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SISP Conference 2023

Sections and Panels

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Section 2 - Political Theory

Managers: Diego Giannone, Damiano Palano

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The Political Theory Section aims to collect proposals for panels and papers that seek to reflect, in a general sense, on the role, methods and contribution of political theory in political science. The complexity of contemporary political phenomena, at the national, supranational and international levels, increasingly encourages a return to theoretical models and approaches capable of classifying, understanding, explaining and describing an era of profound transformations. In other words, it proposes once again the centrality of concepts and their construction. Furthermore, the historical orientation of the field of political theory promotes an understanding of how abstractions, questions and problems have developed over time.
The contribution of political theory to political science thus appears to be an essential field, both for its intrinsic heuristic power and for the possibility of fostering fruitful encounters between models and ‘conceptualisations’ of politics, on the one hand, and empirical approaches and qualitative and quantitative methodologies, on the other.
In this sense, contemporary political phenomena can be reread and interpreted through the lens of theory and conceptual development, key aspects – as Sartori teaches us – for political science. A possible intersection that encompasses, by way of example, key concepts and categories of political thought, including – but not limited to – freedom, equality, the theory and practice of representation, types of democracy, the state, ideology, technocracy, nationalism, populism, the nature of the European Union, citizenship, the political regimes of international institutions and their role, or issues of war and peace. Moreover, a rethinking of the contribution of classical approaches to politics to the understanding of political phenomena seems imperative today. Think, for example, of the continuing contribution of realism, the crisis of (neo)liberalism, Marxism (e.g. in relation to the state), social constructivism or postcolonial approaches.
The section therefore encourages panel and paper proposals that highlight the critical role of political theory in political science. For example, proposals might include
– the key concepts of political theory (‘politics’, ‘power’, ‘representation’, ‘legitimacy’, ‘democracy’, etc.)
– the historical reconstruction and genealogy of particular concepts or theories;
– the ‘macro-political’ theoretical models;
– the methods of concept construction;
– the relations between empirically oriented political theory and the traditions of political thought and political philosophy;
– the relationship between political theory and research methods;
– the relevance of the ‘classics’ of political thought (ancient, modern and contemporary) for political science research;
– Empirically-oriented areas and issues. E.g. technocracy, populism, crisis of democracy

Panel 2.1 Beyond Laclau? A theoretical reconsideration after the 2010s

Although it had already reached ample visibility on the international stage of political theory in the previous years, the work of Ernesto Laclau has possibly enjoyed its apogee in the 2010s. The theoretical contribution of the Argentine on populism and discourse theory has indeed found much echo in various academic ambits, even beyond the circle of his close disciples, effectively offering a valuable set of tools available for the empirical analysis of some of the most salient today’s political phenomena. The context of ongoing crisis and the global irruption of polarising political forces capable of feeding off the current discontent has provided fertile ground for Laclau’s theory to catch on. However, the last decade has also witnessed a number of developments that are not fully or convincingly theorised by Laclau and that invite some critical reflection on his theoretical legacy. The nature of populist antagonism and its impact on democracy, the exclusive focus on the electoral moment, and the fleetingness of left populism, especially in Europe, stand high among the issues that have emerged over the last few years.

This panel is open to theoretical papers on the work of Ernesto Laclau in the light of an emerging post-Laclauian agenda, which seeks to problematise some of the impasses that have emerged in Laclau’s thought, while broadly recognising the import of his contribution. Papers with an empirical dimension are welcome, but only insofar as they lead to a substantive engagement with theoretical issues. Topics may include, although they are not limited to:

- the relationship between populism and hegemony;
- the formalism of Laclau’s theory of populism;
- the role and usefulness of political ontology;
- the cogency of the populist road as a strategy for the left;
- the problematic aspects of the leader;
- the convergence and dialogue between Laclau’s contribution and novel theories and/or authors;
- the vagueness of the notion of the empty signifier;
- the implications of populism for democratic theory; or, put otherwise, the (in)compatibility between populism and the project of radical democracy;
- the origins and development of Laclau’s thought;
- the exclusion of sociology and political economy from the picture;
- the institutional ‘deficit’ of Laclau’s theory of populism,
- the lack of attention to the networks of relations in which collective agents come into being.

Chairs: Samuele Mazzolini

Discussants: Samuele Mazzolini

Against the Many, Not the Few: Elite construction and collective agency in Left-wing populisms
Adam Dinsmore
Left-wing populisms have struggled to keep pace with the hegemonic successes of right-wing populisms in the early decades of the twentieth century. This has led some to question whether populism – a predominantly left-wing political mode for much of its history – remains a cogent strategy for the Left in the twenty-first century. In addressing this problem, scholars and strategists have examined the various ways that populist movements seek to promote collective agency among their adherents by constructing a ‘people’ in terms favourable to their goals. With right-wing populists typically said to speak for a unified people-as-ethno-national-in-group, contra left-wing appeals to a heterogenous assemblage of peoples each possessing their own different-but-equivalent democratic demands. Left-wing strategists are therefore faced with a familiar dilemma: how to balance the pluralism essential to their conceptions of social justice with the strategic need for collective unity within their movements? Particularly in a notionally post-Marxist, neoliberal era in which the class identities once central to left-wing populist discourses have grown ever more fragmented? This paper seeks a way through this impasse by suggesting an alternative discursive source of collective agency, that of ‘elite’ signification. Laclau famously stated that ‘the people’ is one of two key signifiers which give populisms their shape and character, the other being ‘the elite’ to whom they declare their opposition. Populist identities do not therefore derive entirely from who their followers are, but also who they oppose. However, far less attention has been paid to populist signification of ‘the elite’ relative to ‘the people’, both within Laclau’s own work and the broader tradition of discourse theory to which it gave rise. Drawing on qualitative interviews with residents of the ‘Red Wall’ area of England said to be key to the outcome of the 2016 Brexit referendum, I consider whether it is possible for populists to construct ‘the elite’ element of their movements in ways that promote collective agency without compromising the pluralistic ethos of the contemporary Left. The Laclauian model of populism is brought into dialogue with mid-century Elite Theory, the site of a foundational debate between defenders of two broad elite paradigms: Elite Monism (emphasising the collective nature of elite classes) and Elite Pluralism (emphasising the patterned actions of individual elite agents). Where mid-century Elite Theorists debated the relative empirical value of these paradigms for characterising actually-existing elite configurations at the height of the Cold War, this paper focuses on their discursive implications. Specifically, whether collective agency is more compatible with populist antagonism toward a Monist or Pluralist elite. A discourse-theoretical account of the two paradigms is developed and an argument advanced that Monist elite signification may be an underexploited means of promoting collective agency in left-wing populism. In support of this thesis, I demonstrate that a marked rightward shift in the character of populist movements globally since 1980 has accompanied a discernible shift from Monist to Pluralist forms of elite signification within academic and political discourses. All else being equal, left-wing populists should promote a sense of ‘the elite’ as a Monist whole that is greater-than-the-sum-of-its-parts, able to function as a focal point against which the various antagonisms held by a pluralistic ‘people’ might be unified. A means of promoting collective agency that could be termed ‘Strategic Monism.’
The polysemy of an empty signifier: the various uses of Ernesto Laclau’s puzzling concept
Thomás Zicman De Barros
The concept of empty signifier is possibly the most prominent among those developed by Ernesto Laclau. However, despite its success among discourse theorists, this notion remains puzzling. It has been used in various contexts and different configurations, and has become polysemic. My goal is to attempt to clarify this concept. To do so, my study is divided into two parts. First, I go back to the psychoanalytic concepts that seem to have informed Laclau’s earlier formulations on the empty signifier. Second, I revisit Laclau’s work to highlight five different uses he made of the notion of empty signifier. In different contexts in Laclau’s work, the empty signifier named (1) a symbol of the pure being of the symbolic system; (2) a particular demand that represents all other particular political struggles; (3) a ‘negative’ symbol that names an antagonistic other; (4) a symbol whose content is problematically poor; and (5) a symbol pointing to an open identity. Whereas I conclude that it is not possible to produce one simple definition of empty signifier, I argue that we should not reject the concept, but rather use it to grasp the complexity of processes of identification.
The Transgressive Aesthetics of Populism
Théo Aiolfi, Thomás Zicman De Barros
This article aims to bridge the gap between the discursive and socio-cultural-performative approaches in the critical literature on populism by proposing that populism can be conceived as a transgressive aesthetics. The article draws on Jacques Rancière's notion of aesthetics as the “partage du sensible” and employs it to understand how populism transgresses the rules establishing what can appear in politics. The paper claims that populism is aesthetically transgressive in two ways: (1) by making visible subalternized subjects through the discursive articulation of the “people”, and (2) by naming the “elite” in a way that makes visible underlying structures of domination. The article argues that this framework allows for a more accurate understanding of the relationship between populism and topics such as crisis and institutionalism. Moreover, the paper employs this framework to differentiate between emancipatory and reactionary forms of populism, connecting emancipatory populism to queer aesthetic practices and explaining how it reinvigorates liberal democracy. Conversely, reactionary populism mobilizes that which Hannah Arendt called the “mob” and ends up reinforcing modes of domination.

Panel 2.2 Technocracy between theoretical reflection and empirical analysis

The issue of technocracy has long been addressed and studied in the field of political science. The dimensions and levels of the theoretical and empirical framing of technocracy are manifold and concern the historical and political conditions that favour the rise of "unelected" individuals within national institutions; the quantitative reinforcement of technocrats in governments, both as prime ministers and, above all, as ministers of economic-financial departments; the political choices and policies of technocrats in government; the role of the European Union (and the Commission in particular) as a lever in favour of technocratic governance on a continental scale, i.e. a type of depoliticised government based on automatic supranational rules. On a more theoretical level, however, the issue of technocracy also allows us to understand the more qualitative aspects of contemporary transitions in and of democracy, in particular the forms of legitimation of public decisions and, more generally, of state institutions, especially in the various crisis situations that seem to structurally and permanently underpin contemporary society. In particular, given the longstanding and now endemic crisis of the party form, two macro-forms of politics, populism and technocracy, have consolidated, which are also configured as two orders of discourse and two macro-types of legitimation, both of which are expressions of the crisis and the devaluation of parties. On the other hand, a new concept has recently emerged, that of 'techno-populism', which seems to synthesise and 'merge' these two phenomena, but which requires in-depth theoretical-conceptual reflection.
In the light of these considerations, it seems increasingly clear that the study and analysis of a complex phenomenon such as technocracy can draw new resources from the encounter between theoretical reflection and the more empirical analysis of political science. The aim of this panel is therefore to gather both contributions of a more theoretical nature - functional in order to grasp the general and typical elements of technocracy and the relationship between technocracy and democracy - and contributions of an empirical nature (qualitative and quantitative), in the latter case aiming to show in detail how technocracy (understood as a structural element of contemporary governance) and technocrats in key governmental positions (at the national, supranational and even international level) are increasingly relevant in contemporary decision-making processes.

Possible topics and perspectives include:

- Theoretical conceptualisation of technocracy: old and new approaches;
- Technocracy and political categories (hegemony, passive revolution, governance, etc.);
- Technocracy and democracy;
- Technocracy and parties;
- Technocracy and neoliberalism;
- Technocracy and populism and/or techno-populism;
- Technocracy and ideology; Technocracy and/or as ideology;
- The role of technocrats in processes of social and institutional change;
- Policies and politics of technocratic governments;
- Supranational and international dimensions of technocracy;
- Historical development of technocracy.

