lie “morning, day and night”. We all agree with the first sentence, as Orban certainly believes he does the best he can. THe questions, who is he serving, and who will benefit from his best? So far the teachers, police, firefighters, judges, many media employees, Romania, Slovakia did not reap the benefits, versus the close allies of Orban who seem to doing just great. The second part has been discussed in the last few hundred posts. Orban lies non-stop without even comprehending how he betrayed all the people around him. THese people not only include his fellow Hungarians but highly regarded International leaders from religious right and political groups. Orban’s lies started the night after he woke up after the election, and his path can be easily followed through the pages of this blog. THe facts of this blog were not proven wrong. Johnny Boy:… Read more »
PWT
Guest

“Neo-conservative”?
It was the MSzP/SzDSz government which wanted to privatize more while Fidesz, through their populist referendum, sabotaged the introduction of privatization and more individual responsibility in medical care, took away private retirement accounts, and now is in the business of re-nationalizing major corporations, like MOL. And in foreign policy, Fidesz’s courtship with communist-party-led Beijing is certainly not neo-conservative.
Let’s keep it straight: Fidesz is populist, nationalist, authoritarian, and in both its platforms and policies, more socialist than MSzP has been since 1990.

Kirsten
Guest

“Well, at least then he believes he does the best he can.”
How unfortunate for Hungary that this is already “the best he can”.

Johnny Boy
Guest

“So did Benito Mussolini.”
And so did Albert Einstein, Winston Churchill, and to cite an example on the negative extreme, probably so do you.
Your comment is completely useless and contains zero information.

Member

Johnny: My point – and I’m sorry if I overloaded your brain with the reference to Mussolini – was if this is the best the dude can do then he should probably look for another job.

Paul
Guest
An interesting post from PWT. We need to think seriously about the labels we so unthinkingly use. This is far more than just a matter of semantics – labels condition our opinions and narrow our views. They confuse our analysis and hinder us in making our case. Fidesz may seem like an extreme right-wing party to us on the left, but they got elected precisely because they are NOT a straightforward right-wing party. They cleverly appeal both to the right-wing core vote AND to the large number of people who don’t like the way things are going under ‘capitalism’ and want the security of the old days and ways (ironically, exactly the constituency who once voted MSzP because they mistook them for the old Communists). But perhaps the biggest problem for us is not the degree to which Fidesz conforms to the typical right-wing agenda, but that MSzP are so clearly NOT a socialist (let alone communist!) party. Because we unthinkingly accept these ridiculously simplistic labels, we end up tying ourselves in knots trying to defend non-liberal/socialist policies, whilst attacking ‘right-wing’ policies that we would otherwise instinctively feel support for. Gyurcsány may be an able politician, a good speaker and… Read more »
Belstaff Coat
Guest

I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don’t know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.

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