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This issue. Next issue. Call for Papers

Michelangelo Bovero
p. 15-19
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This issue

1This volume of Teoria politica is published in four sections.

2The first section is entitled Wars of Civilization or Incivility of War? It aims to be a contribution to a possible analysis of the so-called «new wars», carried out in the name of «Western civilization» against terrorism, fundamentalism and ‘rogue’ regimes since the Nineties. Furthermore, it presents a broader reflection on the return of war as a normalized condition of international relations, after the Short Century, as well as on the destiny of pacifism today. Since the last issue (Vol. V, 2015) where Teoria politica claimed the necessity to resume the debate on this theme, two parallel initiatives have been dedicated to this problematic topic: a series of lectures promoted by the Scuola per la buona politica di Torino between January and June 2015, and an international seminar organized by Ermanno Vitale at the University of Valle d’Aosta in April and May of the same year. Articles by Alessandro Colombo, Enzo Pace, Massimo Campanini, Gian Paolo Calchi Novati, Stephen Holmes and Louis Bonanate elaborate their interventions during the series of lectures in Turin, in certain cases including also analytical considerations on the latest upsurge of international terrorism; articles by Francisco J. Laporta, Giulio Itzcovich and Fabrizio Cattaneo are the revised versions of their papers delivered at the seminar held in Aosta.

3The second section is entitled Eurotechnocracy. The Fifth Seminar of Teoria politica held in Turin in October 2015 was dedicated to this theme, and Teoria politica promoted in the last issue (Vol. V, 2015) a collective reflection intended as a specific development of the one opened in the two previous volumes on the crisis of capitalism and democracy, and the consequent worsening of the «social question». The five essays in this section correspond to the revised text of the papers delivered in that occasion. The article by Luigi Ferrajoli analyzes the political and legal project of the European Union in the light of its current disastrous state of implementation; the article by Sergio Dellavalle deals with the difficult problem of the nature and legitimacy of EU’s institutional power; the contribution of Rafael Escudero deepens the theme of the balanced budget imposed by the European Union on national states, continuing the analysis undertaken by Agustin J. Menéndez, Alessandra Cerruti and Francesco Pallante in the last issue; the article by Giuseppe Bronzini carries out a thorough examination of the degree of effectiveness of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights; the essay by Annamaria Rivera focuses on the «refugee crisis» as the dramatic core of the European crisis. All contributions to this section have been completed and delivered by the authors for the preparation of Teoria politica before of the referendum that sanctioned the UK decision to leave the European Union. The nature of this historic event and its consequences, as of now hardly predictable and measurable, will require adequate time for discussion and analysis. From now onwards, Teoria politica calls for new contributions on this topic.

4The third section, entitled Essays, includes five contributions focusing on different topics as usual. The article by Luc Boltanski and Arnaud Esquerre, dedicated to a characteristic feature of the recent developments of capitalism, and the subsequent comment of Nancy Fraser, are the result of a seminar organized in Turin in March 2016, which offered to these authors an opportunity for a fruitful dialogue. The article by Amando Basurto focuses on the theme of moral and political judgment in the thought of Hannah Arendt. The contribution of Marco Segatti deals with the right of access to justice by taking as a point of the departure the Capability Approach developed by Amartya Sen. The essay of Lucilla G. Moliterno reconsiders the classic concept of demagoguery starting from its formulation in the thought of Plato, and offers an articulated proposal for the redefinition of its semantic dimensions.

5The fourth section closes the volume with two Review Essays: the first contribution, of Camilla Emmenegger, concerns the debate around two works of Pierre Bourdieu recently translated into Italian; the second one, of Carlo Blengino, discusses recent writings of the «cyber-pessimist» Evgeny Morozov, that are very critical about the political uses of the web.