Chairs: Adriano Cozzolino, Diego Giannone

Discussants: Marco Calaresu

La tecnica che legittima: appunti per uno studio sulla perdita di autonomia del politico
Luigi Sica
L’intervento vorrebbe abbozzare alcune riflessioni sul concetto ampio di tecnocrazia come elemento di legittimazione della produzione di decisioni pubbliche. In genere i modelli di governo (o di governance) tecnocratici vengono intesi in maniera alternativa rispetto a quelli politici. La tecnocrazia sarebbe una forma di spoliticizzazione che annullerebbe tutto quanto in genere viene riferito al politico stesso (razionalizzazione dei rapporti di forza, definizione degli interessi perseguiti, dialettica amico-nemico). In realtà i modelli tecnocratici, più che la negazione di un politico che è invece irrimediabile e ineliminabile, costituiscono un nascondimento di quella politicità stessa, una perdita di autonomia di essa. La concezione artificialista per la quale il la produzione diritto e la assunzione di decisioni collettive debbano trovare la propria legittimazione nella politica – cioè nelle scelte consapevoli dei soggetti in ordine alla costruzione di ordini sociali confacenti a determinate risultanze di interessi – è una idea prettamente moderna, non un invariante della storia umana. Per secoli il diritto ha trovato la propria legittimazione (anche e soprattutto) in accoppiamento strutturale con sistemi diversi da quello politico. La stessa funzione di governo è stata legittimata con ricorso a modelli trascendenti o tradizionali. Oggi i modelli tecnocratici tendono a replicare quella premoderna dinamica, con decisioni materialmente tutte politiche la cui legittimità però pretende di risolversi totalmente (o quasi) nel campo della tecnica. Questo discorso sarà verificato con riferimento ad alcune questioni attinenti alla gestione della crisi pandemica e con una riflessione su come la tecnica economica (sub specie gestione della politica monetaria) della BCE abbia in qualche modo coperto e insieme sostanziato decisioni politicamente estremamente rilevanti per il futuro dell’Europa durante lo scorso decennio.
Le politiche dei governi tecnocratici nell'esperienza della Seconda Repubblica italiana
Adriano Cozzolino, Diego Giannone
Gli approcci “convenzionali” alle policy e agli attori coinvolti nel processo di formulazione e implementazione delle stesse tendono ad assumere, in modo implicito o esplicito, la razionalità (ancorché “limitata”, secondo il classico studio di Simon) degli attori coinvolti e una altrettanto implicita separazione tra Stato e società. Questo approccio diventa particolarmente evidente quando sono coinvolti esperti e tecnocrati, in quest’ultimo caso esperti di alto livello in posizioni apicali nelle istituzioni statali. La tecnocrazia è, infatti, solitamente concepita - sia in parte della letteratura che nella sfera pubblica - come il paradigma di un processo decisionale caratterizzato da una tendenza “problem-solving” (cioè orientata ai problemi in modo “non ideologico”), dunque pragmatica e neutrale rispetto alla costellazione degli interessi socio-politici coinvolti. Questo paper prova a ribaltare lo schema interpretativo classico in tre modi. Il primo, teorico, consiste nell’adottare come prospettiva interpretativa privilegiata la letteratura meglio conosciuta come critical policy analysis, che abbraccia una serie di prospettive critiche sul policy-making e sulle condizioni contestuali in cui emerge (dunque guardando ai rapporti sociali complessivi). Il secondo, empirico, consiste nell’illustrare il caso dei quattro governi tecnocratici stabiliti in Italia dai primi anni Novanta ad oggi. L’indagine, attraverso una ricognizione puntuale dei principali interventi di policy dei tecnocrati al governo, aspira a mostrare il carattere situato e parziale delle politiche introdotte nel tempo. Il terzo, infine, che beneficia dei primi due blocchi di analisi, mostra che, al contrario degli approcci convenzionali, i tecnocrati – grazie ad una certa “distanza” dal circuito politico-elettorale – riescano a introdurre politiche particolarmente ambiziose e incisive nel tessuto dei rapporti politico-istituzionali e sociali del Paese. Il lavoro, infine, rappresenta anche la possibilità di un bilancio, ancorché provvisorio, dell’esperienza tecnocratica nel contesto della Seconda Repubblica italiana, e, più in generale, della tecnocrazia sulla forma e sostanza della democrazia rappresentativa.
Talking politics. A CDA perspective on the discursive construction of the political in Italy’s technocratic discourse
Daniela Caterina
Current diagnoses of crisis phenomena affecting the inner core of liberal democracies tend to revolve more and more around a peculiar merging of technocracy and populism. Against this background, the concept of ‘technopopulism’ is enjoying increasing popularity. It consolidates a cross-disciplinary consensus on the shared nucleus of technocracy and populism, respectively, as it points out how technocratic and populist principles of representation challenge quintessential features of party democracy by voicing a common critique against processes of political mediation and procedural legitimacy (Caramani 2017; Bickerton & Invernizzi Accetti 2017, 2021). Yet how does this critique look like in the empirical practice of technocratic discourse? Put bluntly, how do technocrats talk about politics? How do they discursively construct (their relationship with) political parties? How do they address and problematize the time(s) of politics? And how does this discursive construction inform technocrats’ decision-making? The present contribution addresses the above research questions in the Italian case, which continues to stand out in the European scenario – and beyond – for its repeated experiences of technocratic government since the 1990s. Accordingly, the study adopts a diachronic perspective on the discursive construction of the political by Italy’s key technocratic prime ministers – Carlo Azeglio Ciampi (1993), Lamberto Dini (1995), Mario Monti (2011) and Mario Draghi (2021). The underlying goal is to push the disciplinary boundaries of the current state of the art on (Italian) technocracy by showing the added value of a fine-grained critical discourse analysis (CDA) of technocrats’ practical arguments (Fairclough & Fairclough 2012). Drawing on CDA, the study foregrounds the urgency to embed analyses of the relationship between technocrats and the political within in-depth investigations of technocratic strategies of action. This way, it also problematizes the implications of technocratic discourse for the neutralization of deeply controversial institutional changes. A paramount example in this respect is the constitutional transformation of parliamentary democracy into a system enjoying increasing levels of governability (‘democrazia decidente’).

Panel 2.3 Democratic Renewal

Democratic Renewal
Panel Convenors: Enrico Biale (Università del Piemonte Orientale) & Giulia Bistagnino (Università di Milano)
Panel Chair: Corrado Fumagalli (Università di Genova)

The idea that democratic systems face a deep and never-ending crisis is so widespread in the academic and public debate that opposite perspectives converge on it. According to some scholars, democracies are failing because they are unsuited to manage the complex contemporary political challenges that need quick and effective responses. Their procedures take time, and their members are affected by prejudices, epistemic biases, and undemocratic feelings (Brennan 2016; Mounk 2018; Scheuerman 2004). According to others, our democratic systems have betrayed their values by undermining the control acknowledged to citizens and removing from public scrutiny decisions that profoundly affect the lives of every member of the polity (Crouch 2004; Gerbaudo 2022; Mouffe 2018). While these perspectives highlight some undeniable shortcomings of our democracies, they risk providing a simplistic and problematic analysis. They blame the citizens without carefully considering the structural constraints imposed on the exercise of their political agency (Lafont 2019; Berman 2019). Moreover, they suggest that repoliticizing some issues could solve this problem, but they underestimate the socioeconomic disempowerment that characterizes our democratic systems (Azmanova 2020; Nasstrom 2021). This panel aims to overcome these problems by developing a complex and fine-grained analysis of the normative and institutional features that need to be changed in order to trigger an effective democratic renewal. To achieve this aim, the panel will be focused on, though not limited to, the following topics:
- The role and content of militant democracy as a form of democratic renewal;
- The social as a pre-condition/constitutive component of democratic flourishing;
- The role of political parties in transforming democratic institutions;
- Democratic corruption and other challenges to democratic renewal;
- Democratic renewal, social movements, and other agents of change;
- Economic inequalities and democratic crisis;
- Democratic innovations and democratic renewal;
- Populist momentum and other crises as opportunities or challenges to democratic transformation

Chairs: Enrico Biale, Giulia Bistagnino

Discussants: Corrado Fumagalli

Agents of just change. The realization of justice between normativity and pragmatism
Federico Zuolo
Multiple strands in political theory have endorsed a methodological shift to recognize the practical nature of normative political theorizing. Nonideal theorists (Sen 2009; Wiens 2012), political realists (Rossi and Sleat 2014; Sleat 2016) and activist political theorists (Ypi 2012; Goodhart 2018) have urged that political theory be practical, namely that it be concerned with proposals actionable by real actors. In parallel with these theories, some have argued that we should focus our attention on the question of the agents of change (Laurence 2020; 2021) and justice (Hickey, Meijers, Robeyns, Timmer 2021; O’Neill 2001). Common to all these debates (political realism, activist political theory, nonideal theory, agents of change) there is a claim for a methodological change in political theory. Normative theorizing in politics should not only restrict itself to theorizing about principles of justice (ground, currency, scope and site of justice), for it should also discuss the specific agent who is more suitable to bring about the required change. Although some approaches in political theory, in particular think of Marxism, are certainly not new to this question, this issue has been relatively neglected in normative political theory (O’Neill 2001). This lack seems to depend on the prevalent idealist approach. But even nonideal approaches (Sen 2009; Wiens 2012) have advocated for a methodological change (preference for comparative over transcendental approach, starting from the fact of injustice, taking feasibility constraints seriously) without fully addressing the issue of the agent of change. In this paper, I seek to identify some of the most important problems that a normative theory may encounter in dealing with an agent of change. In particular, I investigate whether and what a theory may require of an agent of change. The guiding hypothesis is that, if the theorist has some duties (e.g. of epistemic humility) in relating to the agent of change, it seems plausible to say that the agent of change should meet some requirements on its own. This paper investigates these requirements (normative and pragmatic) and proposes a framework to understand them. I will proceed as follows. In the second section, I will analyze Laurence’s account of the agent of change. I will argue that it is incomplete, although it has the merit of posing the problem of the agent of change in post-Rawlsian theorizing. In the third section, I will scrutinize Ypi’s view on avant-garde and activist political theory. Ypi’s account has the merit of putting the agent of change at the center of normative theorizing, thus overcoming its traditional neglect in normative theorizing. However, Ypi’s account does not provide a full answer to the question of what the theory or theorist may demand of an agent of change. Next, I will analyze some Marxists’ and critical theorists’ takes on the issue of the agent of change. Common to both approaches is the reluctance to provide normative considerations about how the agent of change should behave or how it should be. To overcome this widespread reluctance, in the fifth section, I will sketch the two requirements that an agent of change should meet: the normative requirement and the pragmatic requirement. I will conclude with some reflections on the further implications of these requirements. In brief, the agent of change should act in such a way that its action respect the values it seeks to promote and be intended to bring about change according to a plausible set of ideas about how change could be achieved. These requirements are independent of any social theory of change or normative theory of justice, and hence could be applied to any theory of agent of change. These requirements are admittedly minimal but non-empty. In practice these minimal requirements exclude political strategies that are normatively unconstrained (e.g. Leninism) and purely expressive activism, which fails to pass the pragmatic requirement. Despite its minimality, this framework could also be used as a tool to assess the relative plausibility of different accounts of the agent of change in terms of their overall capacity to pass the two requirements.
Economic Integration as an Obstacle to Democratic Stability?
Pietro Maffettone
The rise of populist movements in Western democracies has attracted a great deal of attention. Most commentators tend to be critical of populist policies. Populists’ insistence on national economic sovereignty is a standard target. In this paper I will argue that there might be something to be said for what populists normally argue about international trade, and that recognizing this fact is important to defuse the demand side of populism. More specifically, I shall argue that the standard ‘efficentarian’ version of the argument in favor of more economic integration through trade fails both on its own terms and given the background assumptions implied by widely accepted intuitions about distributive justice. It fails on its own terms to the extent that it is presented as a Paretian argument since, as is clear both theoretically and from empirical evidence, economic integration creates winners and losers. Given the distributive effects of economic integration through trade predicted by standard models the predictable outcome is that workers in developed countries with relatively lower skills and training will be penalized by trade with developing ones. Thus, from a distributive perspective, in developed countries, those who were relatively worse-off to begin with have been further penalized by the policy choice of deepening economic integration; they paid the price for greater societal prosperity over time, and this is intuitively unfair. Of course, stated in this way, the argument forgets what many economists usually gesture at, namely, that higher social welfare can create the resources necessary to compensate the losers from free trade. However, this frequent rejoinder, often put forward via appeals to ‘compensation policies’, can be shown to be largely ineffective. From an empirical point of view, we will see that compensation policies are seldom properly funded, they are subject to various political pressures that distort their intended outcomes, face problems of identification and ultimately do not seem to efficiently compensate workers that have suffered economic dislocation. In addition, and more importantly, compensation policies are bound to fail because the view that they can affect something like ‘rectification’ flies in the face of descriptive and normative arguments to the effect that work is valued and valuable in more ways than simply as a source income since it contributes to human flourishing and to the realization of important political values.
The Guise of Institutional Trust
Michele Bocchiola
Trust is a fundamental aspect of human relationships and has attracted a great deal of attention from scholars in different fields. Legal theorists, for example, have explored the role of trust in contract law. Psychologists and sociologists have examined how trust is fundamental to establishing and maintaining interpersonal relationships. Economists have studied the role of trust in economic transactions and the functioning of markets. Political scientists have examined the role of trust in democratic governance. Despite this broad and interdisciplinary interest, political theorists have come relatively late to the debate. This is surprising, given the central role of trust for social cohesion and cooperation, things which are essential for the functioning of any society. This paper aims to contribute to the current debate in political theory by focusing on the institutional dimension of trust. Political theory who have worked on the institutional dimension of trust have tended to think that institutional trust primarily concerns the (degree of) confidence that individuals have in various institutions – such as governments, business corporations, the media, non-profit organizations, and the like. From this perspective, the study of institutional trust involves the analysis of a wide range of factors, including the perceived integrity and competence of an institution, its track record in fulfilling its purpose, and its transparency and accountability in decision-making processes. While these are certainly important aspects of the institutional trust – as highly trusted institutions are perceived as stable and reliable, enhancing cooperation and cohesion, and preventing social unrest – in this paper I want to address another central but often ignored aspect of trust: trust within institutions themselves. More specifically, the central question of this paper is: What is it like for officeholders – human persons who embody rule-governed roles within public institutions – to trust each other? Addressing this question holds significant importance, as it contributes to the analysis of how public institutions operate by delving into the behavior exhibited by officeholders when they fulfill their institutional roles. By examining the interactions between officeholders within the institutional framework, valuable insights can be gained into the intricate workings of public institutions. While institutional trust is commonly perceived as a relationship between the citizenry and public institutions which can be observed from an external point of view, comprehending the nature of trust within the internal structure of public institutions is a focal point of the paper. To explore the guise that trust takes within institutions, the paper is structured as follows. In §1, I will explain the perspective adopted in this paper, highlighting its differences from the notion of interpersonal trust, which primarily refers to trust between individuals in ordinary, non-institutional contexts. Making this distinction allows for a clearer understanding of the focus and scope of the paper. In §2, I take a comprehensive approach by integrating a doxastic (relating to beliefs) and affective (relating to emotions) aspect of trust, resulting in a nuanced hybrid view that serves as the fundamental basis for a general definition of institutional trust. I argue here that, in public institutional context, officeholders place trust in one another when they recognize the interrelationship of their roles and hold the presumption that a pro officio (pertaining to institutional duties) attitude on the part of those who they trust will serve as a motivating factor for voluntary compliance with expected actions. By considering the cognitive processes involved in decision-making and the affective elements that underpin trust formation, a more general understanding of institutional trust can be achieved. In §3, my aim is to further illuminate the distinctive nature of institutional trust by delving into a relevant example. This is a familiar case, in which the members of a university department ask a junior colleague to take on the responsibility of teaching a course, highlighting how institutional trust differs significantly from interpersonal trust (which is primarily established and maintained at an individual level, on the basis of personal rapport, familiarity, and shared experiences). In §4, I will closely analyze the features outlined in the definition presented in §2, and apply them to the example provided in §3. Specifically, I argue that institutional trust is a non-moralized relationship that generates a form of dependence among officeholders whose roles are constitutively interrelated. This analysis will shed light on how the conceptual framework of institutional trust manifests itself in practical situations, allowing for a deeper understanding of the experiences and responsibilities associated with acting in an officeholder’s entrusted institutional capacity. In order to defend the proposed view of institutional trust and to address potential limitations, in §5 I engage with various objections that may arise, particularly those related to the perceived redundancy of trust in the face of stringent institutional rules. In §6, I conclude.

