Italy: The Bright Side of Populism?

Jan-Werner Müller at the NYRB:

But Podemos’s own standards for success are not the only available measures. What Podemos and the FSM, as well as the left-wing Syriza party in Greece, have achieved is that the main conflict in today’s southern Europe—essentially austerity versus anti-austerity—can be represented inside the political system. That’s not much, radical critics might say. But when compared to the impression, held especially by young southerners, that the party system consisted of two main political blocs alternating in power, with little discernible policy difference in practice, and much in the way of corruption on both sides, this development seems importantPodemos and the FSM managed to get well-educated young people who were either unemployed or stuck in jobs for which they were completely overqualified back to the voting booths. It was not a given that young people whose opportunities in life have been heavily damaged by the crisis of the eurozone would first protest in public squares, then vote for new parties—and then, after those parties had failed to gain majorities, resolve to try again. Back in the 1970s, for instance, young people in Italy had very different ideas—as the terrorist violence of the Red Brigades, and their fascist opponents, demonstrated.

more here.