Next Issue

6Teoria politica encourages to take as a point of departure the power scenarios analysed until now, particularly in the second section of the current volume, in order to look further ahead towards the geography of global powers. Technocratic institutions of the European Union, as well as their international and transnational partners, present themselves as visible powers, clearly identifiable by their names and nicknames —the Commission, the Eurogroup, ECB, the troika...—, located in their official headquarters, traceable in their movements towards the different places where they celebrate their «summit». They are formal members of the global oligarchy, of the «executive branch» of the world if we are to follow the now firmly established use of this term to designate the truly decisive powers in all areas and at every level. This is actually a distorted and misleading use of the term: «executive branch» as such refers to a subordinate power with the task of applying decisions taken at a higher level; that is, in the lexicon we have inherited from Montesquieu, the decisions of a legislative body. Indeed, there is no «legislative body» of the world. The assembly of the United Nations is definitely not the case. In the same way, the European Parliament is definitely not a higher-level legislative body to the «executive branch» represented by the European Commission. In the political dialectics of our time, formal legislative bodies are undermined almost everywhere, weakened if not ousted from so-called and self-proclaimed «executive branches»; these ones tend to become not only sovereign but absolute powers, freed from real constraints and effective limits able to contain their arbitrariness.

7Indeed, this is not the (only) problem on which Teoria politica calls for further reflection. Near or around or below the visible powers —official in a sense, established and constituted, invested in one way or another with some legal authorization— we clearly perceive the presence of other powers able to influence and sometimes determine the destinies of peoples and of all humankind. De facto powers, invisible or unseen by a distracted law, de-regulated and arrogant. Some of them are illegitimate and illegal in every sense; in fact, criminals. Other ones are invisible as long as they are «hidden», paradoxically, in the reign of ultra-visibility: the World Wide Web and its oligopolistic actors, who hold a non-public knowledge on the public, a global controlling power without filters and without countervailing powers. Others are impossible to locate, as if they were protected by something similar to the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle: this is the case, for example, of how it looks to a far greater part of humanity the «power of the markets», the power of financial flows with their random and overwhelming results (convergences and mixtures of purposes). But are they really powers without a subject, not imputable? Surely many centers of economic power (in the broadest sense) that operate between de-regulation and irregularities, also feeding the so-called tax havens, are not: interest groups whose size and pervasive network go far beyond what is commonly understood as a lobby. An example of this kind of powers is the so-called «gun lobby»: a grossly inadequate expression and image when compared to the dramatic reality of violence and wars that pervade the world, as shown by the essays included in the first section of this volume.

8To summarize, Teoria politica calls for a systematic study of the «geography of powers» in the contemporary world. The profile of many regions looks uncertain, and large areas are still little explored. In any case, and above all, what we lack is a clear overview. By adopting the tripartite scheme of Norberto Bobbio we can perhaps claim with some certainty that political power tends to assume a role that is as weakened as it is subordinate to economic and ideological powers. The markets and the world wide web besiege the Leviathan, when they have not already won it.

9Nevertheless, the struggle for the conquest of political power does not seem to lose force. It has rather lost, in those nations we usually consider as democratic countries, the ability to attract the interest of a large part of the citizenry: the rate of abstention at elections, the disaffection towards public life, the contempt and even resentment towards traditional political actors and established institutions, have long been a widespread phenomenon. The analyses and explanations offered by scholars are controversial. What it clearly emerges is that the undertow of mistrust, resulting from the fall of political attention and of usual forms of participation, generated a complex set of reactive events that manifested themselves everywhere in the world. These are a series of highly differentiated phenomena and yet united by a certain «family likeness»: the family of populisms.

10The current notion of populism is extremely confused and ambiguous; the term is subject to uncontrolled use and abuse in the common language and not only. However, this is not a neologism as other ones —anti-political, post-democracy, counter-democracy...— coined to categorize contemporary (age-related?) diseases of modern democracy. It owns a history and a scientific dignity, which would be worth recovering. If we try to give (a first raw) order in the diversity of connotations and denotations associated with its more or less recent uses, the term «populism» appears to be used first and foremost to designate a political «style» and / or a «strategy». In this framework its use recalls the classic and timeless notion of demagoguery, that accompanied as an ominous shadow the ancient and modern events of democracy. To a different extent, «populism» also refers to a sui generis ideology, a political vision of the world that is quite varied in terms of color and have very blurred boundaries. Although this vision have been adopted by parties or movements with different and even divergent political orientations, the common trait lays in its foundational claim to represent the genuine will and interest of the «people», of «ordinary people» against that of a privileged, abusive and parasitical political class. In this respect, one could say that populist ideology presents itself as a kind of reversal mirror of the classical theory of the elite developed by Mosca and Pareto; indeed, it reintroduces in reversed terms its essential dichotomy, obviously impoverished and simplified in a sort of intuitive Manichaeism oriented to the rebellion of the masses. In a third dimension of meaning, we tend to define as «populism» a specific regime type characterized by an immediate and sympathetic relationship between the people —conceived as a homogeneous entity— and the individual who offers himself/herself as a guide —a «friend of the people» and a protector— also pretending to express its essence and ensure its integrity. In this case, «populism» becomes outlined as a variant or subclass of autocracy, favored by extremely verticalized forms of government but not easily classifiable —at least not prima facie— as belonging to one side of the political spectrum.