Panel 2.4 Rethinking participatory democracy. Theories, tools, experiences

The notion of "participatory democracy" probably first appeared in the early 1960s, when it was used in New Left documents. In the "Port Huron Statement", a famous document of the SDS (Students for a Democratic Society) we read for example: "In a participatory democracy, the political life would be based in several root principles: that decision-making of basic social consequence be carried on by public groupings; that politics be seen positively, as the art of collectively creating an acceptable pattern of social relations; that politics has the function of bringing people out of isolation and into community, thus being a necessary, though not sufficient, means of finding meaning in personal life”. In those years, some American political theorists (such as, for example, Arnold S. Kaufman, Carole Pateman, Crawford B. Macpherson, Peter Bachrach) placed the idea of a "participatory democracy" at the center of their reflections and presented it, in large part, as an alternative to the "elitist" conception of democracy elaborated by Schumpeter, Dahl and others. Since the 1980s, the discussion on democracy has taken other directions. Many political philosophers have focused on “deliberative democracy”, while several scholars, aiming to reinvigorate democratic institutions, have proposed a return to tools of direct democracy or even to the old tool of drawing lots. Nonetheless, the notion of "participatory democracy" has not disappeared and is, for example, used in some European Union documents to indicate the tools aimed at enhancing the political role of citizens.
Despite such usages, the meaning of the expression "participatory democracy" remains rather vague and its boundaries often seem rather uncertain. This panel aims to consider the notion of "participatory democracy" from a theoretical point of view, re-reading the classic contributions on this topic and critically considering the recent discussion.
In particular, papers are requested that focus on the following points:
- Theories of “participatory democracy” (Pateman, etc.);
- Relations between "participatory democracy" and "direct democracy" (and "deliberative democracy" and "representative democracy");
- Recent discussions on tools for promoting democratic participation;
- Experiences of participatory democracy.

Chairs: Damiano Palano

Discussants: Damiano Palano

Deliberative quality in international settings: a systemic approach
Alberto Bitonti, Jean-Patrick Villeneuve, Kristina S. Weißmüller, Pablo Contreras, Gianluca Miscione
Mainly deriving from the literature on deliberative democracy, the concept of deliberation is based on the idea that decision-making is not a simple aggregation of pre-existing preferences, nor an arena where the most powerful wins, but rather a process where different actors interact respectfully and justify their positions through reason-based arguments, finding common ground for mutual recognition, meta-consensus, or even agreement. Despite being explored empirically in different deliberative venues, an application of the concept of deliberative quality seems missing in the specific context of International Organizations (IOs). How does the concept apply to organizations whose formal members are foremost countries/states (whose relative weight varies) and where other stakeholders are involved more or less marginally? How can the current decision-making processes and stakeholder-involvement strategies of IOs be evaluated? The paper tackles these questions, firstly refining the concept from the perspective of political theory, secondly proposing an original theoretical framework of deliberative quality applicable to IOs systemically, and thirdly investigating the validity of the framework in the specific context of trade-related IOs, namely the World Trade Organization (WTO), the United Nation Conference on Trade And Development (UNCTAD), and the International Trade Centre (ITC). In addition to building on the literature on deliberative democracy, our study relies on qualitative in-depth interviews with high-level public officers of the three IOs, states’ delegates, and representatives of organizations acting as stakeholders of the three organizations.
Maria Teresa Pacilè
Nowadays, representative democracy is deprived of its political strenght: this paper intends to reflect on the concept of «representation» in contemporary times, in order to understand whether it is doomed to failure or whether it can find new energy appropriately combined with other democratic forms, such as deliberative and participatory democracy. The critique of representation and the democratic model proposed by Hannah Arendt – especially in On revolution (1963) – can provide an interesting polemical comparison in order to clarify the notion of “participatory democracy”. Can it be an effective alternative to face the growing indifference and the lack of trust in contemporary democracies? This paper therefore intends to return to a critical reading of Arendt’s political theory in order to verify whether some of her interpretative hypotheses can help us imagine some ways out of the current crisis of democracy, increasingly divided among the power of the elites, financial power and technocracy. Arendt’s political thought reaffirms the centrality of a «plurality of unique beings» and emphasises the importance of public discussion among citizens as a pillar of democracy. It finds its greatest expression in some of the most significant and insurrectionary events of modernity: the French and American revolutions, the Paris Commune of 1871, the soviets of 1917, the German council democracy of 1918, the Hungarian revolution of 1956, the American civil disobedience of the 1970s. In their diversity, these political “miracles” broke through modern statehood, challenged its representative logic and revealed a new space of political freedom, a «spring democracy» (A. CAVARERO, 2019). The political model thus outlined is alternative to government-centred politics: councils, for example, in Arendt’s works are an alternative to the representative model because they are small political spaces of participatory freedom based on a model of self-government that does not deny the anarchic inclination from which they arose. In this context, the experience of public happiness is closely linked to citizens’ possibility to exhibit their own distinctive uniqueness. By acting and speaking in the public space, people have the opportunity to come out of the isolation of their private lives, to give meaning to their personal existences and to experience a «power-acting-together» actualised as participatory and relational power among a plurality of peers. But the critical intent of Arendt’s analysis does not aim to demolish institutions or deprive them of their value: more significantly, it intends to highlight their contingency and fragility, to recognise their roots elsewhere. We must return to them at times of crisis in order to regenerate them. As a place where different voices coexist, Arendt’s political space is nevertheless sustained by social and labour activities, which constitute the «pre-political» space, necessary for politics to become a place of freedom and participation. Today, however, this solid base constituted by work – understood as a place of self-realisation and a meaningful meeting with the other – is radically questioned. New political and social challenges are urgent. Can the philosophical-political categories inherited by Arendt’s theory – «acting-in-concert», «dialogue», «participation», «community» – help us to address them? The contribution here proposed, without claiming to be exhaustive, will attempt to problematise and discuss these unresolved questions.
The confederal democratic fashion of participatory democracy. Mandate and communal deliberation in self-governed North-eastern Syria
Davide Grasso
The paper will present a multi-year research on the institutional forms that an experience of participatory democracy, partially direct and deliberative, has taken over part of the Syrian territory in the course of the civil war. The subject of the analysis will be the (partially) inverted pyramid structure of the authorities governing the Autonomous Administration of North-East Syria (AANES), promoted by the Democratic Union Party (PYD). Although this experiment mainly concerned the Kurdish communities (Rojava) between 2011 and 2015, its partial extension among Arab and Assyrian communities in the region has been ongoing since 2016. In order to give scientific relevance to this experience, far away from propaganda narratives, the contribution wants to delineate the balance of power in the AANES and the somewhat conflictual relation between its administrative institutions and democratic participation, as well as the local population and the party structures. Data are drawn from documentation sources found on site, in-depth interviews with stakeholders, participant observation by the author during the activities of Rojava’s Communes, high-level journalistic reports, and relevant scientific literature. In the first months of the Syrian insurrection, the PYD proposed to the Kurdish communities in Rojava to come together in popular assemblies called Councils (Ayboga et al. 2016). The process of forming similar groups was ongoing throughout the whole country. Both liberal-oriented Arab groups (such as the Damascus Declaration) and conservative Islamic regroupments (such as the Supreme Council of the Syrian Revolution) were forming assemblies fighting for political and organizational hegemony in the process (Al-Shami et al. 2016; Dechlich 2016). In August 2011, an election led to the selection of 330 delegates from the various Councils to form the body of the Popular Congress of Western Kurdistan. The latter elected a territorial coordinating body of 33 delegates, called Movement for a Democratic Society (Tev-Dem). The widespread participation led to the Tev-Dem breaking up the town assemblies at the neighborhood, residential street and village level, allowing the new institutions to function better and making it possible for all residents to be actively involved (Hag Qasim 2016). The district and village assemblies resulting from the division of the Councils were called Communes. Each Commune began to elect a co-Chairman and a co-Chairwoman by majority vote during plenary assemblies. They also elected delegates to Neighborhood Councils, and City Councils, through direct, imperative and revocable mandate (Tev-Dem 2014; Al-Tamimi 2018). City Councils allowed delegates from all Neighborhood Councils and Communes in and around the city to coordinate their answers to practical problems, discussing and approving solutions (Biehl 2015). The growth of such a political structure favored the participation of families and individuals who did not necessarily adhere to the ideological tendencies of the PYD (RIC 2019). This entailed a renewed paradigm, oriented in a moderate socialist and ecological direction, with women at the centre. According to the ideology of the PYD, no demand for the creation of a separate Kurdish state was envisioned (Öcalan 2016). Since then, the Commune has been the basic unit of self-government in territories militarily controlled by the Confederal Movement. It involves people at a residential street level, normally some 30-200 households, reaching the number of 500 in major cities (Ayboga et al. 2016 : 87). They are structured according to criteria of effectiveness, i.e. the concrete possibility of deciding and acting (Burç 2016). The fundamental instruments are plenary assemblies, with all members present. Assemblies are orderly and take place with people arranged in rows, looking towards a Commission consisting of three or four members (the co-Chairs plus one or two other participants, elected at the very beginning of the gathering). In the assemblies, if a general consensus has not been reached, the possibility of majority voting is guaranteed, in order to give a clear and reasonably rapid outcome to the discussion (Ayboga et al. 2016). Assemblies are convened every so often by the co-Chairs and then elect delegates to Committees (O’Keeffe 2018). The multiple Committees established by the Communes are responsible for economic issues, peaceful dispute resolution, self-defense, education, ideology, and health protection (Cemgil et al. 2016; Duman 2017). The delegates to coordinating council structures at city and district levels are subject to some control of the Commune members, who can draw up written reports on their actions, ask for their dismissal or request meetings with the relevant Committee, or an assembly (Mendanlioglu 2020). The pyramid of delegates understands the decentralized units to be the summit, not the base. In this inversion and weakening of hierarchical relations characteristic of administrative law lies a cornerstone of the PYD’s idea of «non-statist» institutional action (Grasso 2018; 2022). Since 2013 this system has witnessed the establishment of administrative institutions that initially were barely linked to the Communes. The Communes were given the historical task of gradually eroding those very provisional and administrative powers, building a radically democratic perspective at the grassroots level. The war against Daesh (2014-2019) increased the number of Communes, and even extended them beyond the limits of Kurdish communities. The Turkish invasions of the AANES (2018-2022) halted and undermined this process of expansion quantitatively (since they were dissolved in occupied areas) and qualitatively, forcing them to become transmission belts for emergency directives that come from the administrative institutions. This produced a partial reversal of the political dynamics imagined by the PYD at the beginning of the Syrian conflict.
Ubi maior. La mancata istituzionalizzazione del Dibattito pubblico in Italia.
Giulio Citroni
Con l’emanazione del cosiddetto Codice degli appalti nel 2016, viene introdotto in Italia l’istituto del Dibattito pubblico. Chiaramente modellato sull’esempio dell’omonimo dispositivo partecipativo e deliberativo francese, il Dibattito pubblico in Italia assume caratteristiche diverse e difformi dall’originale, caratterizzandosi per tempi ridotti, scarsa autonomia, e soprattutto una debole istituzionalizzazione. A più riprese, il Dibattito pubblico è stato riformato e gli organi preposti alla sua promozione e supervisione sono stati riorganizzati; a più riprese, la sua capacità di incidere efficacemente sui processi decisionali sembra essere stata subordinata ad altre priorità, in particolare a quelle di speditezza nell’avvio dei lavori. In questo quadro, il Dibattito pubblico non sembra sia riuscito ad attestarsi come “istituzione” capace di orientare comportamenti e logiche di azione in maniera stabile, durevole, e sovraordinata rispetto a strategie contingenti e logiche concorrenti. Prima ancora delle più recenti modifiche che lo hanno ulteriormente indebolito, il Dibattito pubblico era stato sacrificato alle priorità del PNRR con una notevole compressione dei tempi, mentre già erano emerse debolezze strutturali nei mesi e anni precedenti. Dentro questo quadro, difficilmente A valle di una breve ricostruzione del modello costituito dal Débat public francese, il paper ricostruisce le alterne e travagliate vicende dell’istituto del Dibattito pubblico in Italia con particolare riguardo a: 1) il contenuto delle norme che lo hanno regolato in questi anni, dalla sua istituzione alla sua sostanziale riforma in sede di riscrittura del Codice degli appalti nel marzo 2023; questa analisi si appoggerà sui testi normativi (decreti legislativi, regolamenti attuativi, nonché raccomandazioni, determine e regolamenti della Commissione nazionale per il Dibattito Pubblico - CNDP); 2) l’effettiva operatività dello strumento dal punto di vista delle tempistiche di avvio, delle professionalità impiegate, della efficacia operativa della CNDP; questa analisi si baserà su interviste a testimoni privilegiate/i, individuate/i prevalentemente tra esperte/i e membri della CNDP stessa, oltre che su documenti istituzionali e letteratura “grigia” (relazioni alle camere, audizioni ecc.); 3) il grado di istituzionalizzazione del Dibattito pubblico, inteso come la sua capacità di strutturare durevolmente i comportamenti e le logiche di azione in organizzazioni e processi decisionali; questa analisi si baserà, oltre che sulle fonti sopra impiegate. L’obiettivo del paper è di contribuire al dibattito scientifico su un tema-chiave della ricerca più recente sui processi deliberativi e partecipativi, ovvero la capacità di consolidamento, istituzionalizzazione, e quindi legittimazione degli strumenti e dispositivi per il coinvolgimento delle comunità nelle scelte pubbliche.

