Il ritorno del popolo. Un’introduzione
The Return of the People.
In the last years the term «people» has assumed a growing centrality at all levels of the public discourse, imposing itself progressively as a privileged sign of the widespread anti-system sentiments encouraged by the crisis of values and principles of representative democracy. Opposing any essentialist use of this word, this issue of «Meridiana» reconsiders the role played by the «semantics of people» in the space of political experience of «our» modernity. This issue adopts therefore a multidisciplinary perspective focused on the numerous factors – both historical and theoretical – that are currently involved in the dynamics of constitution of modern forms of collective identity. The result is a polyphonic contribution moving from the founding experiences of the «Age of Democratic Revolutions» to the most advanced political experimentations taking place in the tumultuous context of the present «post-national era».
Le reinvenzioni del popolo
Reinventing the People
Democratic regimes govern in the name of the People. The idea that they have of the People is apparently very simple. The People is made up of individuals, equal among themselves, who would regularly elect their own representatives, subject to just and unarbitrary laws, equal before those laws, and free to profess their own faith. Nevertheless, evoking the People is not enough to make them a political actor, and yet this is what involuntarily occurred. Once sovereignty had been attributed to the People, this immediately postulated an intricate tangle of problems. These were destined to weigh on representative regimes first, and on democratic ones later. How these problems have been solved? The point is that the People have been since always a crucial stake of political struggle. Each party is willing to design the People according to its preferences. One of the main tools used to shape the People is political representation. But there are many others. For instance educational policies. But the most important tool is the itself definition of the People. This paper underlines the most recent ones, which were adopted in the second half of XXth century: the definition of the People as made of taxpayers, consumers, and stake-holders.
Ethnos e Demos. Per una genealogia del populismo
Pier Paolo Portinaro
Ethnos and Demos.
For a Genealogy of Populism
During the last decades «populism» has become a sort of catchword both in the political and scholarly debate. Given that global transformations are calling into question the fundamentals of modern politics, the concepts of «ethnos» and «demos» can be considered a privileged point of view that can be analytically used to grasp the currently dominant view among historians and sociologists that nationalism has to be seen as a uniquely modern phenomenon established by industrialization and mass communication in the nineteenth century. The article also discusses the view of those who criticize and reject the exclusive identification of the nation with modernity. Nations emerged at a certain point in history. They form and disappear, and are therefore not «primordial» in this sense. Furthermore, the national phenomenon has evolved in history, so even the term «perennial» is insufficiently reflective of historical change. Another important question raised by the nationalism-debate has to deal with the role of religion in political life (particularly, the modern Reformation and the sacralization of nation in the post-revolutionary era). The ultimate aim of this analytical review is to propose a sort of general framework to interpret the transformations of political collective identities in the longterm perspective of Nation-building and in the context of a global society.
La demagogia, ieri e oggi
Yesterday and Today
While «populism» is quite a new word, «demagogy» is an ancient one, but they relate to something very similar. «Demagogy» was the name of a degeneration of democracy that ancients knew very well. The author recalls some texts of Plato and Aristotle on this subject and uses them to reflect on some problems of contemporary democracies. According to Plato there is no difference between democracy and demagogy. The only alternative to the power of the demos, incompetent and impolite, is the rule of the wiser men: a form of aristocracy. In the opinion of Aristotle, on the other hand, it is possible to distinguish between democracy and demagogy: in the former the power of the mass is limited by the law; in the latter the demos rules without restrictions. The reforms of IV century b. C., in Athens, that subtracted a part of the power to the assembly and gave it to the college of nomothetai and to courts, can be understood as a remedy against demagogy. Modern representative democracies have invented procedures with the same purpose.
From «Popular» to «Populism»:
The Rise and Fall of Demological Studies in Italy
In this paper, I discuss three major paradigm-shifts in Italian folklore studies of the second half of XX century. The first shift follows the publication of «Observations on folklore» in A. Gramsci’s Prison Notebooks. Gramsci proposed to connect cultural differences with social differences, treating folklore as the distinctive culture of subaltern classes. Scholars like E. De Martino and G. Bosio followed this approach, producing a radical break from previous positivist traditions. The second shiftis the birth of «demology», a new discipline which tried to reconcile the Gramscian theory with a continuity of folkloric studies and the centrality of their classical object (the peasant oral traditions). I argue that there is a crucial contradiction in demology: the refuse to investigate mass consumption and culture, that is the culture of present subaltern classes. The result is the decline of the hegemonic-subaltern topic and the third shift towards a «patrimonial» paradigm, influenced by Unesco «Convention for the Safaguarding of Cultural Intangible Heritage». The paradox is that scientific interest for the «popular» was abandoned in the same years of the great populist strategies of «berlusconismo», leaving scholars unable to understand the cultural bases of this political movement.
Democratic Europe in the Narrow
Between Populism and Technocracy
While examining the striking bottleneck between populism and technocracy affecting representative democracy in Europe, the Author argues that both the scholarly discourse on ‘postnational’ governance and the political debate on the EU democratic deficit that took place in the past decade fail to capture the nature of the crisis affecting the EU. In particular, the contribution tends to demonstrate that both these discourses neglect the mechanisms governing the Member States-EU relationship, that have gradually perverted the ‘output’ not less than the ‘input legitimacy’ of the EU, whose whole project is thus under deep stress. Against such a background, changes of these mechanisms are here suggested that seek to adapt some acquisition of comparative constitutionalism out of the traditional state’s realm.
