Happy Putin

It’s not “renaissance”, it’s feudalism

Orbánists abroad keep referring to a new “renaissance” in Europe. They mean “feudalism”.

This month, we are witness to an eyebrow-raising development in Hungary: the launch of an English-language conservative journal. It’s perplexing to read their assessment of the state of Hungarian conservatism. “We believe that the political success and intellectual renaissance of Hungarian conservatism over the past ten years affords ample grounds for sharing our thoughts” – begins its report the Hungarian Free Press. 

The proposed journal, the Hungarian Conservative, would no doubt burn plenty of perfectly good public money and change no minds whatsoever. It is more of an effort to explain themselves in English than anything else, because the world started to pay attention and alas, to see them as kleptocratic nationalists, while they want to be seen as original-capital-accumulating conservatives and the future aristocrats of Europe. (Thanks, EU.) 

The self-depiction of the journal is perplexing, indeed, until we realize that there’s a misnomer in the description. It is not intellectual “renaissance” they are brining to Europe – it is feudalism. Intellectual and otherwise. Once you re-read their statements with “feudalism” in place of “renaissance” it will make perfect sense. 

Take the closing statement of the latest founding attempt of a European Nationalist Internationale, for instance. 

A few weeks ago Orbán invited Polish prime minister Mateusz Morawiecki and Italy’s Matteo Salvini to Budapest to forge a European alliance of nationalists, in order to show Europe that he may be expelled from the EPP, but the momentum is still with him. The breakthrough didn’t happen – not least because the Poles are smart about Russia, while Orbán and the Italians are not. But the meeting led to a press announcement (sans the press) that read: “we want a renaissance, a European renaissance; and in the future we will work together to achieve it.

The statement rests on a slight redefinition of the word “renaissance” to mean “feudalism” instead. With that little correction it makes perfect sense. Both in the ars poetica of the Hungarian Nationalist Conservative and in the closing statement of the failed nationalist alliance. 

To take the Merriam-Webster definition of Renaissance and feudalism: 

Definition of renaissance

1 capitalized

a: the transitional movement in Europe between medieval and modern times beginning in the 14th century in Italy, lasting into the 17th century, and marked by a humanistic revival of classical influence expressed in a flowering of the arts and literature and by the beginnings of modern science

Definition of feudalism

1 : the system of political organization prevailing in Europe from the 9th to about the 15th centuries having as its basis the relation of lord to vassal (see vassal sense 1) with all land held in fee (see fee sense 1) and as chief characteristics homage, the service of tenants under arms and in court, wardship (see wardship sense 1), and forfeiture (see forfeiture sense 1)
2 : any of various political or social systems similar to medieval feudalism

Featured image: The Suicides of Meleager and Althea by Unknown via Wikimedia Commons

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