Panel 2.5 Old problems, new challenges: teorie delle élites e populismo

Nella letteratura scientifica è ormai pacifico che le democrazie contemporanee stiano attraversando una faticosa fase di transizione, se non anche di crisi. In particolare, un sempre più ricorrente contrasto tra i “pochi” e i “molti” (Nadia Urbinati), causato non da ultimo dalle crescenti ineguaglianze sociali ed economiche, ed esasperato dall’aspra retorica manichea tipica del populismo contemporaneo, sembra configurarsi come centrale conflitto del nostro tempo, ripercuotendosi, nella sua versione più strettamente politica, sul rapporto tra governanti e governati e minando così le basi della “formula politica” più raffinata della modernità: la democrazia rappresentativa.

Se da un lato le forme attuali di tale conflitto risultano estremamente complesse ed in costante mutamento, la loro sostanza, dall’altro, sembra rimandare ad un problema conosciuto, già rilevato dalle teorie delle élites classiche fiorite in Italia a cavallo del XIX e XX secolo e proseguite più tardi da tanta parte della letteratura internazionale, dalla Germania alla Francia, fino agli Stati Uniti: il rapporto tra chi detiene e chi non detiene il potere (Ralf Dahrendorf).

Il populismo, osteggiando le più importanti minoranze organizzate (“élites”) delle democrazie contemporanee – da quelle politiche, fino a quelle giudiziarie, da quelle nazionali a quelle sovranazionali – e invocando un inafferrabile “popolo puro”, disconosce la legittimità dei governanti di detenere il potere politico. Tuttavia, inevitabilmente, dovunque si insedi in posizioni di governo, il populismo produce nuove forme di potere, costituendo nuove minoranze che lo detengono.

Alla luce di queste premesse, il panel, accogliendo sia contributi teorici che empirici, intende fornire un contributo al consolidamento del legame tra elite studies e populism research. Fino a che punto le teorie delle élites possono spiegare le criticità dei rapporti politici contemporanei? Che valenza analitica possiede oggi il concetto di élite e attraverso quali strategie viene strumentalizzato dal populismo? Che rapporto intercorre tra le concrete forme di distribuzione del potere proprie della democrazia rappresentativa e le narrazioni populiste? Quale, dunque, la relazione tra realtà politica e costruzione retorica?

Chairs: Giovanni De Ghantuz Cubbe

Discussants: Federico Trocini

Il rendimento decrescente delle élite: un modello della trasformazione politica.
Raffaele Alberto Ventura
L’ipotesi che vorremmo sottoporre è che le retoriche dell’anti-elitismo poggiano sulla percezione irriflessa di un crescente sfasamento tra costi e benefici associati alla dipendenza da una minoranza di individui "competenti". Oggetto dell'analisi sono le classi che attraverso il monopolio del capitale simbolico (competenze, titoli, credenziali, relazioni) pongono le altre classi in un rapporto di “dipendenza”, per citare il concetto in uso negli studi post-coloniali a partire dagli anni 1970: ci riferiamo dunque precisamente alle élite tecnocratiche, manageriali, intellettuali ed eventualmente politiche, per distinguerle dalle élite economiche che detengono il capitale in senso stretto. Lungi dall’essere immotivata, riteniamo che la percezione di uno sfasamento tra costi e benefici della differenziazione funzionale discenda da una dinamica che può essere confermata dalla letteratura scientifica: il rendimento delle competenze specialistiche tende e decrescere a causa del trasferimento di risorse dalla creazione di valore ai processi di riproduzione e selezione, processi gravati da crescenti spese di signalling (Spence 1973). Intendiamo dunque concentrarci su una variabile endogena e dipendente, piuttosto che esogena e indipendente, della circolazione delle élite. Scopo del contributo è studiare il mutamento politico operando una sintesi tra sociologia delle élite, sociologia dell’organizzazione e sociologia dell’educazione al fine di sviluppare l’intuizione di Jack Goldstone (1991) sulla “competizione intra-élite” come motore delle rivoluzioni. L’attualità del tema del tramonto delle élite a fronte di una crisi epocale della legittimità delle istituzioni, degli esperti e dei saperi incarnata dall’ascesa del cosiddetto “populismo” o “antipolitica”, ci ha convinti dell’importanza di proporre un’analisi sistematica di tale questione che tenti di mettere in relazione tradizioni scientifiche che non sempre hanno dialogato. In particolar modo ci interessa osservare in parallelo i meccanismi di formazione, circolazione e rinnovamento delle élite e quelli di formazione, circolazione e rinnovamento dei paradigmi di sapere, attraverso uno stretto dialogo tra la letteratura sociologica e quella epistemologica con particolare attenzione al tema classico delle rivoluzioni scientifiche.
Il ricorso dei populisti al cospirazionismo nella demonizzazione delle élite
Marco Solinas
Nel quadro delle strategie di strumentalizzazione del concetto di élite adottate dai movimenti e partiti populisti è sempre più frequente il ricorso alle teorie cospirative. Come si può evincere dall’attuale discussione di scienza e teoria politica, sta diventando via via più chiara l’importanza del cospirazionismo ai fini della demonizzazione del ruolo delle “élite corrotte e malvage” nel quadro del populismo (vedi p. es. Muirhead and Rosenblum 2019, “Social Research” vol. 89 n. 3 2022, Balta, Kaltwasser a Yagci 2022, Pirro e Taggart 2022). I nuovi studi portati avanti sul versante disciplinare della scienza politica in senso stretto vengono in tal modo ad allacciarsi alle analisi e ai temi proposti sul versante della storia culturale e delle idee, della sociologia e psicologia politica, che negli ultimi anni hanno a loro volta accordato sempre maggiore spazio alla discussione delle correlazioni tra cospirazionismi e populismi (vedi Knight 2000, Bergmann 2018, Knight e Butter 2020, Wu Ming 1 2001). A partire da queste feconde e sempre più strette interrelazioni interdisciplinari, il presente paper mira a mostrare come in particolare la teoria cospirativa della sostituzione etnica, facendo leva su una radicale demonizzazione delle élite, rappresenti un caso assai significativo della convergenza tra la logica e la retorica propria della “ideologia sottile” del populismo e il modello paradigmatico delle teorie politiche cospirative, che definirei in questo caso quale “ideologia spessa” (sul populismo quale ideologia sottile vedi l’ormai celebre definizione di Mudde e Kaltwasser). Più da vicino, la teoria cospirativa della sostituzione etnica – di cui nel paper presenterò in breve la fisionomia e le principali versioni – per un verso svolge un ruolo determinante nell’ambito dei nuovi canali del cospirazionismo, anzitutto rispetto alla galassia QAnon, per un altro verso si riallaccia direttamente e sistematicamente al cospirazionismo tradizionale. Emerge in particolare uno stretto legame al costrutto teorico-ideologico del “complotto giudaico-plutocratico”, quindi al concetto di élite quale gruppo di potere economico, politico e finanziario transnazionale, ora rilanciato dai populisti. Ancorandosi all’immagine di una élite globale che sarebbe responsabile (quale segreto agente organizzatore) dei flussi migratori che giungono nell’Occidente, i partiti populisti hanno modo di lavorare su una figura di “nemico” a cui ricorrere in ogni fase della loro vita politica: sia quando si trovano all’opposizione, sia quando hanno sono al potere, poiché si tratta di une élite che resta comunque “esterna” al raggio di potere dei governi nazionali, e quindi rappresenta un “nemico” ideale (mi richiamerò al riguardo alla critica che Franz Neumann dette della nozione di ‘politico’ di Carl Schmitt). L’analisi del ricorso sistematico alla teoria cospirativa della sostituzione etnica da parte dei populisti ai fini della demonizzazione delle élite globali permette così di far luce anche sulle relazioni che intercorrono tra le forme di distribuzione del potere proprie della democrazia e dei sistemi economici globali attuali, ed una delle fondamentali narrazioni populiste: la rilettura in chiave cospirazionista dei flussi migratori; dunque una delle questioni oggi cruciali in termini di consenso e formazione della pubblica opinione. In questo caso, la relazione tra realtà politica ed economica da una parte e costruzione retorica e ideologica dall’altra parte se può rivelarsi poco cogente e persino inconsistente sul piano delle concatenazioni logico-argomentative, può nondimeno risultare assai incisiva e persuasiva sul piano della retorica politica. I tratti caratteristici di vaghezza, indeterminatezza e circolarità logica di tali narrazioni – messi magistralmente in luce da Umberto Eco sul doppio piano dell’analisi semiotica e della costruzione letteraria – mostrano qui la loro potenza retorica, come cercherò di spiegare meglio nel paper. La prospettiva adottata permette pertanto di demistificare una serie di narrazioni che – come nel caso emblematico a cui mi richiamerò nel paper delle accuse che i cospirazionisti rivolgono sistematicamente al noto finanziere ebreo Gorge Soros – procedono a una demonizzazione, trasfigurazione e mistificazione delle élite globali mediante la loro sovrapposizione a nozioni quali “poteri forti”, “grande capitale speculativo”, “grandi lobby massoniche”, la cui indeterminatezza non ne inficia però l’incisività politica. In conclusione, il paper è volto a chiarire alcune delle ragioni politiche e taluni dei meccanismi retorici e cognitivi tali per cui la demonizzazione delle élite operata mediante il ricorso alla teoria cospirativa della sostituzione etnica risulta perfettamente compatibile con l’ideologia sottile e la logica costitutiva dei populismi, e come permetta a questi movimenti e partiti di rilanciare e riaggiornare la contrapposizione tra “i pochi” e “i molti” nelle vesti della opposizione manichea e moralistica, di natura per l’appunto cospirazionista, tra il “popolo” e le oscure élite della finanza speculativa, che perseguirebbero appunto un piano, un disegno finalizzato a distruggere le etnie europee per sostituzione: mediante l’organizzazione di flussi migratori.
Populismo di destra: stile o dotttrina?
Carlo De Nuzzo
I social network e i nuovi media stanno ridefinendo l'arena del dibattito e la percezione della politica dei cittadini, strutturati in precedenza da stampa e televisione. La digitalizzazione favorisce la brevità e l'efficacia del messaggio: si nota l'emergere di contenuti brevi, appena più lunghi di uno slogan, ma di rara efficacia comunicativa. Nessun esercizio dialettico articolato, ma un discorso che smuove le persone e va oltre la mediazione istituzionale dell'informazione mainstream. La mutazione tecnologica dei linguaggi, a cui stiamo assistendo oggi, è la più emblematica dall'introduzione in Europa dell’invenzione della stampa a metà del XV secolo. L'innovazione tecnica che è stata la “brutta” Bibbia di Gutenberg ha permesso una moltiplicazione esponenziale del numero di libri in circolazione, consacrando la vittoria della stampa a caratteri mobili sulla maestria estetica della Bibbia “più bella del mondo”, quella realizzata a mano per il duca di Modena e Reggio Borso d'Este. Questo meccanismo di apertura sociale, come la digitalizzazione, è una vera e propria leva per la democratizzazione mediatica e politica. Il populismo si dispiega nell'universo digitale grazie a un linguaggio nuovo che ridefinisce l'offerta politica secondo una logica di opposizione binaria non più tra destra e sinistra, ma tra élite e popoli, sovranità e globalizzazione, nazione e internazionalizzazione, confini e apertura, lavoro e finanza. Lo stile conciso della comunicazione politico-sociale favorisce la sinteticità del messaggio, che colpisce direttamente la base elettorale, permettendo di superare la mediazione istituzionale e parlamentare, spesso identificata come un ostacolo al perseguimento degli interessi comuni. Poiché l'espansione della base dei lettori in seguito all'invenzione dei caratteri mobili è paragonabile all'espansione democratica dovuta allo sviluppo di Internet e dei social network, dobbiamo chiederci se l'attuale rivoluzione politico-culturale che ha creato una nuova estetica del messaggio, abbia favorito la proliferazione dei populismi o se ne sia, al contrario, una diretta conseguenza. Partendo dall’influenza della Nouvelle droite francese in Italia, attraverso il Ventennio berlusconiano, fino al fenomeno Salvini prima e Meloni poi, questo articolo cerca di rispondere alla domanda se il populismo di destra sia una dottrina o solo uno stile di comunicazione dovuto alla rivoluzione del linguaggio digitale.

