Professor Carlo Ruzza, Department of Sociology and School of International Studies, University of Trento
Populist movements and parties have thrived in Southern Europe in recent years. Their success is often related to the influence of the financial crisis and its disastrous impact on the quality of life of ample sectors of the population throughout the region, that is, to demand-side variables emerging from an impoverished populations. This presentation reviews reaction to the crisis in Italy, Greece and Spain and examines why political outcomes have been markedly different in these three cases.
It argues that the success of populist formations needs also to be related to distinctive supply-side and contextual factors, that is, to opportunities newly available to political entrepreneurs on the basis of different institutional set-ups, political cultures and rival newcomers in the political market. The resulting structure of populist formations is described and compared. The analysis frames populism as a discursive strategy that selectively benefits populist formations in their attempt to expand their relevance as political representatives of disaffected groups of the population. It concludes by examining the relevance of these three case studies for other European countries.