11Teoria politica suggests to historians and theorists, sociologists, political scientists and jurists, to converge towards a critical reconsideration of the category of populism, starting from the comparison of its multiple uses found in the scientific literature, or from the comparative analysis of the variety of phenomena that are included in such category. The main question we should try to answer, throughout a fruitful interaction of disciplinary perspectives, is indeed: is it possible to identify a sufficiently homogeneous class of political phenomena that we can plausibly designate as «populism»?

Call for Papers

1. Geography of powers

12Where is power located in the world today? Who does hold it? Is there a «Winter Palace» of the global age? In the most acute moments of the Greek crisis, it was clearly noticeable the presence of a downward flow of power —as such, typically autocratic— able to impose its «austerity» policies from above on a country in dire social conditions, by overwhelming every democratic resistance. This flow of power comes not only from institutional leaders, namely the «executive branch of the world»: it is indeed widespread the belief that the so-called markets and the world wide web hold major power in determining global destinies; these are disembodied incarnations of economic and ideological powers, compared to which the power of political institutions appears subordinate and residual.

13Teoria politica welcomes papers on the following topics:

  • Who form part of the «Executive branch of the world»?

  • The power of markets and on the markets: does financial capital owns an identity?

  • Internet: the power of the web and on the web

  • Are states and governments to be seen as residual powers?

  • Is it a democratic defense against global powers still conceivable?

2. Populisms

14What do the chauvinistic and xenophobic parties, alleged defenders of famous nations or small (more or less invented) countries that in the last decades of the twentieth century have gradually established themselves in many parts of Europe, have in common with the socialistic movements, often characterized by an ethno-pauperism style identity, that obtained flashy success towards the end of the century in Latin America, leading in some cases to the establishment of plebiscitary regimes? In what way and on what basis are to be both classified as «populist»? Is it meaningful to make a distinction between right-wing and left-wing populisms, by classifying them as two variants of the same political category? Furthermore, what connection can be drawn between these more recent political phenomena and those classically identified with the term «populism» in the past, starting from the Perón regime in Argentina? The ambiguities implied even in the most cautious use of the category of populism are manifold: they concern not only the position of these movements, parties and regimes along the traditional left-right axis, but also their relationship with democracy on the one hand, and with fascism (that is, with the anti-democracy) on the other; also, the attitude toward capitalism as well as toward neo-liberal and technocratic policies. As I write this note (June 2016), a character whom many see as the caricatural synthesis of the ignorant plutocrat and charlatan, becomes involved in the competition for the most powerful political office in the world: the US presidency. In short, what is the theoretical consistency of a category that claims to embrace such diverse political phenomena?

15Teoria politica welcomes papers on the following topics:

  • Right-wing and left-wing populisms;

  • The adventures of populism in Europe and Latin America;

  • Populism and democracy;

  • Populism and fascism;

  • Populism and technocracy.

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Notizia bibliografica

Michelangelo Bovero, «This issue. Next issue. Call for Papers»Teoria politica. Nuova serie Annali, 6 | 2016, 15-19.

Notizia bibliografica digitale

Michelangelo Bovero, «This issue. Next issue. Call for Papers»Teoria politica. Nuova serie Annali [Online], 6 | 2016, online dal 26 mai 2020, consultato il 26 février 2021. URL: http://journals.openedition.org/tp/602

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Michelangelo Bovero

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