Panel 2.7 Democracy and (il)liberalism: conceptual problems and new theoretical approaches (I)

The link between democracy and liberalism is historically very intricate – because it is based on different theories and authors – but it is considered a fundamental element for the legitimacy of modern “liberal democracies”. In recent years, however, this relationship has been threatened by the “illiberal trend” that has spread in some European countries (and not only), which represents the ideological basis of “illiberal democracies”. The aim of the panel is to host contributions that problematically consider – with theoretical and empirical approaches – the link between democracy, liberalism, and illiberalism. Contributions are asked that analyze the following (non-exclusive) aspects: 1) conceptual analysis of the term “illiberal democracy”; 2) theoretical framework describing the relationship between democracy, liberalism, illiberalism; 3) unpublished essays on liberal and illiberal authors; 4) empirical case studies of “illiberal democracies” or presumed such; 5) analysis of public policies recognized as a product of illiberal policies. After the Sisp Conference, the papers considered worthy will be included in a publication (special issue or volume).

Chairs: Antonio Campati

Discussants: Federico Trocini

Dall'innovazione tecnologica all'"innovazione liberale". Praticabilità dell'"appello al Cielo" di Locke nell'era della comunicazione digitale
Gabriele Giacomini
John Locke, teorico imprescindibile del pensiero liberale, è stato un anticipatore dell’analisi circa le motivazioni e le modalità di ribellione ad un potere illegittimo. Già alla fine del XVII secolo, John Locke teorizzò che se uno Stato abusa dei suoi cittadini, questi hanno il diritto di ribellarsi, anche con il ricorso alla violenza, in nome dei diritti alla libertà e alla vita. Si tratta del cosiddetto "appello al Cielo". Oggi le tecnologie dell’informazione e della comunicazione possono senza dubbio aiutare le prime fasi di mobilitazione popolare, soprattutto dal punto di vista organizzativo. Allo stesso tempo, però, le ICT sembrano offrire potenti strumenti a politici con tentazioni illiberali. Negli ultimi decenni, i falliti tentativi di sollevazione contro i regimi in Paesi come Myanmar, Iran, Egitto, Hong Kong e Bielorussia hanno dimostrato come le TIC, pur avendo un elevato potenziale di libertà in un contesto democratico, siano insufficienti, e talvolta addirittura controproducenti, nel contesto di un regime con tendenze illiberali (ad esempio, quando un popolo è impegnato a esercitare legittimamente il proprio diritto alla resistenza). I regimi oppressivi utilizzano diffusamente, e spesso con successo, le nuove tecnologie per la sorveglianza, la propaganda, la censura, l’oppressione dell’autodeterminazione dei popoli e la soppressione dei diritti fondamentali, prima fra tutte la libertà politica. Questa riflessione teorica, in primo luogo, intende sottolineare l’attualità di un classico come John Locke circa i diritti liberali. In secondo luogo, dati i rischi di derive dispotiche in molti Paesi del mondo (si pensi alle cosiddette "democrazia illiberali", ma anche le democrazie di lungo corso non sono immuni a priori da involuzioni politiche), intende interrogarsi su quali competenze, regole e istituzioni possano aiutare i cittadini a difendere la propria libertà e la propria autodeterminazione quando queste sono messe in discussione o addirittura minacciate concretamente, anche nella sfera digitale. In particolare, per evitare che le tecnologie digitali diventino uno strumento per derive autoritarie, è necessaria una "innovazione liberale", finalizzata all'istituzione di rinnovati diritti e contropoteri. Nuove "architetture politiche", ispirate alla tradizione liberale, possono contribuire alla tutela delle libertà individuali e dei diritti fondamentali nell'era digitale (ad esempio, attraverso una rinnovata configurazione della separazione dei poteri).
«Tecnodemocrazie illiberali»? Un’ipotesi ulteriore di espansione concettuale dell’opzione illiberale
Massimiliano Panarari
Una serie di testi e ricerche usciti nel corso di questi ultimi anni (o nel periodo immediatamente precedente l’irruzione dell’emergenza Covid-19) suggeriscono, nelle trasformazioni dei regimi liberaldemocratici, una chiave interpretativa focalizzata sul rinnovato protagonismo dello Stato e dei suoi apparati, e sullo scivolamento – o direttamente l’oltrepassamento – della linea di demarcazione tipica dei codici politico-culturali (e giuridici) delle democrazie liberalrappresentative per quanto concerne le tipologie dell’intervento pubblico nell’ambito della sfera individuale dei cittadini. Una linea di lettura nella quale rientra anche, per certi versi, la dimensione della biopolitica e del biopotere – categorie divenute centrali dal punto di vista della discussione pubblica nell’odierna età pandemica –, e che presta una spiccata attenzione all’incremento della potenza e delle prerogative del cosiddetto «capitalismo della sorveglianza» (senza assumere per questo alcun tratto di neoluddismo, va specificato). Si tratta di autori e studiosi che avanzano, a vario titolo, l’ipotesi della costituzione e della diffusione di forme di «neototalitarismo soft», destinate a trasfigurare ulteriormente i sistemi politico-istituzionali liberaldemocratici, accentuando vieppiù le dinamiche della postmodemocrazia e della restrizione degli spazi di privacy, anche per effetto di una strumentalizzazione della nozione di trasparenza, attuata soprattutto nelle pratiche discorsive della cosiddetta Californian Ideology (l’espressione coniata da Richard Barbrook e Andy Cameron in un loro saggio pionieristico, dedicato alla «critica del neoliberismo dotcom»1, uscito a metà degli anni Novanta). Sono per l’appunto quelle che vengono descritte quali manifestazioni di «neototalitarismo soft» considerabili, in primo luogo, come esiti della mutazione delle relazioni tra Stati e aziende multinazionali avvenuta – per intensificarsi via via in seguito – a partire dall’alba dell’epoca neoliberista scoccata nella seconda metà degli anni Settanta del Novecento, e che la pandemia ha esasperato, intersecandola, su un altro piano, con il cambio di paradigma della transizione ecologica. Uno degli elementi messi in rilievo da questa letteratura è il fatto che varie corporation cooperano – da posizione subordinata (o semiparitaria) – con poteri autocratici e illiberali, dando così vita a una forma-Stato tecnoetica e a un originale «TecnoLeviatano» illiberale, con un inedito «statuto» pubblico-privato cangiante e flessibile in relazione ai contesti regolamentari e legali e alle finestre di opportunità sociopolitiche. La rivoluzione delle Ict quale promessa libertaria di una società dispensatrice di un aumentato empowerment individuale ha pertanto generato e sparso i semi di quella che può venire etichettata, rispetto alle premesse, come una sorta di «controrivoluzione digitale». Alcuni testi sono riconducibili al filone della teoria critica ampiamente rappresentata nell’universo accademico anglosassone, altri invece si caratterizzano, in senso lato e at large, per un atteggiamento intellettuale dialettico ma senza indulgenze nei confronti di vari esiti primari o effetti collaterali proiettati sul corpo sociale dalla rivoluzione digitale. Nondimeno, e seppure all’insegna di approcci metodologici e visioni culturali differenti tutti gli studiosi sottolineano in maniera comune la contrazione delle libertà individuali e della sfera privata come pure una metamorfosi in senso restrittivo, e con l’ingresso massiccio di forze esogene (e private), dello spazio pubblico e nelle sue dinamiche fondamentali. Il paper si propone di analizzare queste prospettive differenti, ma convergenti, per delineare l’ipotesi di una tecnodemocrazia illiberale come ulteriore espansione dell’opzione illiberale e della democrazia illiberale. E di indagare, sotto il profilo qualitativo, i risvolti sotto il profilo della crisi della rappresentanza delle forme di reintermediazione e di apparente disintermediazione diffuse all’interno dei circuiti sociali e dei meccanismi della leadership politica dal paradigma della «tecnodemocrazia illiberale». Bibliografia Agamben, G. (2020), A che punto siamo?, Macerata-Roma, Quodlibet Byung-Chul, H. (2015), Nello sciame, Milano, Nottetempo (ed. or. 2014) Byung-Chul, H. (2016), Psicopolitica, Milano, Nottetempo (ed. or. 2000) Campati, A. (2020), L’opzione illiberale. Un nuovo capitolo della storia della democrazia?, «Politics. Rivista di studi politici», n. 13, pp. 63-82 Campati, A. (2022), La distanza democratica, Milano, Vita e Pensiero Codeluppi, V. (2020), ? Come la pandemia ci ha cambiato, Roma, Carocci Caligiuri, M. e Galli, G. (2020), Il potere che sta conquistando il mondo, Soveria Mannelli, Rubbettino Crary, J. (2015), 24/7. Il capitalismo all’assalto del sonno, Torino, Einaudi (ed. or. 2013) Crouch, C. (2005), Postdemocrazia, Roma-Bari, Laterza (ed. or. 2000) Derrida, J. (2009), La Bestia e il Sovrano, Milano, Jaca Book (ed. or. 2004) Ferraris, M. (2021), Documanità. Filosofia del mondo nuovo, Roma-Bari, Laterza Foucault, M. (2004), Nascita della biopolitica. Corso al Collège de France (1978-1979), Milano, Feltrinelli (ed. or. 1979). Foucault, M. (1976), Sorvegliare e punire, Torino, Einaudi (ed. or. 1975) Manin, B. (2010), Principi del governo rappresentativo, Bologna, Il Mulino (ed. or. 1995) Mann, G. e Wainwright, J. (2019), Il Nuovo Leviatano, Roma, Treccani (ed. or. 2018) Rosa, H. (2015), Accelerazione e alienazione, Torino, Einaudi Ross, A. (2016), Il nostro futuro, Milano, Feltrinelli (ed. or. 2016) Wu, T. (2021), La maledizione dei giganti, Bologna, Il Mulino (ed. or. 2020) Zuboff, S. (2019), Il capitalismo della sorveglianza, Roma, Luiss University Press (ed. or. 2019) Zylberman, P. (2013), Tempêtes microbiennes. Essai sur la politique de sécurité sanitaire dans le monde transatlantique, Paris, Gallimard
La crisi della democrazia liberale: tecno-sovranismo e tecno-populismo in prospettiva storica in Francia e Italia (1992-2022)
Gian Marco Sperelli
The concept of populism has been occupying for several decades a pivotal place in contemporary debate. Recent historical trends have given rise to the proliferation of discourses aimed at defining once and for all the original source of the populist phenomenon. The purpose of this paper is to analyse the transformation of liberal regimes - mainly in the case-studies of France and Italy- based on the intermingling between populism, sovereignism and technocracy. In Italy, the emerging literature insisted on the intersections between contemporary right/left-wing populism and technocracy. Both political approaches have been often described as striving to appeal to “ordinary people” (i.e., those who self-perceive as alien to any elite) advancing anti-elitist stances. However, right-wing populisms tend to emphasize opposition to external immigration, nationalism and protection, whilst left-wing populisms predominantly, if not exclusively, compete by focusing on non-positional issues such as the fight against corruption, increased transparency and moral integrity, as demonstrated by the Italian case with the coalition government between two political forces—the “Five Star Movement” (5SM) a left-wing populist party and “The League” a right-wing populist party — in 2018. In May 2018, the 5SM and The League struck a deal—formalized as a “Contract for the Government of Change”—on a common platform to bring a new government to Italy. They chose as premier a law professor, Giuseppe Conte, whose role was to “enforce” the Contract. In August 2019, The League announced a motion of no confidence against the President of Council, who then resigned. This triggered a political reshuffle that resulted in The League pulling off the government, replaced by the Democratic Party, with, once again, Conte as prime minister. The populist wave was partially reabsorbed by the social and economic backlash following the outbreak of the covid-19 pandemic, which triggered the crisis of the second Conte government and its replacement with a national unity government – including 5SM and The League - led by the former ECB President Mario Draghi. However, as suggested by Vivienne Schmidt, neo-populism and technocracy are two side of the same coins: populism is a form of «politics without policy», whilst technocracy is a form of «policies without politics». The hybridization of these phenomena – in the Italian case- triggers idiosyncrasy between non representative institutions like the European Union and those of the new populist movements; at the same time, on the national level, populist policies could not be implemented without the cooperation of technocratic structures. The emergence of techno-populism shows clearly the contemporary eclipse of the Italian representative democracy. Technocrats and populist leaders replace, definitively, professional politicians. As to France, the rise of Emmanuel Macron – elected President of the French Republic in 2017- has been often analysed as a form of “centrist populism”, in compliance with neologism dégagisme used to grasp French people’s desire to remove the country’s political and economic “elite”. However, Macron has always underlined the gaullist legacy of his political movement (La République en marche), demonstrating the tight interrelation – in France- between technocratic institutions (such as the National School of Administration in which Macron was educated as a high civil servant) and political ruling class. To figure out the political success of Macron is necessary to appeal to the concept of State power (pouvoir d’état), according to the theory coined by the jurist and political scientist Georges Burdeau. State power – embodied by a republican monarch elected through universal suffrage- must be analysed as a top-down means for the modernisation of the nation particularly within the supranational governance of the European Union. For this reason, macronism may be conceived as a form of techno-sovereignism. The chronic crisis of the traditional – particularly the neo-gaullist party and the socialist party- political forces over the last decade has triggered the transformation of the regime – techno-sovereignism- to appeal to State power to reform the society. This trend has been exacerbated by the constitutional reform in 2000, reducing the presidential term from seven years to five years. The aim of the "quinquennat" (five-year term) was to reduce the risk of cohabitation, thanks to synchronisation of the presidential and legislative elections. The last elections, however, in 2022 showed the drawback of the hyper-presidentialization of the regime as a means to rule a post-industrial society. Indeed, in spite of the re-election, the incumbent president Macron does not have an absolute majority in Parliament. Despite its minority status as a result of the June 2022 legislative elections, the Borne government has survived multiple votes of no confidence in the National Assembly: in response to the reiterated use -in October 2022- of constitutional article 49.3 – it allows the executive to force laws through parliament without a vote- by the government to pass a social security bill, as well as two in March 2023 again in response of the use of article 49.3 to pass the controversial pension reform. Definitively, the wave of unrest and strikes highlights the lack of middle ground culture of the regime – “techno-sovereignism”- in managing social conflicts stemming from popular stances.

