Anti-System Parties in Italy and Spain: Between Populism and Technocracy

Saturday, April 16, 2016
Symphony Ballroom (DoubleTree by Hilton Philadelphia Center City)
Carlo Invernizzi Accetti , Center for Political Theory, Université Libre de Bruxelles
Christopher Bickerton , Cambridge
This paper investigates the ongoing transformation in the nature of anti-system parties in Italy and Spain. It argues that both countries have political organizations that fall under the rubric of anti-system parties, as traditionally defined: the Five Star Movement in Italy and Podemos in Spain. However, both these parties also display specific and original features that force us to rethink and update our understanding of the notion of an anti-system party. In particular, both the Italian Five Star Movement and the Spanish Podemos are characterized by the fact that they simultaneously appeal to two seemingly opposed registers of discourse: a ‘populist’ call for the people to mobilize against a self-referential and corrupt elite (la casta); together with a distinctively ‘technocratic’ set of policy proposals, justified in the pragmatic and de-politicized language of ‘what works.’ This recognition forces us to re-examine the conceptual relationship between populism and technocracy, and thereby lays the ground for the identification of a new kind of anti-system party: ‘technocratic-populist parties.’ Italy’s Five Star Movement and the Spain’s Podemos thus represent critical cases for understanding the malaise affecting advanced democracies in the current period and help us better appreciate the promise and limitation of both populism and technocracy as responses to it.