Populism without a people: neoliberal populism and the rise of the Italian far right

Norma Rossi*

*Corresponding author for this work

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While populism is often understood as a reaction to neoliberalism, this paper investigates neoliberalism as a host ideology of populism. Building on Wendy Brown, I argue that the populist, Italian 5 Star Movement (5SM) conforms to neoliberalism’s normative reason. Rather than democratic, this form of neoliberal populism unravels the collective and political body of the people, reducing it to an uninformed mass to be directed by technocratic means. This has profound implications as my reading of the relationship between 5SM and the far-right party Lega shows. As 5SM’s neoliberal populism is unable to express a ‘people’ it functions as a propulsive force for the racialized ‘people’ the Lega deems to express. In this way, the ‘authoritarian freedom’ informing neoliberalism implies that inadvertently neoliberal populism fosters support for far-right parties.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages21
JournalJournal of Political Ideologies
VolumeLatest Articles
Early online date3 Apr 2023
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 3 Apr 2023


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