In the eyes of many Hungarians, what unfolded in the twenty years since state socialism was liberal democracy—and it has failed. In other words, the perception is that Putinization, a combination of somewhat authoritarian politics and state-supervised economics, is the only model that will ultimately work for ordinary people. In fact, some leading Hungarian intellectuals seem now to have all but accepted the notion that the country was never really democratic and might never get rid of the legacies of feudalism, self-pitying nationalism, and paternalistic state socialism. Some time ago, Tamás regretted that the seeming triumph of the dissidents' human-rights-centered liberalism in the early 1990s went hand in hand with inattention to the plight of the victims of postcommunism and thus sowed the seeds of its own destruction. As he put it in 2009: "We, the froth at the top of it, were celebrating the triumph of freedom and openness and plurality and fantasy and pleasure and all that. That was frivolous, and I am deeply ashamed." That sense of the discrediting of the highest liberal ideals—that it's all just capitalism, in its worst, corruption-ridden form to boot—is the final element of the Hungarian tragedy.


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