Political Sources of Hungarian Soft Power

Péter Kacziba 1
  • 1 Department of Political Science and International Studies, University of Pécs, Hungary


In the past decade, Joseph Nye’s concept of soft power has become a popular tool for analysing and explaining foreign policy directions of countries that lack significant capacities of hard power. Beyond other states, Hungary has also received special attention in this regard as several surveys and indexes have measured a high increase in its soft power efficiency. This paper attempts to analyse how Hungarian domestic and external political approaches supported this assumed progress and seeks to understand how political values, governance practices and foreign policy strategies have influenced the effectiveness of Hungarian soft power. The paper will argue that the recent Hungarian political directions have produced controversial outcomes and the populist orientation has increased and, at the same time, constrained the effectiveness of soft power. It has increased because populist rhetoric has created a much larger international fame and agenda-setting capacity than would have been expected from a small Central European country. However, it has also been constrained because controversial domestic and conflicting foreign policies were rejected by the European moderate majority. As a result, today, Hungarian external policies suffer from a serious deficit of legitimacy and moral authority which significantly limit the presumed progress of soft power.

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