Panel 2.7 Democracy and (il)liberalism: conceptual problems and new theoretical approaches (II)

The link between democracy and liberalism is historically very intricate – because it is based on different theories and authors – but it is considered a fundamental element for the legitimacy of modern “liberal democracies”. In recent years, however, this relationship has been threatened by the “illiberal trend” that has spread in some European countries (and not only), which represents the ideological basis of “illiberal democracies”. The aim of the panel is to host contributions that problematically consider – with theoretical and empirical approaches – the link between democracy, liberalism, and illiberalism. Contributions are asked that analyze the following (non-exclusive) aspects: 1) conceptual analysis of the term “illiberal democracy”; 2) theoretical framework describing the relationship between democracy, liberalism, illiberalism; 3) unpublished essays on liberal and illiberal authors; 4) empirical case studies of “illiberal democracies” or presumed such; 5) analysis of public policies recognized as a product of illiberal policies. After the Sisp Conference, the papers considered worthy will be included in a publication (special issue or volume).

Chairs: Antonio Campati

Discussants: Federico Trocini

Liberalismo e Illiberalismo: Riflessioni semantiche sulla democrazia dei moderni (ri)partendo dal pensiero di Giovanni Sartori
Mario De Benedetti
L’attuale dibattito politico si è concentrato da diversi anni sull’uso del termine-concetto “democrazia” utilizzandolo, spesso abusivamente, per giustificare principalmente l’operato delle èlites di potere (Wright Mills, 1956). Tanto che sembra, ultimamente, che si stia vivendo in sistema in cui i requisiti minimi di quella che è stata definita come “democrazia liberale”, ossia le elezioni libere e ricorrenti, il pluralismo dei mezzi di comunicazione, il multipartitismo e, da ultimo, ma vero e proprio baluardo della democrazia liberale contemporanea, lo stato di diritto o, forse anche più corretto nella sua accezione anglosassone, la rule of law, sono diventati non più simbolo di un meccanismo policentrico, correttamente definito nel contesto statunitense come poliarchia (Dahl, 1972; Morlino, 2019), ma elementi facilmente manovrabili dai leaders carismatici che gli attuali regimi politici stanno continuando a produrre. Si può quindi parlare di democrazia elitaria o, ancor più precisamente, di democrazia carismatica, corollario alla quale è il tanto temuto abominio del polilogismo dei valori (Mises, 1949), ossia una forma mentis specifica per quelle classi che si distinguono per potere economico, razza e superiorità culturale. La crisi tanto decantata della democrazia si incarna tuttavia nella crisi dello Stato in generale e dello stato di diritto in particolare: dello Stato in quanto i regimi europei fondati sui sistemi accentrati e burocratizzati non riescono a tenere il passo con l’aumentare delle istanze sociali che crescono alla velocità di un click di mouse, data la grande influenza che lo scambio di informazioni tramite social media esercita sulle opinioni e le credenze generali; dello stato di diritto in quanto le èlites politiche contemporanee che accedono ai seggi parlamentari non possiedono più quella cultura amministrativo/pubblicistica dei loro predecessori. Sempre meno formati a livello culturale, ma sempre più abili ad utilizzare le tecnologie informatiche per fare leva sugli stereotipi culturali (Lippmann, 1922), che si incistano sempre più facilmente in quelle società in cui il sistema scolastico si trova vicino al collasso, utilizzano la rete come arma di distrazione di massa, favoriti anche dall’indiscriminato diffondersi via web delle teorie complottiste, finendo per sostituire l’importante strumento legislativo con la decretazione di urgenza. Il welfare state sta lentamente morendo e nascono nuove forme di reggenza legittimate certamente da elezioni popolari, ma veicolate dalla volatilità del voto che viene deciso a livello individuale più in base a pulsioni emotive che a riflessioni razionali (Leoni, 1961). Il fatto che un sistema politico presenti pluralismo partitico e comunicativo non è fonte di garanzia delle libertà individuali, vero spartiacque tra regimi liberali e non, considerando anche che i grandi movimenti di popolazione che si stanno verificando, soprattutto verso l’Europa, pone sempre più gli Stati di fronte a scelte emergenziali che finiscono per minare i diritti umani sia degli stranieri, sia dei connazionali. Tuttavia questi regimi, anche quando si professano apertamente contro i principi del liberalismo, continuano a definirsi come democratici. Ci si trova quindi di fronte ad una confused democracy (Sartori, 1987) o ad una fake democracy, ossia ad un uso e abuso di un termine geneticamente polisemico. I grandi maestri della scienza politica del secolo scorso, Norberto Bobbio e Giovanni Sartori, hanno più volte affermato, andando contro la cultura europea maggioritaria, influenzata dallo storicismo idealista e materialista di origine hegeliana, che nella contemporaneità storica post seconda guerra mondiale o si parla di democrazia liberale oppure si finisce per mistificare quell’opinione pubblica che tanto ha sofferto la repressione delle libertà individuali, soprattutto in terra europea. È grazie anche all’opera di questi due grandi intellettuali che la scienza politica attuale ha accettato che la democrazia priva dei correttivi della rule of law e del pluralismo/policentrismo porti con sé i germi del totalitarismo (Talmon, 1952) e che le vere società aperte sono quei contesti in cui il singolo è in grado di potersi autogestire senza ledere le libertà altrui (Popper, 1945). Questo è possibile, però, in quei contesti dove la presenza dello Stato in economia è limitata e la proprietà privata non solo viene garantita, ma viene anche protetta da logiche politico/burocratiche (Rosmini, 2021) e, soprattutto, dove la rappresentanza degli interessi sociali non viene delegata solamente alle formazioni partitiche, ma viene anche tutelata dalla presenza attiva dei corpi intermedi (Tocqueville, 2007; Sturzo, 2005; Felice, 2020). Sartori, in particolare, è riuscito ad applicare la legge di Hume all’analisi della democrazia, applicando l’avalutatività weberiana per prescindere dalla sua dimensione assiologica. È quindi riuscito nel compito distinguendo “il contesto della scoperta da quello della validazione, ricordando che in fase di controllo degli enunciati esplicativi, occorre neutralizzare i valori e i giudizi di valore” (Sartori, 1979). Perché una scienza che non verifica o falsifica neutralmente, non è scienza ma inganno (Pellicani, 2018). Occorre quindi riappropriarsi delle basi per poter capire che dove la libertà individuale è repressa in tutte le sue manifestazioni, oltre i limiti della tutela della libertà stessa, è inutile e fuorviante utilizzare il termine “democratico” per descrivere ciò che democratico non è. Bibliografia essenziale Bobbio, N. (1955), Politica e Cultura, Einaudi Dahl, R. A. (1972), Polyarchy, Yale University Press Felice, F. (2020), I Limiti del Popolo. Democrazia e Autorità Politica nel Pensiero di Luigi Sturzo, Rubbettino Leoni, B. (1961), Freedom and the Law, George Mason University Press Morlino, L. (2019), Democrazia e mutamenti, Luiss University Press Pellicani, L. (2018), Il Primato del Politico, Licosia Rosmini, A.
Liberalismo e democrazia nel pensiero di James Fitzjames Stephen
Carlo Marsonet
Avvocato, giornalista e pensatore politico, James Fitzjames Stephen (1829-1894) è un autore pressoché ignorato negli studi italiani di teoria politica e storia del pensiero politico. Figlio di un professore di storia moderna a Cambridge, la cui cattedra verrà poi occupata da Lord Acton (1834-1902), nonché zio della scrittrice Virginia Woolf (1882-1941) e cugino del costituzionalista Albert Dicey (1835-1922), Stephen studiò a Eton, al Kings College e a Cambridge con Henry Maine (1822-1888). Profondamente immerso nel contesto storico-politico vittoriano, Stephen maturò, dall’interno della corrente liberale, una visione critica di cosa il liberalismo a lui coevo, così come incarnato politicamene da William Gladstone (1809-1898), stava diventando. Reminiscente delle idee di Alexis de Tocqueville (1805-1859), circa il problema dell’apertura della democrazia alle masse, così come incline a seguire Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679), relativamente a una concezione pessimistica sulla natura umana, Stephen fu un veemente critico delle posizioni di John Stuart Mill (1806-1873). All’autore di Sulla libertà (1859), cui pure guardava con ammirazione e non senza condividerne in parte alcune posizioni, Stephen rimproverava un troppo marcato astrattismo nel definire concetti come libertà eguaglianza e fraternità, a scapito della concretezza che sempre deve guidare il ragionamento teorico-politico, e un ottimismo che non trovava riscontro nella realtà empirica dei rapporti sociali interindividuali. Secondo Stephen, come espresso nel suo più importante lavoro di teoria politica, che quest’anno compie centocinquanta anni dalla prima pubblicazione, Liberty, Equality, Fraternity (1873), ogni concetto andava calato nella realtà. Così, ad esempio, la libertà non poteva che fare i conti con il sostrato culturale che in qualche modo ne limitava la portata: la moralità, la tradizione, la rule of law, financo la religione non erano che naturali argini alla degenerazione di una libertà illimitata che diveniva piuttosto licenza. L’uguaglianza e la fraternità, poi, costituivano in maniera astratta propositi che non trovavano riscontro nella realtà degli uomini: tentare di rendere eguale ciò che nasce diverso, così come un amore assoluto per l’umanità a detrimento della concreta amicizia tra uomini, era per Stephen, in questo e non solo prossimo alle idee di Edmund Burke (1729-1797), il miglior modo per creare disordine e animosità tra gli uomini stessi. Alla luce di quanto detto preliminarmente, il presente contributo intende offrire un seminale ragionamento intorno al pensiero politico di James Fitzjames Stephen, parte di un progetto più ampio da svilupparsi nel prossimo futuro. In tal senso, si opererà, in primo luogo, una breve contestualizzazione dell’autore, come da prassi di ricerca di storia del pensiero politico. In secondo