April 15, 2016
After a brief discussion of populism in Italy and how it compares to elsewhere, I present three case studies of three trends in contemporary Italian politics, paying particular attention to their geographies across Italy and what these say about the trends in question. The first is the phenomenon of Silvio Berlusconi, the tycoon-politician, creating a political coalition in the 1990s that lasted until 2013 out of various strands on the historic center-right; the second is the recent emergence of the Internet-based Five Star Movement of the comedian Beppe Grillo, the “party” with the largest popular vote in the 2013 national election; and the third is the longer-term trend of increased abstentionism in a country where participation in party politics and elections was traditionally very high. The overall purpose is to portray trends that seem to also to be in ascendancy across other Western democracies: personalistic political leadership, the rise of Internet political movements and whether or not they may be ephemeral, and decreasing political participation at the same time that rabid criticism of politicians as a “caste” is on the rise.
Bio: John Agnew (Ph.D., Ohio State University) is Distinguished Professor of Geography with research interests in Political Geography, International Political Economy, European Urbanization, and Italy. Professor Agnew teaches courses in Political and European Geography. He is also a Professor in UCLA’s Department of Italian and Visiting Professor of Political Geography at Queen’s University, Belfast, 2012-14. Editor-in-Chief, Territory, Politics, Governance.