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Italy is finally European, but not in a good way

Media Contact

Rebecca Valli

On Sunday, Italians will go to the polls to choose their next parliament. While the latest predictions suggest that no party will secure enough votes to form a government, the main contenders include parties that have supported anti-European, anti-immigration and populist positions.

Mabel Berezin

Professor of Sociology at Cornell University

Mabel Berezin is professor of sociology at Cornell University and an expert on the history and development of populism and fascism in Europe. She says the upcoming election may bring Italy in line with the worst tendencies in contemporary European politics.

Berezin is the author of the book “Illiberal Politics in Neoliberal Times: Cultures, Security, and Populism in a New Europe” and recently contributed the article “Crisis or Improvisation? A Historical Meditation on Italian Post-War Political Development,” to the volume Italy from Crisis to Crisis: Political Economy, Security.

Berezin says:

“No matter what, the outcome of the elections will not be good. None of the three parties currently in the lead have enough votes to form a government, so a coalition must be formed.

“Berlusconi – who seems to be the most likely candidate for a significant coalition - does not shy away from partnering with the extreme right. If he succeeds, not only will this be an extraordinary political resurrection, but he would come to power with the same coalition that he assembled for his first government in 1994.

“But, 2018 is not 1994. Berlusconi’s original coalition, aside from enabling Lega to become a permanent force in Italian politics did not have much impact beyond Italy. Next Sunday’s election will bring Italy in line with the worst tendencies in contemporary European politics.

“As a founding member of the European Community, Italy has always been in Europe, but not completely of Europe. It has never been as nationalistic as its European compatriots, Italy’s strong regional identities kept some of the worst excesses of xenophobia that plagued other European countries at bay. Italians looked on in virtual indifference when migrants from North and South Africa began to arrive in the 1990s. The Euro crisis and attendant austerity followed by the refugee crisis have produced convergences across Europe where none had existed in the past.  With the dissolution of the left and the emergence of an intense nationalism, Italy is becoming European, and not in a good way.”

Cornell University has television, ISDN and dedicated Skype/Google+ Hangout studios available for media interviews.