luogo, si passerà a un’analisi in medias res delle riflessioni di Stephen. Ciò significa affrontare le argomentazioni critiche dell’autore in relazione al pensiero, in particolare, di J.S. Mill e ai concetti di libertà, eguaglianza e fraternità e al loro rapporto col tema cruciale della democrazia. L’obiettivo primario è quello di mostrare come le riflessioni dell’autore, in parte assimilabili a quelle tocquevilliane, si pongano rispetto allo sviluppo democratico: più che antidemocratico, l’autore sembra essere piuttosto preoccupato della degenerazione di alcune tendenze democratiche che, per meglio comprenderle, potremmo definire “massocratiche”. Infine, poi, il contributo intende focalizzarsi sull’idea liberale dell’autore, andando ad esaminare il rapporto critico del suo pensiero in relazione al conservatorismo e al liberalismo stesso. L’ipotesi è che esso si situi tra le due correnti, dal momento che i cambiamenti storico-politici ne influenzarono una parziale revisione delle idee liberali. Bibliografia (parziale) M. Cazzola, Un lume indiano sui problemi europei. James Fitzjames Stephen e il governo del Reform Act (1867), “Storia del pensiero politico”, 1, gennaio-aprile 2019, pp. 89-108; J.A. Colaiaco, James Fitzjames Stephen and the Crisis of Victorian Thought, Palgrave MacMillan, London, 1983; G. Conti, James Fitzjames Stephen's other enemies: Catholicism and Positivism in Liberty, Equality, Fraternity and beyond, “History of European Ideas”, 47:7, pp. 1109-1149; G. Conti, How to Read James Fitzjames Stephen: Technocracy and Pluralism in a Misunderstood Victorian, “American Political Science Review”, 115, 3, 2021, pp. 1034–1047; G. Conti, James Fitzjames Stephen and the Landscape of Victorian Political Thought, “Modern Intellectual History”, 18, 2021, pp.261–274; P. Gottfried, Liberalism and Democracy, “Journal of Libertarian Studies”, 12:2, Fall 1996, pp. 233-255; J.D. Hayden, Reflections on James Fitzjames Stephen, “University of Queensland Law Journal”, vol. 29, n. 1, 2010, pp. 43-66; R. Kirk, The Foreboding Conservatism of Stephen, “Western Political Quarterly”, vol. 5, n. 4, December 1952, pp. 563-577; W. Lippincott, Victorian Critics of Democracy: Carlyle, Ruskin, Arnold, Stephen, Maine, Lecky, Octagon Books, London, 1964; J.S. Mill, Saggio sulla libertà (1859), Il Saggiatore, Milano, 2014; R.A. Posner, Foreword to J.F. Stephen, Liberty, Equality, Fraternity and Three Brief Essays, The University of Chicago Press, Chicago and London, 1990; J. Roach, Liberalism and the Victorian Intelligentsia, “The Cambridge Historical Journal”, vol. 13, no. 1, 1957, pp. 58-81; K.J.M. Smith, Portrait of a Victorian Rationalist, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1988; J. Stapleton, James Fitzjames Stephen: Liberalism, Patriotism, and English Liberty, “Victorian Studies”, vol. 41, n. 2, Winter 1998, pp. 243-263; J.F. Stephen, Liberty, Equality, Fraternity (1873), ed. by S.D. Warner, Liberty Fund, Indianapolis, 1993; J.F. Stephen, Liberalism, “Cornhil Magazine”, 5, 1862; A. de Tocqueville, La democrazia in America (1835-1840), a cura di N. Matteucci, UTET, Torino, 2007.
Understanding Orbán Illiberalism: Ideological Foundation and Political Practice in Contemporary Hungary
Angela Trentin
The paper explores the nature of contemporary illiberalism, with a focus on the Hungarian case. It tackles some conceptual and empirical questions. Is it better to look at illiberalism as an ideological alternative to modern-day liberalism (and other modern ideologies such as socialism, fascism and nationalism) or as a form of political practice? What are the larger economic and sociological factors that have led to the rise of illiberalism in the West and specifically in Hungary? And what impact does illiberalism have on politics and political institutions in practice? The paper brings literature on illiberalism and populism, as well as broader debates around the crisis of the West and postmodernity, into conversation with particularities of Hungarian politics and the rise of Fidesz. The statements released by Orbán over the past decade were also a valuable source to better comprehend the ideological background of the events taking place in the country. Illiberalism is here used as an umbrella term to describe Orbán’s political thought and practice. Still, it sought to highlight other constituent aspects of his political rhetoric, such as populism and the orientation towards the far right. I argue that illiberal populism and modern-day liberalism are deeply intertwined and feed off each other in the political discourse and media narrative. Therefore, illiberalism must be understood not only as an abstract ideological concept but as a response, albeit inadequate, to real concerns citizens express. Thus as a reaction to the economic dislocation (erosion of the middle class and the transition to post-industrial economies) and social dislocation (atomisation and loss of identity and community) created by modern-day forms of liberalism, e.g. neoliberal economics and post-modern individualism. Thus, I questioned the historical origins and the economic and cultural conditions favouring the rise and attainment of Fidesz’s absolute majority. The main factor emerging is the causality between economic insecurity and a large mass of illiberal party voters dissatisfied with the economic policies of recent decades. Moreover, modern-day “liberals” use illiberal populism as an ideological “other” and tend to vilify illiberal voters to try to overcome the crisis of legitimacy that liberalism faces in the modern world instead of seeking to address the problems that liberalism’s excessive emphasis on individualism has caused. Doing so only perpetuates this crisis and facilitates the further rise of illiberal movements which threaten to hollow out and erode democracy, failing to acknowledge that for a significant share of the Hungarian population, illiberalism provides an attractive frame of meaning and purpose, however problematic it may be. The hype of right-wing populism is a symptom of a broader crisis that takes the form of political alienation and dissatisfaction and usually rises in abstention, inequalities, and a failure of liberal democracies to live up to the expectations. It is worth noting that the once desirable ‘neo-liberal globalisation’ has become a synonym for social uncertainty and a threat to political, economic and social stability in a country like Hungary, which has typically been associated with a successful transition to a liberal system. In this context, Orbán’s illiberal populism purports to stand as an alternative to neo-liberalism and post-modernism; however, failing to develop a clear and coherent ideological opposition. Instead, implementing a great shift towards identity politics fitting seamlessly into the current and general identity crisis affecting politics; on the one hand, with the revival of the nation-state and conservative views, and on the other, the tension towards an increasingly open and globalised society. Indeed, reference to cultural war is gradually gaining ground in scholarly analysis, especially regarding the post-Soviet space. It refers to a conflict of values and morality strictly understood in a Manichaean way; in this case, it takes the form of liberal progressive vs illiberal conservative. Hungary becoming more culturally divided and polarised is an insightful example concerning these opposing and irreconcilable worldviews. Hence, I analysed the consequences of an ethnonational majoritarian system on the country’s democratic institutions and practices, which implements nativist policies to enhance the will of their (own) people even at the cost of violating the fundamental rights and constitutional guarantees of citizens and democratic institutions. Lastly, were explored the philosophical roots and intellectual references building the skeleton of Orbán’s political model, placing it in the European national-conservative lineage of illiberalism, observing from which authors it has drawn most, and how intellectual networks are consolidating in the present.

Panel 2.8 Identities and Identifications: Politicized Uses of Collective Identities

Identity is one of the crown jewels in the kingdom of ‘contested concepts’ in social and political sciences. The idea of identity is conceived to provide some unity and recognition while it often entails the complete opposite, namely separation, differentiation and antagonism. Few concepts have been used as much as identity for contradictory purposes. No matter what, starting from the seemingly fragile individual identity as a self-solidifying framework, identity presents us its multifaceted nature, especially in social and political sciences that aim to better understand the socialized in-group and inter-group identities, namely the collective and multi-layered identification, socially constructed through family, religion, ethnic group, regions, political parties, nation-states, supra-national entities etc. Politics-wise, identity shows up in the core of contemporary debates and makes everything either too dangerously simple or too complicated to cope with. Constructivist and de-constructivist approaches have led to the same conclusion: the eternal return of the topic as a relevant, not to say influential, factor. As a result of the diverse aspects of identity, the concept needs continuous refinement. By approaching and addressing its inherent complexity, a dynamic analysis should be provided in political research (which has often left the issue to sociology). The latter is highly required vis-à-vis the changing and uncertain outcomes of recent global crises (Covid-19 pandemic, Russian invasion to the Ukraine, climate change etc.) . Yet, it cannot be trivialized. It must commence with two dialectical interrogatives: 1. if identities are socially constructed and are not natural formations, in what way and to what extent do they hold responsibility for inclusion\exclusion, self-other dichotomies? Looking at identities in social research provides explanatory tools for a wide variety of events and socio-political dynamics to be better contextualized; 2. Since identities reflect the complex nature of human societies and engender far-reaching processes (e.g., shifts in political regime, armed conflicts etc.), what are the dynamics between the former and politics?

