Recent Italian politics has worked by making a strange pendulum between populism and technocracy, as if it were not possible to find a middle way, democratic politics normal. In the first field we find characters such as Romano Prodi, Mario Monti or Mario Draghi, called in their day to channel the destruction caused by the Berlusconi, Beppe Grillo’s 5 Star Movement, or Matteo Salvini’s La Liga. Fixes rational urged by Brussels against the excesses of passionate politics. But the pendulum is also swinging in the other direction. Technocratic tutelage continues to be a democratic anomaly. Now it seems that we are facing a new shift to the other extreme, the populism led by one of the most controversial political figures of recent years, Giorgia Meloni.
The fascinating thing about the Italian case is that it clearly exhibits, almost in a farcical way, some of the pathologies of contemporary democratic politics, that strange clamp that compresses it from the pure management of complexity, on the one hand, and the free flow of primary emotions, on the other. Pathos Y logo, simplification and complexity, national interests and transnational or community cooperation. Italy as an amplified outline of what is basically present everywhere. Make no mistake, this is not an isolated case; it is the hyperbolic projection of our fears towards the future of democracy. Perhaps that is why Meloni is being subjected to such close scrutiny. The prevailing concern is that a government led by her —and with undesirables like Berlusconi and Salvini— neglects the increasingly rigid commitments derived from the usual community demands, to which is now added the exceptional nature of the war situation in Ukraine, the crisis energy or runaway inflation. That is to say, the fear that ideology —the heart, rather— prevails over the pragmatismdo not give your arm to twist.
What really should concern us, and here we all see ourselves reflected in the Italian mirror, is the reason for these shocks that are increasingly affecting contemporary democracies. Meloni is but a symptom. Why are we losing balance points? Why haven’t we yet found an ideal formula to meet the new challenges without spreading discontent? By using that barbarism that Olaf Scholz has managed to make universal, it is obvious that we are facing a Zeitenwende, a temporary caesura between a world that refuses to die and another that is yet to be born. But to understand what is happening we surely need to broaden our gaze, refocus it, make use of other categories, express the analyzes and imbue them with greater doses of imagination. A new political thought is urgently needed.
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