Pluripotent stem cells (PSCs) transition between cell states in vitro, reflecting developmental changes in the early embryo. PSCs can be stabilized in the naive state by blocking extracellular differentiation stimuli, particularly FGF-MEK signalling. Here, we report that multiple features of the naive state in human and mouse PSCs can be recapitulated without affecting FGF-MEK signalling or global DNA methylation. Mechanistically, chemical inhibition of CDK8 and CDK19 (hereafter CDK8/19) kinases removes their ability to repress the Mediator complex at enhancers. CDK8/19 inhibition therefore increases Mediator-driven recruitment of RNA polymerase II (RNA Pol II) to promoters and enhancers. This efficiently stabilizes the naive transcriptional program and confers resistance to enhancer perturbation by BRD4 inhibition. Moreover, naive pluripotency during embryonic development coincides with a reduction in CDK8/19. We conclude that global hyperactivation of enhancers drives naive pluripotency, and this can be achieved in vitro by inhibiting CDK8/19 kinase activity. These principles may apply to other contexts of cellular plasticity.