That said, studying identities usually generate reasonable comprehension for processes that cannot be explained by tracing pure rational driven pursuit of interests. The feelings of attachment, belonging, recognition, values’ formation and norms integration and the logics of appropriateness generated within social organizations, are all arenas that rely on a certain type of identity or identification. Multiple identifications overlap, interact, include or exclude, conflict or enhance trust and cooperation. Identities create boundaries and borders; define the in-group and the out-group, the similar and the different, the friend and the foe, the 'self' and the ‘other’.

Beyond their dynamic fuzzy nature which escapes exhaustive explanations, identities are effective instruments of politicization of social life. The construction of social forms of organization and of specific social practices, together with their imaginary significations, requires an essentialist or non-essentialist legitimization of belonging; a social glue that extracts its cohesive function from the identification of the in-group and the power of naming the other. Identities are political. Multicultural slogans populate extensively the twenty-first century. Yet the distance between the ideal and the real multiculturalism persists while the virtues of inclusion coexist with phenomena of adversity of exclusion. Thus the study of political identities means to integrate contestation into context. Due to the confusion between identities and identifications some scholars have demanded that the concept of identity to be abandoned. Nonetheless, identity-related issues keep emerging out of political discourse, inasmuch as identity-based claims have turned out to be efficient tools for politicization of a ‘constraining dissensus’ (e.g. nationalism, populism and other forms of ideological radicalization). While more global universalizing terms have supposedly replaced national identities, current affairs demonstrate the (re)making of identities that tend or intend to obscure the former either by offering local and subnational identities or by pushing forward supranational and\or federalist identity projects. Therefore, identities are often conceptually used as intentional concepts, - they don’t say much about a concrete sphere of reference but rather define the sphere itself-, thus making explicit the aim of usage. It is not ‘identity of’ but ‘identity to’.

The purpose of the panel is to develop and gather a research network that is dedicated to exploring the conceptual, empirical and methodological challenges and opportunities identity-related research can offer to the wider field of political studies. The panel 'Identities and Identifications: Politicized Uses of Collective Identities' seeks to contribute to the debate about the dialectical and dynamic role of identity in politics as well as the other way round. Furthermore, it wishes to apply a transdisciplinary framework of a concept which has received little attention in mainstream political research. Consequently, it may provide the right occasion for scholars of political and social sciences to interact on this increasingly relevant subject. Hence, this research network will bring together those working on empirical and theoretical studies that examine a range of different uses of identity and new ways of thinking about it.

The panel ‘Identities and Identifications: Politicized Uses of Collective Identities’ aims to scrutinize the state of the art in collective identities research, to bring into debate the processes of identity-making\building in both constructivist or de-constructivist dimensions. The aim is to open the floor for dynamic multi-dimensional and interdisciplinary understandings of identities in their historic formation as well as in the way they shape the present and future of political life.
As the panel aims to bring together political and social researchers who are willing to share and discuss their research on identity related topics, we invite papers that explore identity within the realm of politics in Europe and around the world. The panel particularly encourages disciplinary, trans and interdisciplinary approaches adjacent to political science (e.g., political theory, political sociology, political anthropology and political philosophy) which use different methodological tools and modalities, such as single case studies and\or comparative cross-sectional analyses, which address political identities and identifications. The panel receives contributions\presentations in English or Italian.

Some politically and inter-related questions concerning the issue can be of help:
• How does identity influence the politics of exclusion\inclusion within national\ international politics?
• How do identity related concepts such as race, religion, gender, sexuality and class structure get politicized in different contexts and at different levels (national/transnational)?
• How do identities shape alliances or conflicts between different sociopolitical collectivities?
• What are the strategies, tactical repertoires and identity-building practices party politics forge in times of crisis?
• What are the methodological tools that must be developed to better introduce the concept of 'identity' to political research?

Key-words: identity, identification, politics, political theory, methodology

Chairs: Alon Helled

Discussants: Sorina Soare

Identity Structure and the Collapse of Authority: Responsibility Beyond Rules
Octaviano Padovese De Arruda
In this presentation, I will explain the concept of identification from a political-psychoanalytical perspective and emphasize the importance of emancipating ourselves from identity-based groups in order to transform the political landscape. Firstly, it is crucial to understand the notion of identity and, secondly, the reasons that drive individuals to form groups. Lastly, I will discuss how redefining the relationship between identity and authority is essential to foster a sense of responsibility towards one another. Since the publication of Freud's "Group Psychology and the Analysis of the Ego" in 1921, the connection between authority and identification has become a significant topic in political and cultural debates. In short, Freud argued that when individuals come together as a group, they develop a collective mind that influences their thoughts, feelings, and actions, distinct from how they would behave in isolation, regardless of their individual characteristics. At the core of the intersection between psychoanalysis and politics lies the question of transforming identification. While the dynamics of power and representation have evolved since 1921 due to factors such as the digital world, international context, and changes in faith towards the political process, the complex nature of identification and its social dynamics remain obstacles to collective emancipation and social justice. To clarify, the process of identification reveals that personality is linked to four attributes: aggressivity, narcissism, paranoia, and ignorance. Consequently, the process of identification is characterized by a profound sense of violence and inflexibility. When desires and defenses come into play, it becomes incredibly challenging for a group to rationalize, leading to a propensity for violence against other groups in order to reaffirm their own identity. In essence, the bonds of identification shape individuals into subjects. This occurs as identification involves internalizing external arguments circulating outside of oneself. Engaging in public and private life goes beyond mere adherence to norms, customs, rules, and social norms. It entails creating and absorbing a new persona as one becomes immersed in political life. In other words, it is not solely about learning rules but also about externalizing the "I." The process of identification necessitates a notion of "I" and personality. Ultimately, it is imperative to establish new forms of political institutions and social relations that dissolve the modern subject and inaugurate a new era. The "I" always represents a topological figure of alienation. Put differently, everything that appears natural to me is already a form of alienation. Nationality, religion, ethnicity, and other factors entangle us in a metaphysical idea of the self, reinforcing this sense of alienation. Hence, strengthening identification is not the solution to the political challenges of the 21st century. The decomposition of identity is crucial to prevent occurrences similar to Trumpism, Bolsonaro, Brexit, or the emergence of a new authoritarian figure. Emancipating ourselves from identification prevents the "I" from developing self-defensive mechanisms and becoming attached to ideals that were confined to the private sphere. Finally, preventing the reorganization of authoritarianism in society does not solely rely on more rules, constitutional designs, or bloody revolutions. The key question is how to dissolve these forms of personality to create space for a new form of subjectivity to emerge. In my interpretation, it is necessary to empathize with the place of authority. This means that it is not enough to establish rules preventing the occupation of positions of authority; rather, the significance of authority itself needs to be called into question.Consequently, this context fosters a reorganization of groups and demands a collective consciousness that recognizes individual responsibility and alterity.
Il doppio nazionalismo dei movimenti neofascisti italiani
Carlo De Nuzzo
Fascismo, Europa, Rivoluzione! Questo era uno degli slogan dei movimenti neofascisti degli anni Sessanta. In contrasto con il nazionalismo di inizio secolo, il dopoguerra è caratterizzato da avanguardie nazional-rivoluzionarie-fasciste che propugnano una "nazione europea" come potenza politica e militare indipendente. Il nazionalismo europeo neofascista, che concepisce l'Europa come mito e potenza dello spirito, riprende da un lato la tradizione italiana repubblichina (Manifesto di Verona, 1944), quella rexista di Leon Degrelle e soprattutto quella nazista della Neuordnung; dall'altro riprende le nuove rielaborazioni teorico-ideologiche del dopoguerra in opposizione alla divisione di Yalta, per un'Europa unita e non subordinata all'influenza politico-militare americana e sovietica. Una nuova concezione del nazionalismo, non più ad uso esclusivo degli Stati-nazione, ma che mette insieme, senza apparente contraddizione, l'idea di nazione europea con le posizioni delle piccole patrie e dei gruppi etnici, proponendo una sorta di Europa federalista in opposizione alla concezione fortemente accentratrice del nazionalismo di fine Ottocento. Così, ad esempio, la Nuova Destra di Alain de Benoist in Francia e Terza Posizione in Italia sostengono allo stesso tempo le piccole patrie come i baschi e i catalani, l'Ira, i paesi baltici; ma anche i bretoni, i corsi e le posizioni di Tirolo, Valle d'Aosta, Sardegna e Sicilia; e l'indipendenza geopolitica europea attraverso un'attenta equidistanza tra l'impero statunitense e l'URSS, con lo slogan: "Né fronte rosso, né reazione: lotta armata per la Terza Posizione!". (Né fronte rosso, né reazione: lotta armata per la Terza posizione!). L'idea di Europa di Terza Posizione è un'Europa unitaria e indivisibile, un'Europa (di europei) non subordinata all'influenza politica degli Stati Uniti. Un'Europa con un esercito indipendente ed equidistante dai due blocchi, USA e URSS, incarnando un federalismo etnico europeo basato su un'ideologia di culturalismo ed etno-pluralismo europeo. Terza Posizione ritiene che il socialismo marxista sia responsabile della distruzione della cultura dei popoli attraverso un'ideologia livellatrice, mentre il sistema capitalista è colpevole di aver ridotto l'uomo a mero consumatore di prodotti inutili e dannosi: entrambi i sistemi, quindi, hanno avuto il difetto di aver allontanato l'uomo dalla libertà e dalle sue radici. Icona di culto dell'estrema destra italiana degli anni '70, Terza posizione ha saputo coniugare la ribellione giovanile con la gerarchia, i richiami al fascismo con il sostegno alle spinte rivoluzionarie in ogni angolo del mondo. Terza Posizione rappresentò il culmine di un'inquietudine generazionale giovanile e studentesca di matrice neofascista. Ha introdotto idee innovative sia in termini di temi antimperialisti legati al ruolo dell'Europa come nazione, sia in termini di organizzazione e militanza. Attirò tra le sue fila centinaia di giovanissimi tra il 1976 e il 1980 e, nonostante la sua breve vita, rappresentò sicuramente un momento di discontinuità e novità rispetto alle esperienze extraparlamentari che l'avevano preceduta. Due dei suoi fondatori sono protagonisti dei due principali movimenti neofascisti contemporanei, direttamente (Roberto Fiore fondatore di Forza Nuova) o indirettamente (Gabriele Adinolfi guru di Casapound). Dal dopoguerra alla questione ucraina (che divide l’estrema destra italiana ed europea), attraverso, soprattutto, l'esempio del movimento rivoluzionario Terza Posizione, il mio articolo si propone di esplorare quel doppio nazionalismo (stato-nazione ed Europa) caratteristico dell’area neofascista italiana ed europea.
Does left populism short-circuit itself? Podemos in the labyrinths of cultural elitism and radical leftism
Jacopo Custodi, Samuele Mazzolini, Raúl Rojas-Andrés
Podemos’ initial left populist strategy and electoral success have been the subject of much academic debate. However, amid the party’s rapidly declining numbers at the polls, scholarly attention towards the Spanish party has been on the wane. Based on a discussion of the existing literature and a mixture of qualitative methods, this paper attempts to capture the distinctive features of the early populist gamble and two internal elements that progressively short-circuited it. The first is related to the cultural elitism of Podemos’ leadership, a phenomenon observed especially within the faction of Íñigo Errejón, former number 2 of the party. The intellectualist distinction of many of its members proved to be a repressive instance that jeopardised the populist practice. The second is instead the return to a radical left fold, which is instead to be attributed to Podemos’ former leader Pablo Iglesias, and his successor Ione Belarra. Party factionalism, strong leftist symbolism and the promotion of identity politics stand here among the most visible factors that negated the initial transversal approach. In different ways, those elements reestablished the previous symbolic space that Podemos’ populism had been trying to supersede and sabotaged the possibility of securing a broad and durable popular identity.