Varieties of populism: insights from the Italian case

downloadVarieties of populism: insights from the Italian case

Academic attention to populism has sharply increased in recent years. Yet, a commonly accepted definition is still lacking, with scholars disagreeing on categorization, labels, and boundaries between its different manifestations. In this article, through an analysis of Euromanifestos and party statutes, we address the interactions between Italian political parties and populism by adopting the various definitions available in populism theory, that is, populism as (i) ideology, (ii) rhetoric, (iii) communication style, and (iv) organization. Our aim is to identify all major attributes linked to populism and empirically investigate them with lower level indicators, measuring and comparing them across Italian parties and over time. The empirical analysis, conducted through a formalized content analysis of the European electoral programmes and party statutes, considers populism not as a discrete concept but rather as a continuous one and therefore enables us to undercover the variety of populisms within the Italian parties. The main finding of the article is that over the last decades all Italian parties have shown some signs of populism and that the intensification of populist features is strongly linked to the exarcebation of the financial and economic crisis, and its governance.