Impossible but Real, Real but Impossible.
The Question of Representation of Civic Interest Groups
According to several scholars the idea of a representative role of citizens’ organizations is a contradiction: since representation is by definition making present someone that is absent, when civil society get organized and act in the public arena there is no need for representation. This argument, however, is put under question by several empirical evidences: self-organized citizens that act in the public arena exert the roles of «standing for» and «acting for», which are the hard core of the concept of representation. Moreover, this role is widely recognized by public and private interlocutors of active citizenship organizations. On the other side, the matter that this representative role is practiced and recognized does not avoid short circuits and paradoxes that seem impossible to overcome in the framework of the representation Standard View. Adopting as point of reference the recent literature on «non-electoral» and «informal» forms of representation and in particular, the redefinition of the issue set up by Dario Castiglione and Mark Warren, the author proposes a thematization that could give reason for this contradiction and offer suggestions on the way to address it.
La parte. Note sulla politica del «popolo» in Jacques Rancière
Notes on People’s Politics in Jacques Rancière
This paper suggests a philosophical re-reading of popular communication and the role of People in western democratic systems. Rancière’s anti-elitist notion of democracy helps to reframe the discussion of the People as a key-concept of our political systems: it is not defined by an en-or decoding instance or a notion of identity, but by a particular mode of conflict-making, as an action of «a part that has no part». Drawing from heterogeneous material (especially, La Mésentente and other political works), it is argued that the problem of the People arises when a functional system has to represent something that transgresses the system’s universality as an equality instance against ordinary decision-making. That which the system has to exclude to become a political system re-emerges as a ‘part that has no part’, thus pointing at a universality that is, on the one hand, an opportunity for a further universalization and, on the other, a threat to the very universality of the political system. The ‘People’ thus acquires a hybrid position by articulating these two dimensions: Rancière has explored the consequences of the equality’s presumption — that everyone is immediately and equally capable of thought. Against those who argue that only the appropriately educated or privileged are authorized to think and speak, Rancière’s most fundamental assumption is that everyone thinks. Everyone shares equal powers of speech and thought, and this «equality is not a goal to be attained but a point of departure, a supposition to be maintained in all circumstances».
From Social Struggles to Revolts of Globalization.
Farm Workers in the Capitalist Areas of Southern Italy.
This paper aims to develop a reflection on the theme of transformation of the struggles of farm workers in the areas of agrarian capitalism in the South, on the production of citrus fruits. In particular, we intend to compare the structured dimension of the struggles of the labour movement of agricultural workers in the province of Siracusa in the sixties with the current state of exploitation of agricultural workers in the Plain of Rosarno. We have analyzed the case of the struggles of agricultural workers that led to the massacre of Avola (1968) and the revolt of the immigrant workers in Rosario in 2010. The main objective of this study is to introduce an assessment of how the macro-economic and social trends have influenced the responses of the workers movement and also to analyze the role of trade unions in their attempt to govern economic transformations and to represent social problems associated with them.
La struttura unitaria e verticistica della ’ndrangheta delle origini
«Criminale» and «Gran Criminale».
The Unitary and Vertical Structure of the ’Ndrangheta at its Origins
This article reconstructs the discovery in the 1930s that the ’Ndrangheta, then known as the «Montalbano Family», had a unitary and vertical structure. During the Fascist repression, a series of verdicts in court sessions in Reggio Calabria made it increasingly clear that the criminal groups active in that province were part of a single larger organisation with a hierarchical structure. Higher entities («Criminale» and «Gran Criminale») had been created to coordinate the activity of the local groups, prevent conflict among them and ensure respect for shared rules. The court judgment of 2012 now known as «Crimine» has conclusively established that the ’Ndrangheta has today a unitary structure. The analysis of newly available documentary sources shows that the drive to create this hierarchical organisation goes back to the origins of the ’Ndrangheta, but that its development has not been a linear process: the ’Ndrangheta has always had a difficult balance to strike between coordination and the traditional autonomy of local groups. Developing this theme, the article asks questions about the legitimation of the «Criminale» and «Gran Criminale» which will require further consideration. It also raises issues about the continuity of these authorities between the Fascist period and the present day.
La politica di Bassolino e il contesto nazionale
Bassolino’s Policy and the National Context
The book by Isaia Sales (Napoli non è Berlino. Ascesa e declino di Bassolino e del sogno di riscatto del Sud, Dalai Editore, Milano 2012) is a reflection on the rise and fall of the leadership of Antonio Bassolino, the mayor of Naples from 1993 to 2000 and the president of the Campania region from 2000 to 2010. The author has been part of Bassolino’s inner circle and thus offers a point of view from the inside. He tries to balance the negative opinions on the last phase, signed by the dramatic waste crisis of 2008, with the responsibilities of the national elite of the center-left coalition. This short essay analyzes strengths and weaknesses of Sales’s contribution.